JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Century Road Club: 1913

May 3, 1913. "Fred J. Scherer and Walter Wiley at the start of New York to San Francisco bicycle race." Bain News Service glass negative. View full size.

May 3, 1913. "Fred J. Scherer and Walter Wiley at the start of New York to San Francisco bicycle race." Bain News Service glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Sturmey Archer 3 speed

The bike on the left has a sturmey archer 3 speed rear hub.

Coaster brakes vs. coasting

Yes, as douglas fir mentioned, the diameter of the rear hub looks quite adequate for containing a coaster brake mechanism. Early fixed gear bikes would have a rear hub with a narrow barrel. But fixed gear bikes were of course the first style of bicycle and during the 1890s they were used for long (even round the world) tours. On leisurely rides and for more gentle descents, early fixed gear bikes were sometimes fitted with foot rests added to the sides of the front fork.

This illustration gives a good idea how these front "pegs" were used; of course, you'd better be familiar with the road if allowing yourself a long coast - since you'd eventually need to regain control of the still rapidly rotating pedals, and pedals with toe clips would likely be out of the question.

Vanishing Point

On April 27, 1913 Fred J. Scherer, Walter Wiley, George McAdams, and Ernest Higgins were among more than 300 cyclists who took part in the 16th Annual Spring Century Run from Columbus Circle in Manhattan to Hicksville, Long Island and back. The race, sponsored by the Century Road Club [bicycle] Association, was a warm up for the 48-day Transcontinental Handicap Team Race that was started a week later.

Scherer and Wiley represented the Caribou Club, while McAdams and Higgins rode for the Century Road Club. Scherer and Wiley received a twenty-four hour head start, leaving from City Hall at Broadway & Murray Street on the 3rd of May 3 at 1:00 p.m. They pedaled up Broadway (mostly) accompanied seventy-five other cyclists and autos stuffed with officials who were shouting last minute details and instructions. The autos dropped out at Yonkers, while the other cyclists kept up the escort as far as Tarrytown.

The first night's stop would be in Poughkeepsie, with other overnight stays in Schenectady, Utica, Auburn, Batavia, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Norwalk, and Toledo, Ohio—where they hoped to arrive on the 13th. The itinerary had them arriving in Chicago on the 16th and Omaha on the 22nd. They figured to arrive at their final destination—San Francisco—on June 20, whereupon they would present a message from Mayor Gaynor of New York to Mayor Rolph of San Francisco. They also carried messages from East Coast bicycle organizations to their West Coast counterparts. They estimated making an average of seventy miles a day and took no money, as "all expenses must be met by the sale of post cards and money actually earned in other ways while enroute."

McAdams and Higgins left twenty-four hours later from the same place and followed the same route and timetable, although they bragged that they would overtake Scherer and Wiley in a few days, and reach San Francisco first. There was supposed to be another team from Denver that would be riding a tandem bike, but no one really believed that they would show up. They didn't.

A couple of newspapers in Indiana got the news feed wrong, and printed that Scherer and Wiley were riding motorcycles from New York to San Francisco. One newspaper that apparently got it right was the Chicago Daily News, whose photographer took the picture below (Library of Congress collection):

Scherer and Wiley

It seems that the first pair of cyclists made it to Chicago looking none the worse for wear, but the exact date is unknown at this time. The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette noted on May 10 that the cyclists were due through that town on May 18 and 19, and the local cyclists were "preparing to give them a rousing reception."

I don't know if they ever got their rousing reception—at this point I can't find anything about them past Chicago. I'll keep looking, but if someone has any idea whether or not they made it to San Francisco, please share with the rest of us.

"Trust the Truss"

Based on the badge and the frame design of the bicycle on the left, it's an Iver Johnson Truss-bridge bicycle. Yes, this is the same Iver Johnson that made fire arms. They built this style frame from 1900 to 1939.

The bicycle on the left does, in fact, have a coaster brake. The coaster brake was invented in the late 1890s and were quite common by 1910. The large chrome ball on the handlebars are bicycle bells. Also note the sprocket driven odometers on the front hubs of both bikes.

I have a feeling this event, sponsored by Fisk Tires, was not so much a race as it was a reliability run. What better way to promote your tires. The fact that no information can be found about this event makes me believe it was a failure, and so was not reported.

"Brought to you by..."

... Fisk Tire (if the flag on the boys' bikes was indeed a sponsor). Fisk made bicycle and automobile tires at the time, and their logo was the little yawning boy in pajamas with a bicycle tire slung over his right shoulder.

