NEVER, since the beginning of the world, have boys and girls been provided with so many opportunities for having good times, combined with healthful recreation, as in these days of what is truly called "the age of sports." Boating and canoeing on the water, tennis and bicycling on land, are as freely offered to girls as to boys, with baseball, la crosse, cricket, and foot-ball, thrown in as extras for the latter. Of all these sports it seems to me that bicycling should rank first, not only for the pleasure that it gives, and the excellent exercise that it affords, but on account of the practical good that the bicycle is accomplishing. One of the chief needs of this great country is good roads. The value of a farm is doubled the moment it is connected with its nearest market town by a well macadamized road. Not only this, but all its products can be sold more cheaply to the dwellers in towns and cities. But very few people realized how bad our American roads were until they began to ride bicycles over them. Then they found out quickly enough; and now every wheelman in the country is an advocate of good roads. This being the case, I am sure that when the great and ever-increasing army of boy and girl riders of to-day become old enough to have a voice in public affairs, their very first demand will be for good roads for their bicycles throughout the length and breadth of the land.

There are many complaints made that bicycles are ridden on sidewalks, and we see signs everywhere forbidding this practice - that is, everywhere in the neighborhood of bad roads; for where the roads are good the signs are not necessary. If the roads were as smooth and hard as the sidewalks, or even smoother and harder, as they should be, no bicycle rider would ever think of taking to the sidewalks, or have the slightest desire to do so. With such roads as the Beacon Street extension running out of Boston, or many that exist in Brookline and the Newtons, or around Chestnut Hill Reservoir, or in Central Park and the New York boulevards, or in the Oranges of New Jersey, or in Fairmount Park of Philadelphia, or Druid Hill Park of Baltimore, or the streets of Washington, or the Chicago boule-vards, or the Cliff Drive in San Francisco, no wheelman has any inclination to ride on the sidewalks, nor are any warning signs needed. Where, on the other hand, he comes to such disgraceful, rocky, sandy, and rutty roads as exist in and around most of the smaller cities and towns of the country, he must either give up riding entirely, or else take to the footpaths and sidewalks; and in spite of the risk of arrest and fine thus incurred, he generally prefers to do the latter.

In this connection I wish to suggest to all young bicycle riders that there is no time or place where politeness pays better than when you find yourself compelled by the state of the roads to share a footpath with pedestrians. They have as good a right there as you have - probably a better one. Do not, then, attempt to pass them without warning and at full speed, or shout to them to "look out of the way," or demand a free passage by the ringing of bells or the blowing of shrill whistles. All of these things are rude, startling, and exceedingly ill-bred. Moreover, they serve to make enemies where, it is most important the bicycle should have friends. No one will refuse to allow you room to pass if you slacken speed, and politely ask him to do so; and a pleasant "Thank you" in acknowledgment of the courtesy thus rendered will go far toward securing that person's favorable consideration of the rights of bicycles, and the need of good roads for them, the next time the question is brought to his attention.

Now, boys, for a word with you. Will you tell me why, as a rule, you double yourselves up like jackknives, and bend over so as to almost touch your handle-bars while riding? Is it because you think it a becoming attitude? Well, it isn't. It makes you look like so many wooden monkeys, climbing sticks. If you gain any speed by it you do so at the expense of wind, for it is certain that you can't breathe so well in that position as when sitting straight. Besides, do you find it necessary or even enjoyable to "scorch" or ride at full speed all the time? I will admit that in riding up a steep hill, or against a strong wind, there is something to be gained by bending over, though it is not necessary even in those cases. In horseback riding only jockeys, while engaged in racing, bend low over the horse's neck. The road rider who assumes such a position would be a subject for derision. Moreover, by persistent bending over, you are weakening your lungs, curving your spines, and rounding your shoulders. You are training yourselves to become crooked-backed, hollow-chested, stoop-shouldered men. If this is what the bicycle is doing for you, it would be better that you had never seen one. So there, boys, drop this practice of bending over just as quickly as you know how. Sit up as straight as the girls do, or, better still, as straight as a cavalry soldier on parade; throw back your shoulders, expand your lungs, and in after years you will have good cause to bless the day that gave you your first bicycle.

