The Lost Cyclist
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The Lost Cyclist

3.43 of 5 stars 3.43  ·  rating details  ·  481 ratings  ·  122 reviews
In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accoun...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published June 18th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Miles from Nowhere by Barbara SavageHell on Two Wheels by Amy SnyderBe Brave, Be Strong by Jill HomerThe Lost Cyclist by David V. HerlihyThe Velocipede Races by Emily June Street
Bike Books
4th out of 54 books — 31 voters
Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsSpirit Bound by Richelle MeadClockwork Angel by Cassandra ClareLast Sacrifice by Richelle MeadThe Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
Best Books of 2010
366th out of 1,195 books — 2,313 voters


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Community Reviews

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Ryan
Social networks collate travel photos, Lonely Planet and its competitors find hotels, and travelogues have become so numerous that we can spend months exploring them before going to the airport. Perhaps the best way to find the unknown is to read a travelogue from the 19th century. David V. Herilhy, author of Bicycle: The History, offers a two-for-one deal: a travelogue and an epic tale of adventure and mystery.

Back in the 1890s, Frank Lenz set out from Pittsburgh to cycle around the world alone...more
Lydia Presley
I was mildly disappointed by this book. The story, in the summary, seemed like an incredible one and I couldn't wait to get started.

The book is broken up into manageable parts each covering a country traveled. It's a fascinating story, once you actually dig through the somewhat dry text to get to it and I'm glad I pushed my way through the book, but.. yes, it was dry reading.

I think one of my favorite parts of the book was in the beginning. Up until reading this book I'd never considered how dif...more
Joemmama
In the 1890's bicyclists were called wheelmen. The were transitioning from the high wheeled boneshakers to what was called a safety bike, similar to the bikes we ride today.

Frank Lenz was a wheelman, he participated in racing, and long distance rides, hoping to escape his boring life as an accountant. His goal was to ride around the world on a bicycle by himself.

He had watched as William Sachtleben and a partner, traveled around the world, and he felt he would succeed solo.

Hardship was part of t...more
Dan
In short, this was a good story that fell a little flat in the telling.

The most interesting parts of this book were pretty much all in the first half, as Herlihy brings us through the early days of the bicycle, with bicycle clubs popping up all over the nation and cyclists debating the merits of the newer "safety" bicycle (with its two equally sized wheels) versus the "high wheeler." By the time the book ends, the glory days of cycling are past, with the automobile supplanting the bicycle as the...more
Adrian
Aug 23, 2011 Adrian added it
This book is set in the 1890s when cycling was new and hot. A few young guys took the craze to the limit by attempting to cycle around the world. William Sachtleben completed the feat with his partner Allen (500 miles of it by ship) and later Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh tried to do it solo going west rather than east. He made it all the way to Turkey (carried his bicycle thru most of western China and Burma) where he disappeared. His sponsor, a cycling magazine, sent Sachtleben out to find him. Unf...more
Christina Fierro
The story should have been fascinating and thrilling. A lone man in the early days of the bicycle, attempting to travel the world by himself, disappears in a dangerous part of Turkey.

Why, then, was it so boring? The story of the titular lost cyclist was interspersed with the story of two other world travelers. Then his story ends and the book spends quite a lot of time detailing the agonizingly slow debate over whether he even disappeared at all. Maybe he's in Russia. Maybe it's a hoax. Maybe h...more
Melissa
I enjoy books about travel, and was intrigued to find this book about a cyclist circling the world in the late eighteen hundreds. It was rare enough to make that journey by other transportation at that time, so to do it by bicycle was impressive. And since it's non-fiction, it's hard to believe that such feats where accomplished with the machines available at that time.

The Lost Cyclist tells three stories in a sense. The first being that of Sachtleben and Allen, two men who traveled around the w...more
james
In the latter part of the 19th century, bicycling became enormously popular in America. It started with the very high wheeled bike with a tiny trailing wheel. These were cumbersome and dangerous. About 1890 there appeared a new type of bicycle called the safety bike. The photos in this book show the safety bicycle, whose design is exactly the same as modern bikes - minus such refinements as brakes and gears.

This book, in addition to giving the reader a glimpse into the world of cycling 120 year...more
Michael
This was a good travel "adventure" story (or really, three stories) although it bogs down towards the middle of the third part. If I hadn't been on a plane with nothing much else to read (besides work stuff) I would have put it aside.

