Cycling in France.

Pelotome –
around France on a bicycle.

Around The World on a Bicycle –  Thomas Stevens (1887).

My Life and Times

by Jerome K. Jerome

From £4,75


Manuel du Vélocipède.

Written in French by Richard Lesclide, under his nom de plume, Le Grand Jacques -this charming little illustrated book is packed with fictional bicycling stories. A pioneer in sports journalism and the future secretary to Victor Hugo, Lesclide would found the influential bi-weekly magazine, Le Vélocipède illustré in the same year -which notably organised the first city-to-city cycling race in history: the famous Paris-Rouen, on 7th November, 1869.

  • by Le Grand Jacques (Richard Lesclide).
  • illustrated by Emile Benassit.
  • published in French by Librairie du Petit journal, Paris.

November 1869 – Published 1872.

Théorie vélocipédique et pratique.

“ou Manière d’apprendre le vélocipède sans professeur” (“Velocipedic theory and practice, or way of learning the velocipede without a teacher”) was a helpful non-illustrated 26 lesson guide on how to ride by Rémy Lamon, a Lieutenant in the 12th battalion of Mobiles de la Seine, and member of the Compagnie Parisienne des Vélocipèdes.

12 months after being hit by shrapnel in his leg at the Battle of Le Bourget, during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War – adding to an injury he had suffered when taking a bullet in the left hand, at the Battle of Magenta during the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 – Lamon had finished 14th out of 323 riders in the first ever Paris-Rouen race of 1869, taking home the bronze medal for a wooden machine. Among other races, the book gives a full account of the race and also points out that he was the only competitor to actually make the return journey the following day.

  • by M. Rémy Lamon.
  • Published by the author, Paris.


Le Tour du Monde en Vélocipède.

“Around the World by Vélocipède” is the earliest known cycle touring book ever published. Released a year after his charming “Manuel du vélocipède”, this fictional account, written in French – under the nom de plume, Le Grand Jacques – and also serialised in the author’s bi-weekly magazine, Le Vélocipède illustré, it follows an eccentric American millionaire and a “freak show” giantess on their bespoke Vélocipède from Paris to Siberia, crossing Russia into Alaska and Canada, before making their way down through Panama to Cape Horn, sailing on to the Cape of Good Hope and then heading back to Paris through Africa.

  • by Le Grand Jacques (Richard Lesclide).
  • with illustrations by Felix Regamey.
  • published in French by Librairie de la Publication, Paris.

1872 – published in 1877

Bonn to Metz per Bicycle – in Six Days – 1872.

A “most interesting book” of how two English men, 20 year old London-born Charles Frederick Casella and his friend, Fritz, travelled in April 1872, the 800 km from Bonn in Germany to Bingen am Rhein and onwards to Metz – which, following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, had only just become part of the German Empire a few months earlier (although now lies in France once more), – “on bone-shakers made by Snoxell”; one of which “rejoiced in rubber tyres, as at that time this great luxury was just coming into vogue.”

  • by Charles F. Casella.
  • printed by Spottiswoode & Co., London
  • (illustration of a Snoxell velocipede, left, not from book).


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,

The section on France comes with a warning by the French government that “it is ordered that velocipedes. in the day-time, shall carry bells loud enough to be heard at a distance; must be lighted at night-fall with a lamp or lanterns, like those of cabs; must be numbered, if to let, and bear the name and address of their owner. Persons not attending to these rules will have their bicycles forfeited and will be prosecuted.” A road tax was also payable of 10% of the bike’s value.

The routes listed in France are Dieppe or Havre – Paris; Rouen – Paris; The Loire; Across Brittany; and Paris – Cherbourg; plus the route covering the “Battlefields of 1870” from Mezieres to Strasbourg; and thence “Upper Rhine” from Strasbourg through the Alsace to Basel,

  • Published by Tinsley Bros., London.

1874 – published in 1875

Paris to Vienna by Bicycle.

In this 32 page book, W. Saunders recounts Frenchman M. A. Laumaillé’s notable 760 mile, 12 day journey of October 1874, “the longest bicycle tour on record”, from the French to the Austrian capital on an English machine. The journey, “of upwards of 760 miles in spite of bad roads, disgraceful treatment by villagers, heavy rains, and many other discouragements” was also wildly reported in international medical journals at the time, due to Laumaille’s invention of a natural tonic made from liqueur de cocoa, which “supported him and gave him strength.”

  • by W. Saunders.
  • Published by Tinsley Brothers, London.
  • image, left, proved by University of Bristol Library.

August 1881 – published in 1883.

Over the Pyrenees on a Bicycle.