As for the girl bicycle riders who, as a rule, put the boys to shame by riding as straight as though they were on horseback, I am afraid that in some cases they only do so because they can't bend over and breathe at the same time. How is it, girls? Are not some of you trying to ride in corsets, or at least in tight waists and belts? If so, you are preparing for yourselves a future of even greater suffering and unhappiness than the monkey-like boys who bend low over their handle-bars; and to you, too, I would say that it were better never to have seen a bicycle than to attempt to ride under such conditions. Can you, when dressed for a ride, raise your arms straight above your head and bring the palms of your hands together? Can you stoop over and touch your toes with the tips of your fingers without bending the knees? If you can, your riding costume is all right. If you cannot, it is all wrong.

A Halt by the Way. {By permission of the Western Wheel Works, Chicago, III.)

A Halt by the Way. {By permission of the Western Wheel Works, Chicago, III.)

Before dropping the subject of riding costumes, I want to suggest that bicycle riding is a most energetic form of exercise, and that one becomes quickly heated by it even on a cool day; therefore, the wearing of underclothing of light flannel, which readily absorbs perspiration, is most important. In these days of pneumonia and kindred troubles, it is also very desirable that a coat, jacket, or sweater should form part of the equipment of every bicycle. It should be compactly folded, and strapped to the handle-bar or luggage-carrier during the ride, and put on by the rider the moment a halt is called. It makes little difference how thinly you are clad while engaged in the heating exercise of riding, so long as you are provided with a warm over-garment to cool off in. All athletes recognize this necessity.

Note, for instance, the heavy woollen sweaters that are drawn over the heads of the foot-ball men the moment they stop play. We blanket our overheated horses in order to save them from the effects of a too sudden cooling. Shall we not five to our-selves at least the same amount of care that we bestow upon them?

So much for the rider. Now for the machine. The bicycle is at once the lightest, strongest, and most easy-running of all wheeled vehicles. With its air-cushioned rubber tires, steel spokes, ball bearings, spring seat, and hollow steel frame, it is perfectly adapted to its work. At the same time all of its adjustments are so delicate and so dependent upon each other, that a disturbance of any one affects the whole machine. A squeak or rattle should not be tolerated for a minute. Every properly equipped tool-bag contains the means for removing either of these nuisances. Always examine and test every part of your bicycle before starting on a ride, and never fail to have your tool-bag provided with wrench, screw-driver, a full oil-can, a bit of soft rag, and a small bottle of cement. Above all, make a point of knowing your machine, its every adjustment, screw, and nut, as well as you know your alphabet, before you take it away from the place at which you have purchased it.

Do not attempt to ride either far or fast at first. The bicycle brings into play a different set of muscles from any that you have exercised before, and you must give them time to become accustomed to their work. When they have done so, and you have obtained a perfect mastery of your machine, you will be able to take daily rides of from ten to fifty miles with less effort than you formerly expended in walking a third of those distances. To the wheelman, free to go when and where he will, to stop where and for as long as he pleases, to regulate his speed at will, and thus to have absolute control of his own movements, all other modes of .conveyance seem tame and inadequate. With all this the bicycle is now among the cheapest of luxuries. Any boy or girl may earn one by obtaining a few new subscribers to some popular or enterprising magazine; while those whose means will permit them to purchase outright will find by consulting the advertisements that prices are tumbling all the time. Twenty years ago I paid more for an old wooden-wheeled, iron-tired, plain bearing, and springless velocipede, or "bone-shaker" as it is now called, than would purchase a first-class safety bicycle to-day. Wherefore, my young readers, be thankful that your youth has come to you in an age of bicycles, rather than in one of "boneshakers."

About Bicycles 40


Founder of the League of A merican Wheelmen.