There are three parts to this - one is the story of the west-to-east bicycle travel of William Sachtleben and a friend in the first days of the "safety bicycle" (essentially a modern two wheeler but with hard tires), the second is the east-to-west travel of Frank Le...more
Gpickle
I rate this book as one that I liked the idea of reading more than I enjoyed actually reading.

To be sure the book has a lot going for it, if you are into this kind of thing. It has wonderful photography. It has lots of information about the early days of bicycles here in the US, and around the world, too! It has excerpts from letters written by Americans in places like China from the 1890s. Pretty crazy stuff contained within. But this book also has a lot not going for it. It is such a painstaki...more
Jenny Brown
This is one of those rare but enjoyable histories that takes you places you know nothing about and delivers some powerful twists. I assumed I was going to be learning mostly about the history of cycling, which I did. But this particular cyclist blundered into the Armenian massacre that took place under Turkish rule--a tragic genocide unknown to most Americans. So what starts out as a sepia tinged tale of the Gay '90s turns into a tragic story of how westerners with tunnel vision, meddling in pol...more
Emma
I am conflicted about this book: I enjoyed the topic: cyclists traveling the world at the end of the 19th century, taking pictures, and one of them mysteriously disappearing, in areas where sometimes no other Western man had ever gone. The snippets about landscape and people are short but give a good idea. The synopsis of the book is actually confusing: it just speaks about the Lost Cyclist, and it sounded like another guy was looking after him after his disappearance – he does, but only later o...more
J.R.
In this less adventurous age and less energetic society the idea of riding a bicycle around the world is not calculated to draw much enthusiastic response. Doing it in the 1890s required more than the normal quotient of courage and stamina.

In that period when the bicycle was the focus of an enthusiastic boom riders were going distances that stagger the imagination today. Herlihy has rescued from obscurity the amazing story of not just one heroic adventurer but also that of the brave and resource...more
Rose
History is rife with fascinating but forgotten cases of lost explorers and unsolved murders. David Herlihy’s The Lost Cyclist includes both. It also spotlights the bicycle craze of the 1890s and the Gilded Age passion for conquering unknown territory.

In the spring of 1892 Frank Lenz, a modestly famous competitive cyclist from Pittsburgh, announced that he was undertaking a trans-continental bicycle trip that would encompass over twenty thousand miles and take him through some of the world’s most...more
Laura
This book had potential to be a 4 or even 5 star book, but the author made some unfortunate odd choices that lowered the final rating.

Set in the later 1800s, this is the story of the early days of cycling. Our hero, Lenz, starts on one of those odd-looking (to us) big wheels, slowly moving to the "safety" (what we think of as the normal bike). We learn a lot about those early bikes, and it's really quite impressive how the early riders raced and took long trips over not-well-paved roads. The de...more
John Holloway
Herlihy does a good job with what he has to work with. The subject matter of the book would make for a long article in Men's Journal or some such magazine. The author manages to stretch it to book length without the narrative feeling forced. There is no fault in the writing here, but perhaps best recommended for people interested in cycling or the period of history. A casual interest in the subject matter will leave the reader wanting more. A good "deep track" for the enthusiast. In the event I...more
Og
This is a fun book especially if you have an interest in cycling. First - you can't imagine how those people could ride so far on the old style bikes, fully loaded with the old heavy cameras. It's hard enough riding on top-of-the-line bikes. Second, the feats are tremendous - traveling all over the world at a time when people rarely traveled to another state.

The story is about a man who wanted to ride around the world and ended up being killed in Turkey. Another cyclist was sent to uncover the m...more
Robertisenberg
One of the most enjoyable histories I've ever read -- largely because of the subject, but also because Herlihy tells such a gripping, romantic, mysterious story. His research is impeccable, and the narrative pedals along as steadily as a bike on rough roads. Although his story is tragic, Frank Lenz has become a new hero of mine, for his humble Pittsburgh origins, his tenacious "globe-girdling" venture, and his martyrdom in the name of anthropology of adventure. I wanted to begrudge his rivals (o...more
Gali
I usually give 5* to books that contain, to my opinion, no flaws; this book is different though, the positive aspects overpower the flaws so much that I feel that 5* is the only thing that the book deserves.

