Bicycle History Books from the 1880s


Pelotome’s guide to general bicycle books and the history of cycling.

The 1880s.

~ The Velocipede – J.T. Goddard (1869).

April 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.

April 1880.

The A B C of Bicycling.

“An instruction book for the tyro” was a 36 page pocket sized instruction guide for beginners with illustrations, published by Philadelphia bicycle, lawn tennis and cricket goods seller H.B. Hart.

Whether or not this was the same Henry B. Hart who, in 1869, had published the sheet music for a “Velocipede Song and Gallup“, dedicated to Miss Eudura J. Hart, is unclear.

  • by H.B. Hart.
  • Published by H.B. Hart, Philadelphia, USA.
  • Illustration from 1880 newspaper advert, not from book.

May 1880.

Romances of the Wheel.

“A collection of romantic cycling tales” is a book of ten short stories written about cycling, some of which had previously appeared in the Bicycle Gazette and, “in many instances, founded upon actual experiences” of the author, who had been “a hard rider of bicycles ever since the earliest days of the venerated ‘Boneshaker’ and from the second or improved era of their existence, actively engaged in one of the most extensive manufactories producing them.”

  • by W.J.C., an Old Rider (W. J. Coppen).
  • published by Iliffe and Son, The Cyclist office, Coventry.

October 1880.

Lyra Bicyclica.

“Forty poets on the wheel” was a book of poetry compiled by “”the author compiler is “one of the very first Bostonians who in the latter part of the year 1877 began to ride and write into notice the bicycle” in the U.S.A. Despite having very little response to a request in 1878 in The Globe newspaper for native poets to submit their verses, he managed to compile 75 poems and songs with the bicycle at their heart, presumably from cycling journals.

  • by J.G. Dalton.
  • Published by John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.

1881 – revised editions in 1882, ’83 & ’84.

The Tricylist’s Indispensable Annual and Handbook.

“A guide to the pastime, and complete cyclopaedia on the subject” was Henry Sturmey’s adapted version of his comprehensive “‘Indispensable’ Bicyclist’s Handbook”, devoted solely to the machine that had “come so much into general use that not only nearly every crowned head in Europe, but many thousands of British subjects from the peer to the peasant would employ them for pleasure or profit in almost daily use.”

  • by Henry Sturmey.
  • Published by “The Cyclist” Office, Iliffe and Son, Coventry.
  • Image taken from 1883 edition.


Sturmey’s Indispensable Handbook to the Safety Bicycle.

“Treating of safety bicycles, their varieties, construction & use” was an extracted version of the intended sixth edition of Henry Sturmey’s popular “The “Indispensable” Bicyclist’s Handbook”, which was only half finished when his deadline approached. Delayed even further after the author suffered an accident, when it was eventually released in 1887, this 1885 published guide devoted to the safety bicycle reappeared as the second section of the book.

  • by Henry Sturmey.
  • Published by Iliffe and Son, Coventry.

Dec 1880.

Over the Handles and Other Cycling Sketches.

“The Wheelman’s Annual for ’81 contained nineteen pieces of prose and fifteen of verse chosen from articles which had previously appeared mostly in the English press, ‘Cycling, The American Bicycle Journal, Puck and The Columbia Spectator among others.

  • Edited by James P. Burbank.
  • published by J.P. Burbank, Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A..
  • Image from advert in The Bicycling World, 17 Dec 1880.

Jan 1881 & Second Edition in Dec 1881.

Wheelman’s Year Book.

Advertised as “the most useful book ever published, 250 to 300 pages brimful of all sorts of information,” both fact and fiction, with “some funny pictures”, alongside an “Almanack and Diary”. this English release was “full of information useful for those riders of the-iron horse, who used to be called bicyclists, but who now are adopting from their American cousins the more simple and Saxon word ‘Wheelmen’.”

The writer had explored over thirty counties of England and Scotland, and the greater part of middle and western Europe by bicycle, detailing the various differing bye-laws of each with “Hints on Continental Touring”.

  • Edited by H.T. Round & Compiled by Walter D. Welford.
  • Published by Walter D. Welford, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
  • Image from advert in The Bicycling World, 23 Dec 1881.

January 1882.

Whirling Wheels.

