Cycling in England.

Pelotome –
around England on a bicycle.

Nauticus on His Hobby Horse – Charles E. Reade (1880).

My Life and Times

by Jerome K. Jerome

From £4,75

1869 – published in 1870

The Bicycle – Its Use and Action.

Famous ex-champion London gymnast Charles Spencer’s pioneering illustrated practical guide on how to ride “the latest and best form of Velocipede, ‘the bicycle’, includes “London to Brighton by ‘Velocipede’,” a four page account (originally published in The Times, on 19th February 1869) of his journey with Mr. John Mayall, “the son of the well-known photographer,” and Mr. Turner, “an expert Velocipedist from Paris.”

Spencer was already the celebrated author of “The Modern Gymnast” handbook and would later team up with Messr. Snoxell to import and improve the “best Paris model of the new two-wheel velocipede.”

  • by Charles Spencer.
  • Published by Frederick Warne and Co., London.

1869 – published in 1870

Wheels and Woes, or Words of Warning to Would-be Velocipedists.

This delightful little book “which unites instruction and merriment” includes a chapter wonderfully detailing the author’s three day, 107 mile (171 km) “experimental very long journey” with his companion on their 36 inch wheelers – from Lewes to Salisbury, via Arundel and Southampton – made in the Autumn of 1869, following the “Velocipede agitation” of Britain’s first ever Velocipede Derby at the Crystal Palace in May 1869.

  • by a Light Dragoon (Charles Wyndham).
  • with illustrations by the author.
  • Published by Ward, Lock and Tyler, London.

1873 – published in 1876

The Modern Bicycle.

This updated version of Charles Spencer’s pioneering book from 1869, “containing instructions for beginners; choice of a machine; hints on training; road book for England, Wales, &c, &c,” was part of “Warne’s Useful Books” series and, together with a comprehensive list of routes and mileage, includes an 18 page chapter providing “the detailed account of the trip from London to John o’ Groats, the longest on record which has ever been undertaken,” in June 1873, by four members of the Middlesex Bicycle Club over fourteen days, and an estimated 800 miles (“a very moderate estimate when the winding of the roads is taken into consideration, to say nothing of the continual ascents”).

  • by Charles Spencer.
  • with practical illustrations.
  • published by Frederick Warne and Co., London.

Nov 1874.

Arcadian Walks and Drives in the North-West Part of London.

An early guide to 22 routes “for the pedestrian, carriage, horse, and bicycle” – stretching from Kensal Green to Edgware and Harrow -from W. Alfred Johnson, Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. Although marketed to bicyclists, its contents are mainly for walkers looking to improve their health by escaping the city centre to what was then countryside, with the note that “the carriage or bicycle can usually pass along much of the route mentioned in these pages by continuing the road where the pedestrian enters the field, the footpath usually being but a shorter way to the village or town.”

  • by W. Alfred Johnson
  • Printed by Emily Faithfull, London.

Dec 1874.

Bicycling; Its Rise and Development.

“A text book for riders” aimed to cater for the rapidly developing bicycle movement by filling the void, after early books about the wooden wheeled machine had become valueless. With numerous illustrations to assist the beginner, the book is packed with informative chapters on routes in England, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, The Battlefields of 1870, Upper Rhine, Belgium, Germany, Holland, and France – each highlighting the points of interest, hotels, museums, mileage, gradients and road conditions along the way,

  • Published by Tinsley Bros., London.

1874 – published in March 1875, with editions in 1876, 1877 & 1878.

The Bicycle for 1874.

Written by the honorable secretary to the Surrey Bicycle Club, this first in a series of his “record of bicycling for the past year” for the weekly Bicycle Journal magazine, includes a short account of the author’s fifty miles cycle from London to “a small farm in Sussex”, where his father was staying, on his “very giraffe of a bicycle as to height, no less than forty-five inches in the driving wheel.”

  • by Alfred Howard.
  • Published by Henry Kent Causton & Sons, London.
  • (illustration of an 1874 racing bicycle, left, not from book).

1877 – with later editions in 1878 & 1879

The Bicycle Annual for 1877.

With British maps and routes – complete with mileages and a description of the state of the road – and an important review of the previous year, the weekly Bicycling Times magazine’s annual release arrogantly boasted by its third edition, in 1879, that “its success last year was simply unprecedented in bicycling literature. It would be in the worst taste to refer to the fact that the only rival to this publication [Alfred Howard’s “The Bicycle for…” guide] will not this year appear, having fairly been run off the field.”

