In the early decades of bike culture, we pretty much made up the rules as we went along. Witness this amazing article from a 1901 issue of Pearson’s Magazine, which we stumbled across on Twitter yesterday.
Dangerous times indeed. It transpires that bicyclists are easier to ambush than horsemen, on account of having bicycle lights, so you can see them coming. Oh dear! But –
On the other hand, consider the cyclist’s advantages. He comes silently, and passes swiftly, like a spirit.
Like a righteous spirit. Oh yes.
For cyclists faced with all manner of bike emergencies and disasters – be it brake failure, getting caught without lights, running into a miscreant bent on violence, a hostile tramp, or simply an objectionable small boy throwing things at you and your velocipede – the author offers a number of excellent tricks, along with some fairly dubious suggestions.
Herewith a selection of the very finest of what you might call ‘life hacks’ for the early cyclist…
- Equipment failure is always a concern. Brakes, for example, break. But if a cyclist should happen to find himself careering helplessly downhill towards, say, a brick wall, Mr Tindal says he should “take both hands from the handles, and hold them out as far forward as possible in front of him. As his front wheel crashes up against the wall, and he is thrown forward, his arms will take the blow, and he will thus protect his head.” Mmm. Maybe.
- Find yourself out after dark without lights? A bottle and a candle can make a decent substitute lamp, especially if you’re the MacGyver sort. But the author simply “cannot recommend the example of the man who collected all the glowworms he could find by the roadside of the road, and carried them triumphantly before him in a handkerchief in place of a lamp!” Pooh, pooh, sir – why not? A glowworm hanky lamp sounds most ingenious. Kickstarter, anybody?
- Remember, if trouble should cross your path in the form of a modern highwayman, you are armed and dangerous. “Nearly every cyclist carries a weapon on his machine, which, under many circumstances, he may use with great effect. A strong, long, heavy metal pump offers as convenient a weapon as one could desire.” Strike a decisive blow for cyclist kind.
- Indeed, you have an even better weapon – your bicycle itself! According to the article, you should first swish it about “like a scythe in a hayfield”, to cause consternation and confusion in the enemy. Then lift up your machine and swing it, forcefully. The rotter will lose his balance, at which point you decisively “deal him a blow on the chest with your fist.” Bish-bosh, and Bob’s your uncle. “All will be over in a moment, and there will be nothing to prevent you from mounting and riding gaily on your way.” Feeling mightily pleased with yourself, too, probably.
- You can also use your bicycle as a shield. Because why not. Again, deal a swift blow to his chest with your fist. BAM.
- If all else fails, simply fling yourself at the miscreant. “Ride boldly up to your assailant’s side”, says Mr Tindal, then commit, and, by Jove, follow through. Take THAT, sir! (Just us, or is there something kind of… hot about this one?)
- These techniques are not for the fairer sex. Ladies, if someone is bothering you, do not fling yourself upon him. Instead, use the ‘watersquirt’, a failsafe pest deterrent. For indeed, who among us wishes to be met by a cold douche? (If only cycling shops still sold such ingenious little weapons!)
- Another handy trick for the ladies… simply carry two purses, one real, one decoy. Throw the empty one at the would-be purse-snatcher, and ride like the wind! Take that, ungentlemanly night road gentleman! Buh-bye!
(Hankering after handy-dandy animated versions of these pictures? Gizmodo has the goods.)