( Originally Published Early 1900's )
LEARNING TO RIDE-The balance of a bicycle is maintained by turning its front wheel towards the direction in which it is falling: in actual practice, of course, the tendency to fall is counteracted rather by the rider slightly inclining his body from side to side as required ; but the first and more easily acquired method is that first to be attempted by the novice. If the prospectiverider has not even an inexperienced friend to help him, he should procure a strong but antiquated and valueless machine, and lowering the saddle so that he can straddle the machine, and selecting a piece of road which has a very slight downward gradient, should throw one leg over the machine, seat himself, and, following the pedals round with his feet, do his best to put the above principle into practice. He should take care to keep the machine going fast enough to secure "steering way." 'The difficulty will at first be considerable, but he should remember that he can always save himself by sticking out a leg. As he progresses, he will discover how very slight is the force required for steering, and how great a bias the mere inclination of the body exercises over the machine.
Should he possess a friend who will help him his task will be easier ; and it is to the latter that our instructions are best addressed. The assistant should hold the machine upright by grasping the saddle springs so that the learner does not know for certain whether he is not riding by himself, and, running with the machine, give it that necessary motion which the learner is apt to minimise. Except to help in starting, he should refrain from touching the handle-bars. The novice, when he has fairly mastered the balance, should again select a slightly downhill road, and holding the handles and placing his left foot on the step, should hop on the other till the pace attained admits of his straightening his left leg and balancing himself with his other leg hanging across the back wheel, while the machine runs by its own momentum. After a little more practice he will discover that from this position he can easily and without assistance lower himself forward into the saddle, which should, as we have said above, be adjusted very low, and commence pedalling. He should next learn to dismount : this is effected by waiting till the left pedal is at its lowest and throwing the right leg over the saddle and back wheel, meanwhile retaining his grip of the handles. He will thus alight standing on the left of the machine. He will soon discover that he can dismount with the pedals in any position. The practised rider will of course, in dismounting, throw as much of his weight as possible on to the handles, so as to minimise the strain on the frame caused by throwing it all on to the pedal.
BUYING A CYCLE-It is always best to avoid second-hand cycles unless you know their history, and they bear the name of a good maker.
We shall hereafter indicate the " points " which should be looked for in a good cycle.
The safest advice to give to a novice is a reference to one of the great firms, who, if they do ask a high price, at least have a reputation to uphold. By this we mean a reputation among practical and disinterested riders, not the proprietorship of a long list of "records" made by paid riders.
We cannot too greatly emphasise the statement that these records, the achievement of which has corrupted the whole tone of cycling as a sport, prove absolutely nothing. There is little to choose among the machines of the best makers, and the strings of records quoted in the advertisements only prove that a lot of money has, economically speaking, been wasted in the support of hired racing men.
The Dunlop and the Palmer are both good tyres : but does any one suppose that it is their speed, and not the length of purse of their makers, that can be gauged by the magnitude of their respective contributions to our list of records?
Still, in spite of what we have said, it is extremely risky for a novice to buy a cheap machine ; it is better for him not to go out of the fashion, unless he does it under the guidance of an experienced friend. There are, however, a large number of local makers, who, using the excellent parts turned out by the Eadie, B.S.A., Perry, and other companies, can sometimes supply a really good and light machine at a price considerably below that of the big makers. The chief drawback to buying their machines is that, lacking the elaborate plant of the great firms-especially that for frame building-they are apt to fit their frames together untruly, and that, owing to their small capital; they cannot afford to throw aside defective work. The fact remains that some small makers can turn out uncommonly good machines.
In buying or ordering a cycle see further that it is fitted to your own personal requirements. Insist on having your frame of full height ; state whether you want brake and mud-guards, and carefully specify your wishes in such details as shape of handlebars, material of handles, weight and gear of machine, throw of crank, and make of saddle and tyres. The novice will do well either to get a friend to see to these details, or, failing this, to furnish the maker or dealer with particulars as to his weight, length of reach, as well as the kind of work for which he intends the machine.
Local Agents-We strongly advise the purchase of well-known machines through local agents. It is a delusion to suppose that the casual purchaser can buy for less money on Holborn Viaduct than from a dealer in his own town. Moreover it is not well to be on terms of enmity with the local repairer.
Maker's Guarantees-The maker's guarantee usually covers all breakages (not the result of an accident) which occur within a twelve-month. Saddle, chain and tyres are usually guaranteed by the manufacturers of those parts, who will generally make good defects.
Second-hand Machines-A second year's machine by a first-class maker, and in good con-dition, should be worth £10 to £14, a good machine of lower grade or less known make from £7 to £10. A fair number of good machines are advertised for sale in the cycling papers. Choose an advertisement that is business-like and to the point, e.g., " 1896 No. 1. Road Racer; 24 lbs. Dunlop, Carter, gear 72; 25 frame; £12"; this is evidently written by a cyclist for cyclists. Avoid advertisements which descant on the beauties of the plating and enamel, and still more those headed "Beeston Humber pattern "-a palpable attempt to persuade the buyer that he is getting a Beeston Humber when he is not.
It now remains to inspect the machine. If the owner consent, take it home and examine it at leisure. If, as is not unreasonable, he refuse, look first at the teeth of the back chain wheel ; any wear will be most apparent here. If the backward side of the teeth is deeply worn, have nothing to do with the machine.
Next test the bearings ; if they will not run freely without considerable side shake and seem tight in one place and loose in another, considerable and uneven wear is indicated. Try also whether the head can be correctly adjusted. Next inspect the frame for twists, and see that the wheels "track." This is easily done if the machine is on a boarded floor ; if not, judge it by the eye, or by a straight stick laid along the frame. See that the wheels are true and the tyres in good order. Make sure that the chain wheels are in line; this is best ascertained by seeing that the teeth of the chain wheels do not rub against the side links. Test the frame for rigidity as prescribed, and keep a look-out for uneven places in the enamel that may conceal a crack.