Bike Across USA blog

Traveling by Bicycle Across America

Thomas Stevens Bike Across America Anniversay

 

Thomas Stevens on high wheel bicycle

Thomas Stevens

Thomas Stevens began his bicycle ride across the USA on April 22, 1884. His ride is the first recorded bicycle ride across the United States. Riding a fifty inch Columbia, Stevens crossed America riding on a variety of surfaces. If we had been in San Francisco at the time we could have heard some say his plans were, “The impracticable scheme of a visionary.”

Stevens responds, “The first essential element of success, .., is to have sufficient confidence in one’s self to brave the criticisms.”

“So eight o’clock on the morning of April 22, 1884, finds me and my fifty−inch machine on the deck of the Alameda”. He took the ferry from San Francisco to Oakland to begin his trip. His machine was a Colombia Standard in black enamel built by the Pope Manufacturing Company of Chicago. Fifty-inch refers to the diameter of the front wheel. The back wheel would be about eighteen inches in diameter. An Englishman by birth the twenty-nine year old wheelman was fair with blonde hair parted in the center. His mustache was full. He stood 5 foot 5 inches at about 140 pounds. A picture of him standing next to his wheel shows the saddle at his shoulder with the bars at his chin.

Local readers will be interested to note that he crossed into Illinois at Rock Island, riding east through Sandwich, Plano, spending a night in both Yorkville and Naperville, arriving in Chicago July 4th.  He wrote later about the good cycling on the graveled roads coming through Sandwich and Plano and some other places.

He rolled into Boston August 4th at 2:00pm. Stevens completed the first transcontinental bicycle ride. He had traveled more than 3700 miles, by wagon trail, walking railroad ties, even riding between the rails at time, fording streams, and walking fully a third of the distance.

The Boston Globe reported the following day, “His attire consisted of a blue flannel shirt, brown knickerbockers, blue stockings, canvas shoes, and a once white military helmet hat. A notebook was strapped to the head of his machine. His clothing showed unmistakable signs of hard usage. His knickerbockers have been replaced many times.”

After a layover Stevens did continue around the world completing his trip Friday, January 6th, 1887 in San Francisco. You can read about his travels in his book Around the World on a Bicycle. It is available at Project Gutenberg.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hi there,

    I spoke to you briefly today when I was picking up my paycheck from Taco Bell. You had your touring bike outside and I noticed it cause I as of 3 days ago decided that I was going to train for a tour to Seattle this year and then next year I plan to do a solo Tour to Texas and back. I am still debating on to ride back or fly back. It will depend on what my budget comes to I guess in the end.

    I wanted to let you know that meeting you and seeing you do this has became more of an inspiration to me to go on my own tour at the first chance that my training, money, and bike is ready for it.

    I wish you the best of luck on your journey and I will be looking at your blog often to keep a look at your amazing progress!

    Thanks again for the information you provided to me and I hope you have safe travels on your journey!

    Your Follower
    Jacques Audet

    • We’ve decided to stay with the Adventure Cycling map for the Northern Tier and go on to Wolf Point. We are in Glasgow tonight.

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