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28 • AUGUST 2017


The Bicycle’s History in Six Hundred Words


n the beginning was the human who needed to move stuff and wanted to do it quicker than by foot. The human cut a log biscuit and voila! A rolling device to put underneath a load and move it. Of course, this meant you needed at least two logs because one would push out the rear of the load-bearing plank as you moved, so you had to continually take the rear log and put it under the front. Difficult and clumsy at best, so

other nameless humans came up with the wheel. People then used the wheel to make conveyances for riding: chariots and wagons. But suppose you wanted to ride a conveyance not horse-drawn? 2017 commemorates the two hundredth anniversary of the bicycle. It was called a velocipede (“fast feet”) because you propelled it by sitting astride the seat and pushing as if you were running, only with wheels. From


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pushing with the feet, we progress to pedals on the front wheel in 1863 (debate continues about who gets credit and if this was the actual year). France, England, and Germany were the hubs for production in those early years. During a period of experimentation, tricycles and quadracycles were made, but this flurry was a fad so inventors continued to improve the pedal bicycle. The problem was that (as any child on a tricycle knows) it is hard to pedal and steer at the same time. The penny farthing, so called because the front wheel related to the rear wheel as the penny did to a farthing, was an improvement because the larger wheel allowed for more stability in turns. Metal frames became standard, wheels came with bearings for smooth movement, pedals changed shape and size, braking systems were tried, seats became comfortable because of suspension. By the 1880s, England led the way in bicycle production and innovation. In the United States, Albert Pope began to produce a high-wheel bicycle he called “Columbia.” Pope was a manufacturing genius. He bought up all the patents he could and charged royalties to other companies for the use of techniques and designs. The great innovation in the 1880s was the “safety bicycle,” with chain drive from a center sprocket below the seat to the rear wheel. To overcome the clumsiness of simultaneous steer-

ing and pedaling, chain drive allowed energy to be directed to the non-steering wheel. The diamond frame of the safety bicycle – still the basic design for most bicycle frames – allowed for reduced weight of the entire machine. One more invention was needed to get us to the 20th century the free wheel. Previously, as with a track bike, you had to keep pedaling even when trying to brake because the rear wheel did not roll free. It was an American, Willlam Van Anden, who patented the free wheel in 1869. In 1902 a pair of inventors in Nottingham, England named Sturmey and Archer invented a planetary gear system hub that enabled a bike to have three different speeds. The internal gear was born and dominated the British market for the 20th Century. Until recently Sturmey-Archer still held the corner on the market for internal systems. During the decade 1910-1920

French and Italian cyclists worked out systems eventually known as Derailleurs, today the most popular gearing system. Frenchman Paul Vivie, in 1905, added extra cogs to a standard bike to make the primitive derailleur. In the late thirties, Italian racer Tullio Campagnolo made the leap forward with his invention of a shifting mechanism that could be engaged without getting off the bicycle, which was necessary with early models. The rest is history, and we are the recipients of all this great inventive energy. Ride safe! Fr. Gabriel Rochelle is pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Mission, Las Cruces, an avid cyclist and secretary for Velo Cruces, the local advocacy group; see The church is at

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Don’t Kidnap the Babies


he New Mexico Department of Game and Fish reminds the public to leave alone any deer or antelope fawns, elk calves, bear cubs or other wild animals they may find. Most young-of-the-year wildlife people discover are simply hiding while awaiting their parents’ return from foraging nearby. Removing these young animals can cost them their lives, Rick Winslow, a department biologist warned. “You might think you’re rescuing it, but in reality, you’re just kidnapping it,” Winslow said. “In most cases, the best thing to do is just leave it alone and quietly

leave the area.” People who pick up wild animals also risk exposing themselves to fleas and ticks that may carry diseases, he said. Returning a young wild animal to its natural environment after it’s been carried off by a human can be very difficult and may not work in many cases. “It’s best to just let nature take its course,” Winslow said. “If there’s still a doubt, call us and we’ll check it out.” For more information about living with wildlife in New Mexico visit the department website,

Desert Exposure - August 2017  
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