  • Edited by C.W. Nairn & C.J. Fox Junior.
  • Published by Bicycling Times Office, London.

August 1879 – Published in June 1881

A Bicycle Tour in England and Wales.

“Made in 1879, by the President, Alfred D. Chandler, and Captain, John C. Sharp Jr., of the Suffolk Bicycle Club, of Boston, Massachusetts.” this account of an American’s adventures with his friend on a trip to Britain originally appeared in four editions of the “Bicycling World” magazine (January and February, 1881), before being released as a book. Travelling from London to Portsmouth and the Isle of White, then northwards to Burton-on-Trent, Manchester, Leeds and North Wales, it offers a valuable insight to their life on the road, with many black and white photographs of the places visited – although sadly none of the two cyclists or their bikes – and even includes a chapter tackling the question of the time: “Is Bicycle Riding Healthy?”

  • by Alfred Dupont Chandler.
  • published by A. Williams & Co., Boston.

1880 – revised and renamed in 1881 and 1891.

The Bicycle Road Book.

Famous gymnast and author of the pioneering 1869 book “The Bicycle – Its Use and Action”, Charles Spencer, returned in 1880 with yet another influential guide, “compiled for the use of bicyclists and pedestrians. Being a complete guide to the roads of England, Scotland, and Wales, giving the best hotels, population of the towns &c.” It was an improvement on his 1876 guide “The Modern Bicycle” with more than 130 routes in England and Wales, and a further five in Scotland, plus the Isle of Man and Isle of Wight, indexing over 5,000 towns, listing principal hotels, distances and directions for cyclists to follow.

Following the introduction of the tricycle, a new and revised edition appeared in April 1881, and again ten years later, as “The Cyclists’ Road Book: compiled for the use of bicyclists, tricyclists and pedestrians.

  • by Charles Spencer.
  • Published by Griffith and Farran, London.

May 1880 – Published Dec 1880.

Icycles of the Wheel World.

“The Xmas Annual” of The Wheel World magazine contains a treasure trove of information about the state of cycling in 1880, including the eight page chapter “Whitsuntide Wanderings of a Wharfdale Wheelman” which details the one day journey from Leeds to London in Spring 1880; “A Deaf and Dumb Ghost” tells the story of a ghost at the Red Lion pub in Handcross on the Brighton to London ride; while “The Incident” details a humorous misunderstanding on a summer 1879 ride from Bonar Bridge in the Scottish Highlands; “A Circular Trip” gives a brief account of a 103 mile day ride from Chichester to Winchester, returning via Southampton. The section “What to Eat, Drink, and Avoid” provides an insight into the isotonics of the day; “a small quantity of Liebig’s extract of beef in a quarter of a pint of warm water is very good, with some stale bread in it, and is very portable”, while “a pint of Bass or Guinness will be appreciated at dinner, and a glass of old port afterwards is not amiss.”

  • edited by Lacy Hillier and Harry Etherington.
  • published by H. Etherington, London.

June 1880 – Published in Dec 1880.

Nauticus on His Hobby Horse.

“Or the adventures of a sailor during a tricycle cruise of 1427 miles” was the humorous log book from “Nauticus”, the nom de plume of Charles Edward Reade, a 38 year old Royal Navy Commander on extended shore leave pedalling around Edwardian England.

Covering 689 miles on a Coventry Machinists Co. Rotary tricycle from Liverpool to Margate, via The Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, in June and July, 1880, he would continue on a “superior tricycle” (possibly a Coventry “Club”, based on an illustration on the front cover) for 442 miles to Land’s End in September and October, before a third trip took him from 296 miles from Margate to Burghley House, near Peterborough, in the same month.

  • by Nauticus (Charles Edward Reade).
  • published by William Ridgway, London.

June 1882 – revised in 1883, 1884 and 1889.

The Roads of England and Wales.

One of the most important books ever published in the history of bicycle touring, and far more in depth than Charles Spencer’s road books, “an itinerary for cyclists, tourists, and travellers; containing an original description of the contour and surface with mileage of the main (district and principal cross) roads in England and Wales, and part of Scotland; particularly adapted to the use of bicyclists and tricyclists; together with topographical notes of the chief cities and towns; also a list of hotels and inns in each town, suitable for cyclists was the work of Charles Howard, a member of both the Wanderers’ Bicycle Club (of Clapham Common) and the Bicycle Touring Club (renamed the Cyclists’ Touring Club in 1883 to take into account the popularity of the tricycle, particularly with women, who were unable to ride the “Ordinary” high bicycle).

