ON THE WHEEL. - Daily Alta California, 29 November 1885
ON THE WHEEL.
The Amateur Bicyclists and Tricyclists of the State.
MILES, WITH LAME WRISTS.
Adventures on the Road — Taking Headers Through the Air and Into Mud- Puddles — A Graceful Amusement for Women.
Whoever passes through the streets by night is constantly startled by the apparition of tall figures gliding swiftly along in mid-air, and without any perceptible volition, the slight vehicles upon which they are seated being invisible in the darkness. Bicycle riding is carried on so much by night, and in the suburbs, that few persons, aside from the lovers of the sport, are aware of, the extent to which it is practiced, or are aware that many of our most dignified, and several of our most solid business men are among its most enthusiastic votaries. In California, and indeed in the United States at large, the amusement is in infancy, and many doubts are entertained as to its stability; whether, like baseball, croquet, roller-skating, or lawn tennis, it is merely the sport of an hour and will soon be abandoned to enthusiastic lads or relegated to professional riders, is still an open question.
Reason and precedent declare in favor of its permanency. There is no form of amusement which is at the same time so easy, so healthy and and so delightful. It has the advantage over every other form of out-door sport, that it is an exercise instantly available, and which can be enjoyed for a brief or extended period. No preparation is necessary, and where the roads are good one has merely to mount the machine and start off at any moment, spin along for ten minutes or a couple of hours. Men who are engaged in sedentary occupations during the day reap an incalculable advantage from its use. The expense of a good wheel, which is from $125 to $175, keeps the amusement free from hoodlums, who cannot afford so much luxury. Once purchased, the wheel costs nothing to maintain. It does not have to be groomed, stabled or fed. One Oakland gentleman has had a wheel in constant use for five years, and has spent but twenty-five cents for repairs during that time. If its joints are occasionally lubricated with oil, it needs no other care. The legs, the arms, the shoulders, the back, the wrists, and the whole body are strengthened and benefited by the exercise.
The San Francisco Bicycle Club is the second association of this kind in the United States, being organized December 13, 1878. Ralph de Clairemont, one of the founders, is the oldest bicycle rider on the coast, and imported one of the first French bicycles made in the present form. Several years after the organization of the Club a number of the younger members who had gained considerable proficiency in riding and were eager for tests of skill, seceded, forming the Bay City Club. This latter Club had been in existence but a short time when it was again divided, and a number of gentlemen who cared more for touring than for racing formed what is called "The Cycling Club."
The advantages to be gained by organization are manifold. By the concerted action of the members of the San Francisco Club, headed by the indefatigable Harry Greene, the broker, the Park roads have been made available to wheelmen, while in Oakland a nonsensical street ordinance prohibiting their use has been repealed. The members make frequent trips into the country, and sometimes find it advantageous to take the train on their way home. For a long time none but express trains would stop for them, and then their wheels were rated at the highest rates for local express, while dirty sportsmen, returning from hunts down the road, were received on every train, and their ill-smelling trophies and ugly, barking dogs passed as baggage. Harry Greene, single-handed, waged a long battle to have the unjust discrimination lifted, and at last, in a fit of desperation, made out a blank order declaring that wheelmen should have the same privileges as sportsmen, and sent it to Charles Crocker, who capitulated to this bold proceeding and signed it on the spot. During the first four years of the San Francisco Club's existence Ralph de Clairmont was its President, and during the first three years G. Loring Cunningham was the Captain, succeeded by Herman C. Eggers in the fourth year. Columbus Waterhouse has held the office of President for the last five years, and during that time the successive list of Captains is composed of Herman C. Eggers, Charles A. Butler, Henry London, Herman C. Eggers and Harry G. Greene.
Its present membership is as follows: Ralph de Clairmont, Herman C. Eggers, George J. Hobe, Chas. L. Leonard, Charles A. Butler, Columbus Waterhouse, Fred Waterhouse, Henry C. Finkler, Alfred H. Cables, John B. Martin, Henry London, James W. Kerr, Morris Feintuch, Frank A. McLaughlin, John W. Gibson, Robt. T. Verrinder, Henry L. Chambers, John C. Quinn, Geo. R. Butler, Henry R. Judah, J. W. Winter, Walter S. Kelley, Walter E. Slack, Harry A. Greene, Isaac Ehrenberg, James A. White, Frank A. Osborn, Jason W. Nash, James Sanderson, Frederick W. Gibson and John F. M. McCarthy. The Club uniform is neat and tasteful, consisting of a darkbrown Parole jacket, knee breeches and stockings, and black cap with visor. The Club colors are blue and white.
