Cycling

As a sport, from toe racing standpoint, cycling has lost much of its former popularity, although in recent years there has been a certain revival. Various causes have contributed to the decline in interest, the ciiief reason, perhaps, being that, except in short-distance races – sprints – little actual racing takes place until the competitors are nearing the winning-post.

In distance races those taking part are usually content to travel at a relatively slow pace, saving their effort for the last lap, and thus serious racing is confined to but a small part of the distance covered.

Racing over shorter distances, however, such as the 440 3ards and 880 yards events, is often extremely interesting and creative of excitement, and programmes containing events of this kind are still attractive to spectators.

The earliest form of cycle racing was the road event, and the favoured tracks were the Great North and Bath Roads. Racing on these roads were all long-distance affairs, and records were established for journeys from London to Brighton, London to Edinburgh, and even from John o Groats to Lands End. These events were controlled by the National Cyclists Union, and continued to be popular until they were eventually frowned on by the police autho-ities on account of being a danger to other users of the highways.

Track racing at its inception took place on both grass and cinder tracks, when this means of locomotion was the high-wheeled ordinary bicycle, facetiously called bone-shaker after an earlier type, one of the chief centres of racing in Londonbeing the Agricultural Hall at Islington.

When this crude vehicle gave way to the safety, with its cushion tires, specially laid tracks of cement were introduced, scientifically constructed with banked-up corners. Ridcra of the safety bicycle immediately proceeded to beat all records achieved on the old ordinary, and these in turn succumbed as quickly to the cycle fitted with pneumatic tires.

Some fast times have been established over varying distances, among which the following may be instanced: 440 yards, L. Faucheux, at Algiers in 1931, 28£ seconds; 880 yards, L. Michard, at Bordeaux in 1931, 56$ seconds; 1 mile, F. W. Southall, at Heme Hill in 1929, 2 minutes 2 seconds, all from unpaced standing starts. In 1930, G. Paillard, paced by a motor-cycle, rode 47 miles 702 yards in one hour.

More than a hundred jears ago there appeared a curious two-wheeled vehicle which the rider, seated upon the frame with his legs astride, was able to propel by striking his feet upon the ground. It was the invention of a German baron, Karl von Drais, who is known as the father of the bicycle. The actual year of his invention was 181G, but some eight years earlier there had appeared in the streets of Paris a velocipede somewhat similar in design, and von Draiss hobby-horse was probably conceived from it.

Rather more than twenty years had passed when a Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, made it possible to maintain a balance on a similar con trivance and at the same time effect propulsion. This he achieved by attaching cranks to a pair of levers which acted in the centre of the rear wheel, the alternate pressing down of the feet enabling the machino to be moved forward. Next came the bone-shaker, with the front wheel somewhat larger than the rear wheel, and with the pedals attached to the former. This was followed by an improved type of bone-shaker, the ordinary, which had a tall front wheel fitted with pedals and a considerably smaller rear wheel, and which, from the extreme contrast in the size of the two wheels was nicknamed the penny-farthing. This type of bicycle, whose front wheel was often as tall as 60 inches, was favoured round about 1880 and for several years after, but with the invention of the safety, a machine with two low wheels of equal size, with the power obtained by means of a ratchet and chain acting on the rear wheel, a rapid and almost complete change-over took place.

In 1888 came the pneumatic tire, and with it the greatest possible comfort in cycle riding, a comfort that has been increased b saddles and other improvements in the years that have followed.