“The Wheelman’s Annual for 1882 was James Burbank’s second collection of bicycle stories and poems, featuring mostly original material by several noted riders including “President Bates”, “Telzah”, and a novelette of several chapters by “Ixion”, together with an extract from A.D. Chandler’s 1881 book, “A Bicycle Tour in England and Wales”. The editor also supplied a review of the mechanical and literary novelties of the year and asked allowance for errors on account of having done the work of compilation entirely at night amid the distractions and confusion of the busiest business months.

  • Edited by James P. Burbank.
  • published by J.P. Burbank, Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A..
  • Image of an 1881 Pope “Standard Columbia” not from book.

May 1887.

Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle.

The father of all bicycle literature, this massive 800 page tome from New York journalist Lyman H. Bagg (under the pseudonym of Karl Kron), was four years in the making, with many chapters teased during that time in the cycling press and over 3,000 subscribers eagerly awaiting its eventual release. “Its ideal is that of a gazetteer, a dictionary, a cyclopædia, a statistical guide, a thesaurus of facts. The elaborateness of its indexing shows that it is designed less for reading than for reference, – less for amusement than for instruction, – and debars any one from objecting to the multiplicity of its details.”

Despite the only illustration being that of the author’s pet Bulldog, as well as a comprehensive guide to every known English-language cycling book or journal published prior to 1886, “the volume is a sort of autobiography” complete with accounts of the author’s own long distance travels on a 46-inch Pope “Columbia” high wheeler, covering 10,082 miles between 1879 and 1884 in 23 States (including those “protected by the British flag” and others in the Union), leading the author “to assume that it has ‘seen a good deal more of America’ than any other bicycle a going.” Even the distances the rider pushed the bike or accompanied it by train, steamboat, canal-boat, row-boat, omnibus, horse-car, and horse-cart are listed, as are those where the machine was sent alone by freight.

  • by Karl Kron (Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg).
  • published by Karl Kron, New York.

April 1869.

The Velocipede; How to Learn and How to Use It.

This illustrated 12 page pamphlet was published in 1869 by Manchester engineer Andrew Muir, whose velocipede shop at Victoria Bridge, Salford, sold models based on the American, English, German, French, and Swiss designs. His patented adjustable French two-wheeled velocipedes suited riders of various heights, while he also offered to convert two-wheeled machines into tricycles. As well as teaching newcomers in a large room at his shop, Muir also travelled the country giving cycling lessons to clubs, schools and gymnasiums.

  • by Andrew Muir.
  • published by Andrew Muir, Manchester.


Erste deutsche illustrirte Vélocipède Brochüre.

The “first German illustrated Vélocipède brochure“, “Andeutungen über das Vélocipede. seine Besdeutung und Verwendung, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Vélocipede ‘Michaux’” (hints on the Vélocipede. its meaning and use, with special reference to the Vélocipede ‘Michaux’) was the first German-language publication about the bicycle and thought to be the work of Friedrich Maurer, an importer of Michaux velocipedes and gymnasium owner based in Vienna, written under the nom de plume “Hipployt de Wesez”.

As well as a history of the machine, it also gives an insight into the cycling scene in Vienna at the time, including the founding of the Wiener Veloziped Clubs, created by Maurer on 17th March 1869 and headed by Prince Maximilien de Tour et Taxis.

  • by Hippolyt de Wesez (thought to be Friedrich Maurer).
  • Published in Vienna.

May 1869.

The Velocipede; Its History and How To Use It.

This 32 page pamphlet to the velocipede, giving “its history, and practical hints how to use it” sold in its thousands in Britain with the illustrations proving popular with those learning to ride.

  • by “an Experienced Velocipedist”.
  • published by J. Bruton, London.

May 1869.

Velocipedes, Bicycles and Tricycles: How to make, and how to use them.

“with a sketch of their history, invention, and progress” contains a treasure trove of information with illustrations from the early inventions in 1819, right through to the so-called French, Parisian and American models available at the time. A summary of the scene in 1869 includes a report that the 52 miles from London to Brighton had been covered in 7½ hours on a bicycle, shaving two hours of the previous fastest time.

  • by “Velox”.
  • published by George Routledge and Sons, London.

August 1869.

Hygiène du vélocipède.