Based on the “Paterson’s Roads” coaching guide of 1826 – which had become obsolete due to the introduction of the steam train – , it was a large book originally published in June 1882 and, by May 1884, four editions had already been released. A fifth and final corrected edition of the original book would be published in March 1889. The book would also spawn the cheaper and smaller pocket-sized “The Handy Route Book of England and Wales”, in 1885, with “An Itinerary and Road Book of Scotland” following in 1887.

  • by Charles Howard (of the Cyclists’ Touring Club).
  • originally published by Letts, Son & Company, London.
  • 1889 edition published by Mason & Payne, London.

June 1882 – published in 1883.

Nauticus in Scotland.

Charles “Nauticus” Reade returned with his second humorous log book, which was also partly published in the Boy’s Own Paper, “A Tricycle Tour of 2,642 Miles : Including Skye & the West Coast” – on his new rear-stearing Cheylesmore tricycle. Starting in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in June 1882, he cycled through Northumberland to Alnwick and Berwick-on-Tweed, then on to Crieff; from where he made a circular tour to Stonehaven, before embarking on a 42 day tour of Scotland; heading as far north as John O’Groats, before returning to Penrith.

  • by Nauticus (Charles Edward Reade).
  • published by Simpkin, Marshall & Co., London.

August 1884 – published in July 1885.

A Canterbury Pilgrimage.

Described by the Daily News as “the most wonderful shillingsworth that modern literature has to offer,” the first published illustrated book from London-based American tricyclist Elizabeth Rose Pennell and her artist husband Joseph Pennell, saw the couple pay homage to Chaucer’s 14th Century collection, “The Canterbury Tales”. by retracing the 70 mile route, over three days, from Russell Square in London to Canterbury Cathedral on a Coventry Rotary high-wheel tandem tricycle.

  • by Joseph and Elizabeth Rose Pennell.
  • Published by Seeley and Company, London.

April 1885 – Published 1887.

Around the World on a Bicycle.

“From San Francisco to Teheran” was the first illustrated volume of 29 year old English immigrant Tom Steven’s pioneering ride around the globe. The book covers the first half of the novice rider’s journey on his fifty-inch Pope “Columbia” high-wheeler, with a handlebar bag containing socks, a spare shirt, a raincoat that doubled as a tent and bedroll, and a pocket revolver.

Leaving California, on 22nd April, 1884, he became the first person to cycle across America and sailed from New York to Liverpool, arriving in England on 9th April 1885, making his way to London through Stone, Birmingham, Coventry, Dunchurch, Fenny Stratford, and Berkhamstead – where he had been born. Accompanied by A.J. “Faed” Wilson, he then cycled through Croydon, and Brighton on his way to Newhaven, from where he sailed to Dieppe and continued alone through Europe and the Middle East, eventually arriving in Tehran, Iran, on September 30th, 1885, where he stopped for winter as guest of the Shah,

  • By Thomas Stevens.
  • Published by Sampson, Lowe, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London.

June 1885.

The Handy Route Book of England and Wales. Part 1: – Southern England.

Also known as “Letts’s Route Book”, the cheaper and smaller pocket-sized version of Charles Howard’s more elaborate road book “being a complete key to the main (direct and cross) roads in England and Wales; useful for all road travellers, cyclists, tourists, and pedestrians; with a list of the hotels and inns in each town was originally set to be released in three parts, as cyclists “‘doing’ Southern England, would not necessarily require to be also burdened with the guides to the roads of Northern England, or even of Middle England, and vice versa.” Released in June 1885, the publishing house would fall into liquidation a few months after releasing the first instalment, “Southern England, South of and inclusive of the line of the Bath and Bristol road.” A second edition was published in 1886 by cycling map specialists, Mason & Payne.

  • by Charles Howard.
  • published by Letts, Son & Company, London.
  • second edition by Mason & Payne, London.

July 1885 – Published October 1887.

Wanderings: On Wheel and On Foot in Europe.

Setting out from Glasgow on the 3rd July, 1886, and cycling to Edinburgh to catch the steamer to Hamburg, Hugh Callan details his 1,500 mile, 33 day journey “on wheel down Europe from the German ocean to the Aegean Sea”, on a Singer “British Challenge” high-wheeler to Athens, Greece.

