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The Lost Cyclist

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  619 Ratings  ·  132 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 HomerBicycle Diaries by David ByrneThe Lost Cyclist by David V. Herlihy
Bike Books
5th out of 60 books — 38 voters
Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsSpirit Bound by Richelle MeadClockwork Angel by Cassandra ClareLast Sacrifice by Richelle MeadRoom by Emma Donoghue
Best Books of 2010
397th out of 1,322 books — 2,418 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,479)
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Nov 14, 2010 Ryan rated it it was ok
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
Sep 23, 2010 Joemmama rated it really liked it
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
Lydia Presley
Apr 09, 2010 Lydia Presley rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, travel, 2010
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
Christina Fierro
Feb 21, 2014 Christina Fierro rated it it was ok
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
Mar 26, 2012 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 13, 2016 Jtomassetti rated it liked it
THE LOST CYCLIST by David V. Herlihy was published in 2010. I enjoyed this book.

Image riding a bicycle around the world through places such as China, Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Now it image you are doing that in 1893. You just have reluctantly switched from your high-wheel bike to one of the new safety bikes due to your sponsor’s requirements. In the USA you have to ride across the rail road ties because there are not enough roads. After the USA the conditions get worse.

This is t
Carol Billings
Jan 12, 2016 Carol Billings rated it liked it
In 1892 Frank Lenz leaves New York City on his new bicycle to with a goal to cycle through America, cross the ocean to Japan, and make his way through China, Turkey, Afghanistan, and through Europe in an attempt to circle the world by bicycle.

At the same time, two other wheelers, Wm. Sachtleben and Thomas Allen are Americans who began their round-the world cycling tour in England and headed eastward , through Greece, and on through Turkey to China, then cross America from west to east.

The Sach
Dead John Williams
May 31, 2015 Dead John Williams rated it liked it
Shelves: my-favs, reviewed
The Lost Cyclist by David Herlihy It's very different reading non-fiction compared to fiction.

In some ways the story, plot and ending are already done and all that needs doing is threading it together. Then again in some ways maybe it's harder to write non-fiction because you are bound by the facts and if the facts are not that interesting then....There really were some fascinating moments in this book. Franl Nez's trip through countries and place where white people had seldom be seen and bicycl
Mark Schlatter
This volume covers three connected events: the nineteenth century circling of the globe on bicycle by Americans Sachtleben and Allen, a similar attempt by Frank Lenz that ends in the cyclist's disappearance, and Sachtleben's attempt to find Lenz. The begining of the book offers a glimpse into early American cycling, the middle reads much like a travelogue, and the end dips into geopolitics. The result is a strange and sometimes dissonant mix.

This is one of those nonfiction works where you can te
Dec 26, 2012 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, non-fiction
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
Sep 09, 2011 james rated it liked it
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
Aug 29, 2010 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cycling
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
Dec 25, 2010 Gpickle rated it liked it
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
Jenny Brown
Sep 06, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it really liked it
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
Jun 08, 2011 Emma rated it liked it
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
May 30, 2010 J.R. rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2010 Rose rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2011 Laura rated it liked it
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
John Holloway
Jul 25, 2014 John Holloway rated it liked it
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
Oct 22, 2013 Og rated it really liked it
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
Robert Isenberg
Dec 16, 2011 Robert Isenberg rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 04, 2013 Gali rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 12, 2014 Rick rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
Jun 12, 2011 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
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
Chris Olsen
Mar 06, 2014 Chris Olsen rated it liked it
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.
Rich Mulvey
May 23, 2014 Rich Mulvey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book overall. The first half alternates between discussions of the 1890's bike boom and summaries of the around-the-world trips being undertaken at the time by Lenz and Sachtleben. Their stories seem occasionally a little thin, but I attribute that to the difficulty of gathering source material.

The second half is focused entirely on Sachtleben's quest to learn Lenz's fate. Another reviewer compared this portion of the book to "a research paper", and while I can't entirely disagree,
Jan 17, 2012 Leif rated it it was ok
Shelves: exploration
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
Feb 23, 2011 Driftless rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, cycling
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
Aug 14, 2010 Tori rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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David V. Herlihy is a historian and freelance writer.
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