Somehow, from the start I connected with the story of Frank Lenz. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the fact that Lenz was clearly a cycling enthusiast and a bit reckless and who didn't want a 9-5 job and I could recognise myself in him. I was fully sucked into the story once the actual...more
Rick
Except that he was a bicyclist it is hard to find sympathy for Frank Lenz, the "lost cyclist". It was an age of adventure and exploration and he took unnecessary chances, and he never returned. Still, there is great appeal to traveling by bicycle, completely self-contained and independent. But when I did it as a young man I stayed in North America and I always knew where to find food and lodging. Maybe I played it safe. Lenz did not.
Ryan Mishap
A solid, if stolid, account of a young man looking to circle the globe on one of those new contraptions, the safety bicycle. This starts slow, switches to different explorers altogether, then finds an interesting narrative stretch and coasts downhill to Lenz's disappearance. After this point, the forward motion of the narrative hits a brick wall as the man who goes to Turkey to find out what happened is thwarted for month after month.

After month.

And we are given the details.

Unexciting and occasi...more
Chris Olsen
In interesting story that gets bogged down by far too much unnecessary detail. It is obvious that the author did extensive research, but the inclusion of so many tagents detracts from the main narrative. I picked this book as a 'Blind Date wiht a Book' from my local library. It was a shot in the dark but the bicycling theme did work for me. I enjoyed the premise but the delivery.
Leif
This book had so much promise, and yet it turned out to be so ... boring ? I'm still reeling at how this could have happened. You have a story about a guy -- no, three guys ! -- who decide to ride their bicycles around the world. In the 1890s. With portable cameras ! Through the Gobi Desert !! As if that wasn't enough, there's also murder, international intrigue and a rescue mission !

And yet, somehow the resulting book is pretty dry. I was wondering to myself throughout the story how it could ha...more
Driftless
I was surprised that I'd never heard of this before. In 1892, an adventuresome accountant from Pittsburgh named Frank Lenz decided to ride his bicycle around the world. Starting in his home town, looping through New York City and then heading west across North America, he would take in the sites and see the world. Taking a brief hiatus, he shipped to Honolulu and then Japan before tackling a westward crossing of the massive and dangerous Asian continent. As the title of David V. Herlihy's biogra...more
Tori
Maybe 3.5 stars. I liked the book - the story was very interesting - but I thought the author did too much research......... Parts of the story dragged on with too many details of people and places that didn't really contribute to the overall story. this was the true tale of Frank Lenz, an American bicyclist at the end of the 1800's, who went on a quest to bicycle around the world. He ended up disappearing in Turkey, near the end of his journey, and the author details both the events of his ques...more
Patricia
I love the history of the bicycle and how it opened up travel to many. In the 1880's adventures vied to be the first to make longer and longer voyages astride their wheels.The globe had been girdled by two yung men whose story is sumerized in this book. Frank Lenz decided to beat their time while taking pictures....with the newly invented photograph equipment....and ending back dispatches to a cycling magazine. He is warned not to enter an area of tribals wars. He does not heed the warning and h...more
Kim
Jun 20, 2014 Kim added it
It was very interesting -- learning about the start of cycling on those big wheels and then the introduction of the "safety" bike - what we ride now. Also incredible that these three/four men attempted to ride across the world in the 1800s! Insane!
Jay Phillippi
Herlihy covers the challenges and trials of the trip with a story teller's skill. From Lenz's early days in racing and touring through the many challenges that would face him before he even made it to Turkey the author draws you into the tale. The rider is often his own worst enemy while at the same time his courage and incredible physical determination take him past obstacles that would have balked any ordinary person. The story follows right through the investigation launched into his death an...more
Marty Nicholas
An interesting look at the early years of cycling and the mystery of the fate of Frank Lenz. Picked this up at one of our neighborhood free lending kiosks. Thought it would be a light weight read. I was pleasantly surprised.
Mary
Overly long but interesting story about an American man who tried to cycle around the world in the late 1880's and subsequent search for him (after he disappeared) by another cyclist who had made the same journey (in the opposite direction) a few years earlier. I'm amazed by the level of detail (from letters from the missing cyclist as well as later interviews from the man who went to find him) but the story often gets bogged down in too much trivial detail and takes WAY too long to get the "det...more
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David V. Herlihy is a historian and freelance writer.
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