The Eternal Bicycle

Toe clips, coaster brakes, drop handlebars, handlebar wrap, panniers (sort of).... You need to change very few things to arrive at a modern bicycle.

How about those toe clips.

If you look closely at the pedals, you will note the toe clips. I did some 100 miles per day bike trips in my salad days and toe clips made it a lot easier by locking your bike shoes to the pedals. It was a relief not to have to concentrate on keeping your shoes centered on the pedals. In addition you could "pull up" on one pedal while "pushing down" on the other.

The carbide bike lamp is a Model S Solar manufactured by the Badger Brass Mfg. Co. of Kenosha, WI. It was patented in the US in 1896. My lamp (see pic) is not as shiny. The water tank and filler hole with vent plug is located in the back. The carbide pellets went in the cup on the bottom. The "key" on the side adjusted the water dripping on the carbide. Water plus carbide generates acetylene gas which burns with a hot white flame. The front of the lamp has a glass cover which swings open to light the acetylene. The flat cap on the light is the "smokestack" for the burnt gas to escape.

Those carbide lamps

When I was a kid, we had a "carbide cannon" as a toy.

It was a poorly cast piece that looked like a WWI cannon. You put carbide in it, and it had a sparker like an old zippo lighter to ignite the gas.

It was about a 5 on a 10 point fun-o-meter. Fun for about half an hour.

Not Fixies

From what I can tell, these are single speed bikes with a coaster brake, not a fixed gear. If you look at the left chainstay, it looks as if there is a coaster brake bracket coming from the rear hub. Also the rear hub looks to be rather large which would indicate it housing all the elements of a cb. I could be wrong, kind of hard to be 100% sure from the photo.

Coaster brakes?

I don't know when the Coaster Brake was invented but I think I see the little brake anchor lever that clamps to the frame on the one bike.

It was never much fun as a kid when that lever came loose and you hit the brakes.

In memory of carbide lanterns

Back in my pre-teen youth in Altoona, Pa., my Dad and I used to go raccoon hunting, which is done at night with dogs (technical term "coon hounds"). For light we used carbide lanterns that were designed to be mounted on coal miners' helmets, and an Internet search yields many sites explaining how they work.

Hunting was fun and all that, but carbide offered an extra benefit to anyone wanting to blow a can apart (technical term "teen vandals"). We'd drop a handful of carbide in a can that had a metal lid, such as an empty paint can, punch a hole in the lid, introduce saliva to the carbide (technical term "spitting"), wait for calcium hydroxide gas to build up while covering the hole, then touch a match to the hole and BLAMMO.

Track Bikes

In today's terms these are track bikes: fixed gear: NO freewheeling rear gear/hub assembly. Difficult to ride because the only way you can stop is to pedal slower and slower -- bit tough on the down hills in hilly terrain.

Of note: I could find nothing on this "race" via the search engines. Given the nature of the bikes, I doubt they make it very far without major crashes.

Very bold.

Considering that the first cross country automobile trip, and the hardships they endured, took place in 1907 it was still a bold move, even in 1913, to make the attempt on a bicycle.

Those Odometers

Betabox, I actually had one of those odometers a couple of bikes ago. There was a little peg that attached to one of the spokes, and it hit a star wheel on the little meter. I still remember the little ping it made every time the peg came around. Worked pretty well, as I recall.

Now I use a $5.00 GPS app on my iPhone that gives me a Google map of my route, speed, distance, altitude, pace, and even calories burned, and it keeps track of every ride I took for over a year. Even lets me listen to iTunes music while I ride. Absolutely amazing for $5.00. We've come a long way, baby.

But still, that little counter gizmo lasted 100 years, and I'll bet it's still being sold. Now that's pretty cool.


It appears that the bikes they were planning to ride were fixed-gear bikes with no brakes. I shudder to think what these guys went through crossing the Continental Divide.


There appear to be little Veeder-Root type counters mounted on the front forks of each bicycle. Or is this some other accessory?

Long Ride!

I hope you have a photo of them at the finish line!

Wool Was the Old Spandex

Bicycle enthusiasts, dressing like dorks for nearly 100 years!

Century Road Club Association

I don't know whether these two made it to Frisco, but their organization was founded in 1898 and is still going strong.

Carbide bicycle lanterns

There are a ton of these available at various on-line antique auction sites. The ones shown here resemble the "Old Sol" model by Hawthorne of Bridgeport Connecticut. There are jeweled facets on either side of the lamp that serve as running lights, green on the right and red on the left (with Red Port Wine being the aide-memoire).

The amazing thing about this image is.

Bicycles haven't changed much in all these years.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2024 Shorpy Inc.