Well known for his foreign tours in Bicycling News, under his nom de plume “Obadiah”, secretary of the Crichton Bicycle Club, Alfred M. Bolton’s “A Bicyclist’s Adventures Among the Spaniards; Médoc, Guienne, Gascony, Navarre, Guipuzcoa, Alava, and Castile” is an interesting account of his August and September 1881 cycle tour, with his friends Harold “Hal” Goodwin (of the same cycle club) and Gregorio Vignau de Lazcano (of the Cosmopolitan Bicycle Club of Paris), through the “comparatively unexplored” sunny “land of romance, dusky sierras, and historical associations”, on a “4 ft. 4 in. ‘Rucker’” with a “roomy and expansive ‘Clytie’ travelling bag”, armed with a small, handy pocket revolver and a huge dagger, in anticipation of encountering “lots of brigands and wild animals”.

  • by Alfred M. Bolton.
  • published by The Strand Publishing Co., London.

May 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 before sailing from New York to England, crossing the Channel from Newhaven to Dieppe, on 11th May, 1885, and making a “most interesting, and perhaps instructive” journey through France, taking in Rouen, Paris, Vitry-le-François, Nancy, and Blamont, on the border of Alsace – at the time. part of Germany, – where he continued onward through Phalsbourg and Strasbourg (today, both returned to France), crossing the Rhine and continuing through the Black Forest toward 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.

July 1885 – Published October 1887.

Wanderings: On Wheel and On Foot in Europe.

Setting out from Glasgow on the 3rd July, 1886, and catching the steamer to Hamburg, Hugh Callan details his 1,500 mile, high-wheeler, 33 day journey “on wheel down Europe from the German ocean to the Aegean Sea”, in Greece, while the second part of the book is dedicated to his earlier July 1885 trip “on wheel up the Rhine Valley, from Amsterdam to Geneva, and back by Antwerp.” Taking in Strasbourg and Alsace (then Germany), he returns through Besançon, Epinal, Nancy, and Metz, crossing into Luxembourg.

Part Three follows his six week walking tour “‘on the tramp’ in Belgium and France,” in 1881, from Paris to Brussels.

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

September 1885 – published in 1888.

Our Sentimental Journey.

“Through France and Italy”. Following on from “A Canterbury Pilgrimage“, London-based American tricycling couple Elizabeth and Joseph Pennell had continued their journey from Canterbury to Florence, on their honeymoon in the summer of 1885, although had not yet put it into writing before releasing the third part of the trip, “Two Pilgrims’ Progress” or “An Italian Pilgrimage”, a year earlier in 1887.

Belatedly, the second leg of their ride on a Humber tricycle – from Dover to Amiens, Nampont, Paris, Fontainebleau, Montargis, Moulins, Lyon, Vienne and Rives (where their trip abruptly ends prematurely, 100 miles from Italy), – is detailed in this wonderful 1888 book, inspired by the travels of Tristam Shandy in Laurence Sterne’s 1768 novel “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy”.

  • by Joseph and Elizabeth Rose Pennell.
  • Published by Longmans, Green & Co., London.

August 1888 – Published 1895.

From the Clyde to The Jordan.

Narrative of a bicycle journey” was the first illustrated account by a rider of a “modern day bicycle”, and followed Scottish clergyman Hugh Callan – the same author of “Wanderings on Wheel and on Foot Through Europe” – on his ride from Glasgow to Jerusalem, which had previously appeared seven years earlier as a series of articles in the Glasgow Herald in 1888 and 1889.

Charting the author’s progress on a “Singer” safety bicycle, he presumably makes his way to Calais by train, and after exploring the town, catches another train to Paris, where his ride actually starts, taking him “to Belfort, by Troyes and Vesoul,” through “the champagne country,” “and many a natural fortress like Chaumont and Langres;” “then come the Vosges and ‘the blue Alsatian mountains’.”

Turned back at the French-Alsatian frontier (then Germany) near Foussemagne, he instead crosses some fields and through some woods and makes his way to “Mulhausen” (Mulhouse), passing “no fewer than four frontier lines from France over Alsace into Basle, Switzerland”, making the comment which is just as pertinent today for post-Brexit British cyclists travelling on the Continent: “frontiers are indeed a barrier to all true progress in education and humanity, and I for one sigh for one government for Europe.”

  • By Hugh Callan.
  • Published by Blackie & Son, London.


“My opinion has often been asked as to French roads, and I may as well state it now for the benefit of the many who want to cycle in France.

But for those horrible cobbles all the leading roads would be capital.

For dozens of miles together you have no alternative but the fields, or jolting over those rocks of destruction to your machine and your nerves.

The side roads are usually shameful.

On the whole, the middle and south of France contain beautiful roads, and the north not so good.

French roads are like French history, very unequal -many long glorious stretches, finer nowhere else, and also many execrable rocky and muddy entanglements.

But I know of no country pleasanter to travel through by road than France.”

From The Clyde to The Jordan – Hugh Callan (1895).

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