The Bay City Wheelmen include the following gentlemen: H. S. Blood. S. F. Booth, Jr., F. R. Cook, C. L. Davis, G. F. Day, W. H. Day, John Ehlus, E. Fahrback, H. Houseworth, T. L. Hill, F. C. James, F. E. Johnson, Thos. Knight, J. A. Little, W. M. Meeker, Chas. McCulley, W. J. Munro, A. S. Neal, D. O'Callaghan, G. L. Payne, J. C. Quinn, H. Reaman, E. Rideout, W. Rideout, R. A. Smythe, C. J. Schuster, W. K. Slack, W. F. Sperbeck, H. C. Tenny, R. Little, Thos. Thornberg, Wm. Tietjen, Edward Mohrig, C. Thompson, F. E. Walsh, R. M. Welch, G. E. Dixon, P. E. Haslett, W. G. Davis, J. W. Lawlor, Sam Parsons, F. D. Elwell, Robt. Turner, W. G. Waters and C. Angel. To the young Rideout brothers belong the honor of being the first to make the Yosemite trip on bicycles.
The Oakland Club, now known as the "Oakland Wheelmen," was the second organized in the State. Mr. George H. Strong, one of the pioneer riders, was its Captain for several successive years, and did a great deal toward building it up. In its early stages the members were fond of tests of speed and skill, but it is now a conservative sort of organization, composed largely of staid married men, who use the wheel for exercise and recreation, never participating in tournaments or parades. During the season the club has frequent "runs," when all turn out together and go down to San Leandro, Haywards or thereabouts. Every Sunday at 10 A. M., members who wish to go down the road meet at the corner of Oak and Eighth streets. Stragglers and laggards fall in at Joe Deaves', on the San Leandro road. Once a year the club has a run, to which all other clubs are invited, and an al fresco lunch is served somewhere in the country. Once a year they have a dinner, which is enlivened by witty papers and speeches contributed by the members. There are some sixty-eight miles of macadamized streets in Oakland, which are generally level, and, as the boys say, not "up hill both ways, as on this side of the bay." They have little chance to "coast," the Cemetery avenue, [Piedmont avenue] Clairmont avenue and Alcatraz avenue, out of town, being the only places where "legs over" can be indulged in. There are more tricycles among the Oakland Wheelmen than elsewhere in the State, there being six of its members who ride "trikes." Mr. Bowman, the Captain, is a long-distance rider, and has several records of over 200 miles for twenty-four hour road rides.
A peculiarity of this Club is that it has no constitution or by-laws to wrangle over. Moreover, it has no "dues," as there are no expenses. Whenever there is a "run" or picnic the members "chip in " whatever they like and pay the bill. The plan works most successfully. The Club uniform is dark blue, with navy cap. The Oakland Wheelmen are officered as follows: President, Charles G. Yale; Captain, W. J. Bowman; First Lieutenant, L. A. Kelly, Jr. ; Second Lieutenant, J. W. Stanford; Treasurer and Secretary, R. H. Magill, Jr. The remaining members are: Geo. H. Strong, Wm. H. Lowden, B. Callingham, C. L. Goddard, C. L. Leonard, J. H. McConnell, W. C. Gibbs, Chas. Burkhalter, Edmund O'Neill, John Rabe, Mark Requa, De Lancy Stone, W. H. Taylor, G. D. Abbott, Emile Collins, H. O. Tenney, J. R. Mauran, R. R. Fread, F. H. Bertean, W. W. Haralson, J. H. Hopkins, A. Cary, Sumner Dubois, E. W. Thompson, L. J. Field, Lewis Sears, A. H. Rachling, Charles Krytser, J. D. Arkinson, E. R. Hinkley and J. Langotroth. The Oakland Ramblers is an offshoot from the Wheelmen, started this last Summer, and is chiefly composed of younger members, who thought their seniors too old-fogyish and branched out to do more riding and racing. They have a blue knit uniform, with gray shirts.
There is one office recognized in all the Clubs of the coast, which does not appear on the regular list. This is the position of Road Inspector, an honor conceded to the member who takes the most headers within a given time. In the Bay City Club the office was filled for some time by Walter Rideout, and latterly by the worthy President, Thomas L. Hill. Columbus Waterhouse and Mr. George J. Hobe of the San Francisco Club, ride what are termed "grasshoppers," which have the saddle so far back that it is impossible to take a header from them, but Dr. Winters, who is sixty-four years old, and Mr. de Clairemont, who is sixty, declare that "grasshoppers" are only fit for old men, and they will not ride them. The amusement gives opportunity for the display of some fortitude, and on one occasion, when Fred Russ Cook, who has one of the best general records in the Union, set out with Mr. Bowman for a long ride, Mr. Bowman took a header at the start, breaking the handle off from his machine and fracturing both wrists, but he bravely made the one hundred-mile trip with sprained wrists and a piece of wood tied on for a handle. The worst accident that has happened to any member, fell to the lot of Mr. McLaughlin of the San Francisco Club, who once attempted to ride down hill at the Presidio without a brake, whereupon man and wheel took a flying leap through the air, across a gully, and both were picked up seriously damaged.
Harry Greene once had a more humiliating, if not so tragical an experience, for he undertook to make a solitary run to Belmont when the roads were muddy, and took a header into a mud-puddle by the roadside, losing his machine so successfully in the mud-hole where he capsized that it took a band of farm-hands half an hour to locate and extricate it.