Through the Revolving Door: The Fisher Library Blog

IA Book of the Week: Cycling!

Date posted: Mon, Jul. 27, 2020

Every Monday we take a dive into the Fisher's holdings on the Internet Archive, all of which are available for free access. This week, Samantha takes a look at a book all about a favourite Torontonian activity: cycling.

If you take a walk through any major Canadian city, you are sure to encounter a good number of bicycles. For every bicycle there is on the streets, there seems to be three thinkpieces published online about bicycle safety, bicycle bylaws, and bicycle etiquette. It might surprise the modern Canadian city-dweller to learn that this phenomenon is far from new. W. N. Robertson was a Stratford, Ontario-based writer and cycling enthusiast who built a career writing for bicycle journals and newspapers. In 1984 he published Cycling!, a compilation of all of his writing about bicycles. Based in Stratford, his publishers, F. Pratt & Co. Book and Job Printers, must have been thrilled to work with such an established and popular writer—he had published hundreds of articles on the subject of bicycles, and according to the preface of Cycling!, had been contacted by a “considerable number of persons in different parts of the country” who “expressed a wish that [the articles] should be gathered together into a volume” (p. [3]). 

It was clear that Robertson took his articles seriously. He wrote that “Every cycler and prospective rider should subscribe for, and read, a Cycling journal,” and that “a cycler without a Cycling journal is like a mariner without a compass” (p. 4)

In addition to articles about the practice and practicalities of cycling, this text contains a history of the bicycles and those who ride them. This historical section also contains predictions for the future of bicycles, such as that in 1993 bicycles will all have three wheels (two larger ones in the back with a smaller one in the front), all roads will be specifically engineered to facilitate cycling, and every individual will own a bike (p. 19, 20, 21). Robertson also predicted that long-distance bicycles will become popular and incorporate small batteries in order to enable cycling over vast distances, with pay-for-charging stations located along major routes in order to allow cyclists to charge them en-route (p. 21). 

The book’s how-to guide includes sections you might expect, such as balance, alongside advice on how to achieve optimal mouth moistness for cycling (water and glycerine in a 5:1 part ratio) (p. 31). Another section includes this handy chart which helps bicycle purchasers choose the appropriate gear-height for their needs, based on the speed they hope to go and the revolutions required to achieve that speed based on the gear height. Another fun feature of Cycling! Is the periodical illustrations of important Canadians involved in cycling, such as this one featuring champion cyclist W. M. Carman. It also features a helpful guide to cycling routes, including charts which outlines the routes between towns and hotels along the way at which cyclists can stop (p. 236). 

Take a look through Cycling! and see what tips you can pick up to help improve your own cycling, or perhaps to learn some of the history of cycling in Canada. Perhaps through exploring this book we can come closer to closing the driver/cyclist divide which plagues so many Canadian cities. 

Are you a cycler? How do you incorporate cycling into your daily life? Do you read cycling publications, as Robertson suggests, or do you wing it? Let us know!

-Samantha Summers, TALint Student