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Bicycle: The History

3.78  ·  Rating Details  ·  153 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
During the nineteenth century, the bicycle evoked an exciting new world in which even a poor person could travel afar and at will. But was the “mechanical horse” truly destined to usher in a new era of road travel or would it remain merely a plaything for dandies and schoolboys? In Bicycle: The History (named by Outside magazine as the #1 book on bicycles), David Herlihy r ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published August 16th 2006 by Yale University Press (first published 2004)
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Jun 18, 2008 Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: engr, loaners, wheels, culture
The first half of the book lays out an excellently researched case for which were the significant along the history that led from the running machine of von Drais to the safety bicycle. We learn that the direct pedal crank was a much more surprisingly effective innovation than its simplicity may otherwise indicate; more complicated treadle linkages had been tried before and continue to be tried. This book is at its best when developments are discussed in the context of class and social context; ...more
Jan 30, 2016 Stephen rated it really liked it
Where did the bicycle come from? Bicycle: the History tells the story in exacting detail, beginning in the 19th century. An age of progress and scientific triumph, wherein everyday life was constantly being revolutionized by inventions, it set many people to work finding a way to improve personal transportation. Surely we could do better than moving our feet back and forth -- so primitive! Why not do that on a set of wheels, instead? The first bike-like things were conceived as mere aides to run ...more
Ryan Marquardt
Nov 28, 2007 Ryan Marquardt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: bike lovers/advocates
This is a big, colorful book that is as close to a monograph on the bicycle as I can imagine. It spans the time period from when human-powered transportation (aside from walking/running) was in its nessiance to the carbonfibered dual shocked hydraulic braked MTB bikes of today.

The illustrations, sidebars, and photos make it an enjoyable book. I agree with one of the other reviewers that it could have used more editing. It is not difficult to follow where the author is going, but it could be mor
Dec 09, 2012 Jacob rated it it was ok
This is one of the more disappointing books of the year. I enjoy bicycles and their history, but this book promises too much. For those who desire detailed history that has probably never been presented in one volume this may be what you are looking for. The virtue was that almost everything in bicycle history happened in 1861. Or maybe this is a pain. A full 50% of the pages chronicle what happened this year. every time i turned a page i was hoping we would advance into 1862, but alas, this did ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Eddie rated it liked it
Bicycles are a menace to civilization! A toy reserved for the rich! Popular only in Europe. Unsafe! Designed only for racing, not for ordinary people. Held back by petty patent suits between manufacturers. Scandalized by dopes and cheats!

And that was the 19th century. We've come a long way!
Marjorie Semmens
Jan 22, 2016 Marjorie Semmens rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Read as part of my research when facilitating discussion of The Lost Cyclist. Evolution of the bicycle included history.
Jul 22, 2010 Ian rated it really liked it
Impressively researched and comprehensive in the 19th century development of the bicycle. Herlihy's work explains the leap from the velocipede to the bicycle, to the high wheel, to the safety bike. The final few chapters rush through the most recent half of the twentieth century and the closing chapter, on the future prospects of cycling, is less-than-satisfying. But for a solid historical basis to bikes, it's a good start.
Sep 01, 2007 Keith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who like bicycles
a history of the bicycle, from the first hobby-horse devices, on to the old wood and wrought iron boneshakers, up to todays ridiculously light carbon-fiber bikes (i can lift them with my pinky finger)... and beyond!

3/4 of the book covers the years, roughly 1840 - 1900. I'd be interested in reading a bit more detail about the last hundred years of bicycling. Any recommendations?
Emily Lakdawalla
Oct 03, 2007 Emily Lakdawalla rated it liked it
I had never really thought about the history of the bicycle, and discovered a lot of strange and interesting facts about the bicycle while reading this book; I learned quite a lot. The pictures are excellent. However, the book would have benefited from a sterner editor. A lot of the material is repetitive; it seems that half of the text could have been cut with very little lost.
Kyle Boggs
This book was really cool. Lots of great pictures and illustrations, which serve as a really interesting history from the velocipede to the bikes we enjoy today. I do think some topics were glossed over, such as the social effect the bicycle had on women in the victorian age or how the bike "booms" in our country were related to oil scares and stuff like that.
Julian Pecenco
Nov 09, 2010 Julian Pecenco rated it really liked it
Bicycle is a fascinating and wonderfully thorough history of the two-wheeler, tracing the quest for a "mechanical horse" through the centuries to the present day, with many incarnations along the way. A wonderful read for anyone interested in bicycles, history and/or technology.
Nov 06, 2008 Dave rated it it was ok
Not that well written but a complete history about the beginnings of the bike. Interesting how anyone on a bike was compared to loose people who gambled or caroused. Bicyclers were not allowed into dance halls. (Maybe how we view "bikers" today.) :-)

audio book
Jan 12, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I love bikes, and this history was interesting, but really long-winded at times. Overall, I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn't consider picking it up for a re-read until I can't remember anything about it.
Sep 19, 2008 Bob rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the history of bicycles, especially the early efforts to create man powered vehicles. The pictures are amazing. This is a big book, best read a chapter or two at a time.
Justin Dove
Nov 24, 2013 Justin Dove rated it really liked it
I thought it was a well-researched history of the bicycle that included a lot of wonderful pictures and illustrations. I think the book could have benefitted from a little clearer organization.
Oct 19, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: bicycling
Belongs on the shelf as art and a reference , the historical first part being full of detail. Best kept with "A social history of the bicycle"
Nov 14, 2012 Carl rated it did not like it
Very dry, do not be fooled by the beautiful illustration on the cover. Not much more than that in the way of eye candy.
Jan 10, 2013 Mary added it
Recommends it for: just about everyone I know on 2 wheels
Who knew some guy named James Moore won the first race in the precurser to (would later become) Le Tour!?!
Dec 22, 2009 Nikhil rated it it was amazing
Great book: informative, interesting, entertaining, tons of old pictures and diagrams and very well written.
Dec 14, 2009 Dustin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Beautiful-looking book with great illustrations. The text was a little dry but worth reading for cyclists.
Nov 13, 2009 Bob rated it it was amazing
Excellent - informative, interesting, entertaining and very well written.
Nov 24, 2008 Christian rated it liked it
lotsa words....local author...ton's of historical photos
Jan 16, 2008 Alden rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: riders with an interest in history
Doug Cornelius
Dec 15, 2014 Doug Cornelius rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cycling
Informative, but not great to read.
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David V. Herlihy is a historian and freelance writer.
More about David V. Herlihy...

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