COLUMN: Cycling to Goldstream a leisure activity in the 19th century

Cycling became an activity enjoyed as a pastime that allowed women to enjoy increased mobility

With five kilometres of bike lanes and more to come with the Admirals Road corridor improvement project, Esquimalt continues to be bicycle friendly. And with the 21st annual Greater Victoria Bike to Work Week in full swing, a brief look at cycling history seems appropriate.

As with the modern variations of bicycles, the early bicycle went through many developments from the two-wheel velocipede, the high wheel bicycle (Penny Farthing) to the safety bicycle.

While the bicycle was undergoing changes, the activity shifted from a mode of transportation to a leisure activity for men and, more importantly, women.

Cycling became an activity enjoyed as a pastime that allowed women to enjoy increased mobility through towns as well as participate in group outings and picnics.

Group outings to parks, such as Goldstream, were common in the late 19th century.

Given the long journey, Six Mile House in View Royal, offered a rest spot for riders. Owner Mrs. Price even included a room for women to refresh themselves while en route.

In the picture above, the women are donning cycling suits; these outfits differed from the traditional garb worn everyday as it offered greater mobility while riding.

It wasn’t long before cycling became competitive.

It is generally accepted that the first recorded bicycle race took place on May 31, 1868 in Paris, when James Moore won a 1.2-kilometre race on a wooden bike with iron tires inlaid with ball-bearings, helping him beat his competitors.

Road racing quickly became popular especially in Europe and the United Sates, as did endurance racing.

Local brothers William (Torchy) and Doug Peden, became internationally known as champions on the Six-Day racing circuit. These gruelling multi-day events drew huge crowds to indoor venues like Madison Square Gardens.

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Greg Evans is head archivist at Esquimalt Municipal Archives.

 

 

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