The Cycle Industry/Chapter 18

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Nothing has, perhaps, done more to advertise the bicycle and the assistance it provides than the long distance pioneer rides of years ago, when intrepid cyclists set out to cross the Continent of Europe or to make a tour of the world, using a bicycle wherever possible.

Among such notable performances are the late R. L. Jefferson's ride from London to Constantinople; Charles Terront's journey from Petrograd (then St. Petersburg) to Paris; a journalist's tour with two other cyclists round the world, etc., etc.

The writer was personally acquainted with the late R. L. Jefferson, and accompanied him on a 30 mile ride on the Saturday before he left England for Constantinople. Jefferson rode a Rover bicycle and did not encumber himself with a vast amount of luggage, relying on being able to obtain what he wanted as he went along. An account of the performance that was published at the time showed that in many parts of Eastern Europe there were no roads, such as we know them, only cart or mule tracks deep in mud or loose with dust. Jefferson had many adventures on the way, but eventually reached his goal and repeated the performance at a subsequent date, using a small single cylinder Rover motor-car.

Terront's ride from Petrograd to Paris was done in 1893, and accomplished in a few hours more than fourteen days. He travelled through Russia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and France, and was accompanied during part of the time by pacemakers on bicycles. Moreover, his manager and friends went from one stopping place to another by train, in advance of the cyclist, to make arrangements for his reception. Practically everywhere along the route this French rider was met by groups of cyclists who escorted him from point to point and showed him the best route to take

The Cycle Industry (1921) p117.jpg

Fig. 25

to avoid steep hills and thick traffic. In Russia he had rather a sorry time on some of the vilest roads, or apologies for them, that are the only means of transit from town to town when once the rider is away from the precincts of Petrograd.

This cross Continental journey was more in the nature of a record performance than Jefferson’s ride to Constantinople, because Terront, on his Rudge, was out to do the distance against time. He set himself the task of accomplishing the total mileage (2,000 miles) in fourteen days, and would have done so but for the bad roads in Russia.

In comparing these rides with any other performance of a similar nature undertaken with the aid of later inventions, such as motor cycles, motor-cars, and aeroplanes, it must be remembered that the cyclists were often alone, that they had in some cases literally to carry their machines over precipitous hills, stony paths, and other almost impassable places. It not only speaks well for their grit and determination that they completed their tasks, but speaks volumes for the bicycles they bestrode that they ever finished the journey as complete units. In fact, the bicycles of the Fraser party, and I think Jefferson's Rover, shed many parts en route which had to be replaced when spares were obtainable, or were otherwise patched up to enable the journey to be completed.