A publication by the Medical Inspector of the Childhood Society of Paris arguing that “the velocipede should no longer be
considered a toy, it is a useful object, an instrument of locomotion”, and when “applied to hygiene and gymnastics, it can be useful for
health, what pleasure it provides and to what end it leads by contributing even to the progress of high morality among the masses”.

  • by M.D. Bellencontre (Élie Désiré Bellencontre)
  • Published by L.Richard, Paris.

September 1869 – Published 1870.

Das Velocipede.

“seine Geschichte, Construction, Gebrauch und Verbreitung” (“Its history, construction, use and distribution”) was the first book to be published in Germany on the subject and is largely a translated compilation of earlier books, including “Erste deutsche illustrirte Vélocipède Brochüre” and “The Modern Velocipede” using many of the same illustrations.

  • by Gustav Steinman.
  • Published by J.J. Weber, Leipzig.

February 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.

July 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.


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.


Essai théorique et pratique sur le véhicule bicycle vélocipède.

The “theoretical and practical essay on the velocipede bicycle vehicle” was released in France in 1874 by Alphonse Marchegay, the editor of Association française pour l’avancement des sciences.

  • by Alphonse Marchegay.
  • Published by Imprimerie Pitrat Aîné, Lyon.
  • (advert for an 1874 Lagrange bicycle, left, not from book).

August 1874.

Practical Hints on Bicycle Riding.

Written “in the language a child could understand”, this useful pamphlet from a promoter of the Surrey Bicycle Club, teaches the reader how to ride the high wheel bicycle of the time, stating that “a person of ordinary agility and address should become proficient in four hours or four lessons, a clever and active one will manage it in half that time.”

  • by William John Boden.
  • Published by William John Boden, 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 the first to be published with 25 informative routes of England, four in Ireland, and five in Scotland, while a section of “Continental Tours” gives a further six in France – including “The Battlefields of 1870″, and the “Upper Rhine” [Alsace] , five in Switzerland, five in Belgium, two in Holland, and another in Germany- 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).

April 1876.

A Pocket Manual on the Bicycle.

“With instructions how to ride, which to buy, a list of chief makers, rules of the road and club, hints on training, &c.” was yet another useful early guide with the author making the argument against the assertion that the use of the bicycle is injurious to health, and has some sensible observations on the outcry raised by the accidents caused by cyclists. As well as a “review,” there are chapters on “learning to ride” and “how to choose a machine,” with over forty different manufacturers listed, chapters on “cleaning your machine,” “hints on training,”, “rules for bicycle riders”, ” rules of the road,” and “how to form a club, with suitable rules,”

  • by “A Constant Rider”.
  • published by Keyworth & Everard, Cirencester.

July 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, for the Country or the Fireside” series. Containing a comprehensive list of 245 routes with their mileage, under the section “The Bicycle Road Guide”, it also features 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.

December 1877.

The Guardians.

“Or, Is ‘union’ strength? A bicycling burlesque in one act” (in verse) by the mysterious nom de plume, Ixion, was a short parody. A review in the English Mechanic and World of Science in January 1878 slated it “is doubtless amusing to those who like the word-torturing that nowadays does duty for wit. ‘Our horses swiftly through the counties glide, And grow less tyred [sic] with every mile we ride,’ is perhaps the best couplet in the whole of the effusion.”

  • by Ixion.
  • Published by Hardwicke & Bogue, London.
  • (illustration of an 1877 Ariel Bicycle, left, not from book)

1879 – revised in 1880.

The American Bicycler.

Perhaps taking its inspiration from Alfred Howard’s British “The Bicycle for…” series, “a manual for the observer, the learner, and the expert” gives instructions on how to ride a bicycle, including the rules of the road, and also features chapters on road racing, American clubs, and suggested routes around Boston with mileage. A review of 1878 also states that “the bicycle has begun to supersede those ill-starred velocipedes ; and Detroit leads the country in having an aristocratic lady- bicycler”.

A revised edition in 1880 was enlarged to include 85 routes, more than half being outside Massachusetts,

  • by Charles E. Pratt.
  • Published by Houghton, Osgood & Company, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.


“While learning, with bruised elbows and scraped knees, with the bicycle more of the time on us than we on it, we felt how usefully we could employ a few hints of instruction, and how invaluable we should find some little book that would tell us all about the machine.”

– The Velocipede, by J.T. Goddard, 1869.

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