The Popularity of Bicycles
1896 found the United States in the middle of a bicycle craze. Though different types of bicycles had been around in the United States and Europe for years, recent technological innovation brought about changes in material and design that made the late nineteenth century bicycle a lighter, smoother, and faster ride than ever before. Doctors wrote about the health risks and benefits of cycling, scientists explained the physics of the bicycle’s motion, while concerned critics discussed the changes in women’s fashion that so much cycling would necessitate. By 1896, there were over 150 bicycle factories in the United States, producing over 1,000 different makes of bicycles for men, women, and children. They were used for recreation and exercise, and in some cases, even for political campaigning.
It is true that women heretofore, here and there, have been trying the machines in an apologetic, shamefaced sort