“It’s Just Like Riding a Bike”

In my last post, I wrote about how much I love reclining and lounging. Lest anyone think I’m nothing but a couch potato, let me assure you that I enjoy getting outside and participating in summer activities (I haven’t found an activity to make me not hate winter yet, but I’m working on it). In the past few weeks, I’ve done yoga (not strictly a summer activity, but still), and gone swimming in lakes and hiking. My favorite summer activity, however, is bicycling.

“Woman’s Bicycle.” 1890s. 1994.50.2

“Woman’s Bicycle.” 1890s. 1994.50.2

Bicycles have been around since the mid-1800s and from the beginning have had a multitude of uses, including recreation, transportation, and racing. Easy to learn, in the late 1800s they provided freedom for women to independently travel around their neighborhood, and contributed to the easing of restrictive clothing that women wore. In suburban Miami in the 1980s, riding a bike contributed to my own emancipation, as I was not reliant on my parents to drive me around. Complete with streamers on the handlebars and spoke beads on the spokes, my bike made me feel grown-up and rad.

1980_93_23Bonus bicycle awesomeness: CHS is in the former home of the man who invented the cyclometer, Curtis Veeder!

“Cyclometer.” 1901. Museum purchase. 1999.62.0

“Cyclometer.” 1901. Museum purchase. 1999.62.0

Cyclometers were the precursors to modern-day computers—they could be mounted to a bike’s handlebars to calculate mileage.

My trusty steed

My trusty steed

The bicycle I have now may not have as much flair as the ones I rode when I was a kid, but it’s still a joy to ride. It’s amazing that something that has been around for so long is still essentially the same (with a few much-needed improvements along the way).

Tasha Caswell is the Project Cataloger/Researcher at the Connecticut Historical Society.

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