The second part of the book is dedicated to his earlier July 1885 trip from Carlisle “through Penrith and Appleby… east over the Westmoreland moors into Yorkshire” to Hull – and then 1,100 miles “on wheel up the Rhine Valley, from Amsterdam to Geneva, and back by Antwerp,” occupying 23 days, while Part Three follows his six week walking tour “‘on the tramp’ in Belgium and France,” in 1881.

  • By Hugh Callan.
  • Published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, London.

September 1885 – published November 1886.

Land’s End to John o’ Groats on a Tricycle.

“Being a full account of Mr. T.R. Marriott’s marvellous ride written by Tom Moore, a member of the Sutton Bicycle Club and the editor of the Tricycling Journal. Captain of the Nottingham Bicycle Club, T.R. Marriott’s 1885 ride “from one end of the kingdom to the other”, on a Marriott & Cooper “Humber” tricycle, had smashed all records, covering the 900 miles in 6 days, 15 hours and 22 minutes.

Obviously familiar with the route, Tom Moore had also accompanied J. H. Adams, “the well-known Facilist”, of the Lewisham Bicycle Club, on the same route a year earlier, in 1884. The ‘Facile’ was the first ‘safety bicycle’ produced, albeit still a form of “high-wheeler” but with a smaller front wheel (36″–42″) than the ‘ordinary’ or ‘penny farthing’ (50″-56″).

  • by Tom Moore.
  • printed by H. Etherington, London.
  • (image, of the Humber Tricycle not from book).


The Handy Route Book of England and Wales. Part 2: – Middle England.

Almost immediately following the release of “Part 1 – Southern England“, Letts, Son & Co. publishing house went into liquidation, and it wasn’t until three years later that the second instalment of Charles Howard’s pocket-sized version of his route book appeared with a new home for “Middle England (with Wales), North of and inclusive of the Bath and Bristol road. up to and inclusive of an irregular line, drawn from the mouth of the River Mersey to the Wash, and running through Liverpool, Warrington, Manchester, Sheffield, Mansfield, Newark, Sleaford and Boston.”

  • by Charles Howard.
  • published by Mason & Payne, London.
  • (image, left, from Part 1, second edition)

June 1888 – Published May 1924.

Trips to Hell.

And other countries” was George Thayer’s 564 page insightful follow-up to his 1886 “Pedal and Path” ride across America. Aged 71 at the time of publication in 1924 – some four years before his death – it followed his many trips around every corner of the globe, mainly taken between 1912 and 1922 on foot, train and boat, however it also includes brief accounts of his bicycle rides in 1888 and 1897 through Britain, Europe and Canada.

As well as briefly detailing his route in June 1888, “in making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Darwinian theory and approaching English soil from the north, over the hills of Scotland,” he mainly focuses on his disdain for the English, the politics of the country and its relationship with the U.S.A., especially during the Civil War, slavery, Prohibition, and British colonisation; commenting that he “yelled with joy when the Alabama was finally sent to the bottom by the Kearsage off Cherbourg,” and how he “read with rage that Captain Semmes and his confederate crew were all saved from also going to the bottom by the sympathetic conduct of the British.”

His 1888 cycle passed through the Northumberland village of Kirkwhelpington, to “Durham, York, Lincoln, Peterborough, Ely, all cathedral towns,” and “the troubled waters of Stratford-on-Avon,” while he returned in July 1914 for a walking tour of The Lake District, also taking in Liverpool and Windsor.

  • By George B. Thayer.
  • Published by Case, Lockwood & Brainard, Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.


“We were both in the mood for it (though I was hardly in form), and we concluded to pass the month before our departure in a bicycle tour through England : not a tour cut out with mathematical precision, arranging the precise hour of arrival and departure at points on a settled route ; but a rambling, free, independent run wherever fancy directed, keeping in view, however, such counties as were supposed to offer the best roads, with the finest rural and urban, as well as inland and sea-shore, attractions.

If it rained too hard and long, or the wind was too strong, or if we were pressed for time, we were to ride in the cars or on coaches, using our bicycles whenever we pleased ; in fact, we went for enjoyment, — quite ready, however, to rough it if occasion required ; and the drenchings we had, the rough roads we passed over, and the sun-burned, hardy look we bore at the end, showed that we took to our sport in earnest.”

~ Alfred Dupont Chandler ~ “A Bicycle Tour in England and Wales“, 1881.

%d bloggers like this: