Bikers Beware

Aug 2, 2012

In 1896 -- a time when Scientifc American ran a regular "Cycling notes" column -- the following item appeared. "Count Leo Tolstoi, the Russian novelist, now rides the wheel, much to the astonishment of the peasants on his estate."

Tolstoi was 67 when he took up riding. This is often cited as an example of never being too old to master something new. It's also a reminder of what the old biking culture was like. In Moscow of 1896, there were estimated to be 5,000 regular bike riders, although only about half had obtained some kind of license theoretically required to ride within the city limits. Around the same time Mark Twain wrote a essay about mastering the high-wheel bike -- known then as "the Ordinary." "Get a bicycle," he concluded. "You will not regret it, if you live." A good joke at the time. It's a little more chilling for riders on the roads in 2012. Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.