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Over 200 years later, the 'noblest invention' remains a sign of spring

Photo of smiling woman on a bike with a book box on a pier

No doubt I’m not in the minority in believing Spring was terribly hesitant to arrive here in Indiana this year. But indeed it has, and we are now again enjoying those outdoor activities we put aside for way too many months.

A favorite is bicycling. Just a metal frame, two wheels, pedals, a seat and handlebars. The bicycle. Still popular after more than 200 years, bicycles and bicycling have experienced many changes.

The book, The Noblest Invention: an illustrated history of the bicycle, available at JCPL, traces the evolution of this two wheeled wonder. Or Bike Deconstructed: A Grand Tour of the Modern Bicycle might be of interest, as the author examines every aspect of the bike with photography, diagrams and the written word.

If that wheeled beauty needs a little help after sitting for awhile, perhaps you would need Bicycling Magazine’s Maintenance & Repair book, or The Bicycle Repair Manual. Proper maintenance will greatly enhance the enjoyment of cycling.

Bicycle riding has not simply remained a leisurely sport. Shortly after the first modern bicycles appeared in the early 1800’s bicycle racing began. As a matter of fact, at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Greece in 1896, cycling was one of the original nine sports. In 2008  BMX racing,(bicycle motocross)  became an Olympic sport.  During the 1900’s cycling races between cities took place, like the Tour de France which is still being held. This race covers all of France with its total distance covering between 1,900 and 2,500 miles!

In America, track racing was the most popular sport at the start of the 20th century, and is also an Olympic event. They are held in a velodrome, an arena which is constructed specifically for track cycling. The tracks have steeply banked turns which cover short distances called sprint racing and longer endurance races. Though rarer today, there is even one still open to use and featuring regular races in Indiana - the Major Taylor Velodrome in Indianapolis.

Road racing, track racing, mountain bike racing, off road racing, or simply taking a turn on a beautiful Spring day. These all require different types of bikes, which naturally, you may read about and compare using the resources at your local library. Perhaps you might even pedal your way to the closest Jasper County Public Library branch!

Photo: Los Angeles Public Library children's librarian Ednita Kelly and the award-winning LAPL Book Bike, via YouTube. Read more about it in a 2016 article from Los Angeles Magazine.