“‘Bicycling’, The New Craze” (E42)

  • Originally printed: DAC News, April 1925
  • First reprinted in: Pluck and Luck
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley (Drawings by Rea Irvin)


Here RCB adopts the persona of a trend watcher and lifestyle columnist intent on selling bicycling as the latest fad amongst America’s favoured classes. He does a thorough job of it, providing a deadpan etymological breakdown of the 50-year old word, delving into the trial and error process of its development by inventor Philip G. Bicycle, and even advising early adopters on the best way to fall off their ultra-modern contraptions.

Examining his subject along lines suggested by the “baseball is a game of inches” school of sports writing, Benchley tells us that old Philip G. tossed his prototype aside when he realized that “there won’t be enough people in our world who can stretch their legs out from one to four feet to make any decent kind of sale for my machine at all!” Temporarily soured on practical mechanics, Bicycle went off and invented the apple instead. But he never completely abandoned his first love (if he had, America’s favourite desert would be known as Bicycle Pie). At last, a vision of pedals situated a leg’s length away from the seat flashed into his mind, and the thing came together very quickly as a status symbol among the rich at play in Newport, Rhode Island. Some of them are even managing to make it move forward! Soon, all major mergers and distribution contracts will be negotiated by executives hunched over their handlebars. If you want to make your way in this world, better give bicycling a tumble!

Favourite Moment:
That is one thing about riding a bicycle. You can’t stand still once you are seated and ready to go. There are three ways for you to go – forward, over to the right, or over to the left. Let us say that at first you go over to the right side. This is the most popular side for beginners, as it carries out the arc begun by the process of mounting. Once you have fallen over to the right side, try the left.

Reprint Notes:

  • Original drawings replaced by a Gluyas Williams illustration.
  • Reference to Rea Irvin’s Figure 2 (of the falling rider) is removed, as there is only one Figure in the book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s