Celebrating the Two-Wheeler
By Jesy Odio '15
Published Dec 1, 2014 8:00 AM
The Fowler Museum joins with campus cycling organizations to salute the evolution of the bicycle from its earliest days.
Before the Wright brothers invented the world's first successful airplane and Henry Ford produced his first Model T, there was the two-wheeled bicycle. And starting this month, the Fowler Museum joins with campus cycling organizations to slaute the evolution of the bicycle from its earliest days.
A photography exhibition at the Fowler Museum takes viewers back to the very beginning of the popularization of two devices that we use every day: the bicycle and the camera. Round Trip: Bicycling Asia Minor, 1891 includes 42 black-and-white negatives of photos taken by two adventurous American cyclists who traveled three continents in the late 19th century. The images come from UCLA Library Special Collections. For the exhibition, the museum is working with crowd-funding site UCLA Spark and campus cycling organizations to trace the history of the bicycle from its conception to its modern leisure usage.
After the brave duo, William Sachtleben and Thomas Allen Jr., graduated from college, they took a train to New York City and a steamer to Liverpool, England, for a summer abroad. There, they purchased a pair of Singer safety bicycles, the first model of the modern bicycle, which had been designed just a few years before. The new bike archetype transformed the two-wheeler from a hazardous and strenuous vehicle into a novel mode of transportation and recreation.
Once the two got on, they did not stop riding. What was supposed to be a season of traveling around the British Isles turned into a longer trip trailing eastward. They launched their voyage not only with brand-new bicycles, but also with the recently introduced Kodak film camera to capture the adventure. After Turkey, they rode on to Persia, Kazakhstan, Siberia and the Gobi Desert. But their trip was not always a smooth ride. At times the local authorities instructed them to hire armed guards on horseback for escort, and the cyclists even suffered a bout of cholera in the middle of their trip.
When the two returned to the U.S., they were greeted with acclaim. Their timing couldn’t have been better, since they finished their trip just as the bicycle became a popular trend. Today, 125 years later, the bicycle not only provides one of America’s favorite pastimes, but is experiencing a resurgence in Los Angeles with initiatives such as the monthly cicLAvia event and bicycling meet-ups encouraging Angelenos to get on their bikes for commuting and leisure.
To celebrate the bike, the Fowler Museum is teaming up with cycling organizations around the city, such as the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Golden Saddle Cyclery, as well as such campus partnerships as the UCLA Bike Shop, Bike UCLA, Live Well and UCLA Transportation and Recreation for a day of activities centered on the bicycle in March 2015.
With more than 100 bikes available for rent at the UCLA Bike Library, more than 3,000 places to lock a bike, and seven miles of bike routes around campus, it has never been easier to be a cyclist around UCLA. And the bike shop has fee-for-service or “do-it-yourself” workshops, which had to have been Sachtleben and Allen’s modus operandi.