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Bike Chained: 1920

Bike Chained: 1920

May 1920. "Sailor Tony Pizzo passing through Washington on a Coast to Coast bicycle run handcuffed to his machine. The handcuffs were sealed by Mayor Hylan in New York April 24 and are not to be opened until his return to that city. Pizzo made a California to New York trip in like manner in 1919." View full size.


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Needles isn't always so hot

There was a remark on here about the bicyclist being overdressed for Needles. I live in Needles and it does get hot here in the summer. It is a four season location, although the winters aren't nearly as severe as the summers. One comment was made about the magazine in the woman's arm being dated November 1920. If that's the case and the magazine is new, he was dressed fine for Needles, except he might even need a pea coat. It's cold between November and March.


I served over 20 years in the US Navy. From 1983 to 2006 and the men's Service Dress Blue jumper never had zippers. The trousers had buttons and the jumper was "tailored" for a fitted appearance but had no zipper or buttons other than those at the cuffs. Sailors would take their jumpers to a tailor shop and have a zipper put into the side seam to make it easier to put on/take off, especially as we put a few pounds on as the jumper was fitted during boot camp.

My mileage counter

... was manufactured by Lucas and purchased in the '50s. It is possibly an updated design since the mount looks the same.

You can see the actuating pin mounted on one of the spokes - it moves the "Cyclometer" 1/5th of a turn for each revolution of the bicycle wheel.

For you bicycle enthusiasts this was (and still is) mounted on a one-owner 1948 Hex-Tube Monark Silver King.

Counting the miles

I was immediately drawn to the odd-looking nut near the front axle, and recognized the mileage counter located there. The counter on my old Carlton was the same compact style.


I can't even imagine riding that bike even 10 miles, let alone across the country. Twice!

I recently did a 210 mile bike ride over two days.

I rode a bike with 27 gears that I'm sure weighs half of what this bike weighed. I was able to wear modern technical clothing. I wasn't chained to the bike. I had mechanical support along the route, several rest stops fully stocked with snacks. And there was a truck to carry my tent and sleeping bag to my overnight location.

Compared to this guy, I'm a softie. Maybe next year I'll try it his way.

What! No Chain Guard?

As a kid I would roll up my pants leg to keep my threads from becoming ensnared while pedaling merrily down the street.....wonder if Tony did the same.

Buttons on his jumper

Back during the Vietnam War ,when I was in the Navy, sailors modified their jumpers to make a better, and tighter, fit. These uniforms were called "tailor mades" Modern versions have a zipper. I suppose that they still do today.

Bike equipment

Or more importantly the lack of it. I used to put in about a thousand miles a year back in the day and I gotta say those shoes must have been painful. And the pedals don't have even the most basic toe clips to give some pedal lifting during the power cycle.

It looks like the pistol might rub against his leg and one wonders what he's planning offing. But I vividly remember cycling into Yellowstone Park and noticing a sign that said, "Keep Windows up"

Ready for anything

Junkyard bike: check.
Semi-flat front tire: check.
Handcuffs: check and double check.
"Repel boarders" equipment: check.
Helmet: er..... check.
Odd looking pedal resistant shoes: check.

I am familiar with 13-button trousers, but the button-down-the-sides-and-down-the-sleeves dress blue jumper is new to me. It may have been standard in 1920, but I suspect that it is an accommodation to Seaman Pizzo's particular situation. I'm sure that the trip through Needles in dark blue wool clothing would have been less than pleasant. Maybe he had tropical whites in the trunk.

What about tire changes?

It seems like an unnecessary measure to have those chains on. What's he going to do, conspire to defraud the public trust?

[It's a stunt. -tterrace]

Holster legend?

Does it say "Dogs Only" on his holster?

So, aside from the other private matters, he could not change his shirt, with both hands chained. Hmmm.

[Notice how long the chains are and the buttons up the entire length of the sleeve. -tterrace]

Fall of 1920

The overcoats are a clue but the Motion Picture magazine in the woman's arm is from November, 1920.

A Pair of Ivers

The bicycle is an Iver Johnson. Not sure of the year, but likely mid teens.

The grips on the revolver also look Iver Johnson-ish too.

A Gun!?!, etc

I guess things could get pretty dicey out in the wilds of Kansas or wherever. Though, as a kid I got chased by a lot of mean dogs while on a bike that could probably go faster than the one he's on. The ability to have a ranged weapon rather than relying on a PF Flyer to the snout could have been handy.

Speaking of bikes it seems that coaster brake technology had been developed by 1920 since it doesn't appear that there are any brake levers on the handle bars.

Where did he ride?

It looks like he might have started out in Central Park, because he has a pistol hanging under his seat.

More About Tony

Tony suffered from tuberculosis and was about to be discharged from the Navy when he undertook the trip from CA to NY.

More about that here.

He had a pal who got hit by a car on the first trip and had to go it alone the first time.

His friend was his manager the on the trip viewed here.

When they tested him in 1920 he was clear of Tuberculosis and was able to stay in the Navy.

Bathroom Break

I will be the first to ask since I know that almost every Shorpyite wants to know.

How did he go to the bathroom chained to a bike?

Also, did he sleep on top of the bike or underneath?

Just asking?

According to the story I found, he was not allowed to unchain himself and had done the necessary whilst still chained to the bike. It was, however, specially designed for him to be able to do that.

The morning regular

I am less impressed by the physical feat of crossing the country handcuffed to a bike than I am with the thought of simply taking care of, shall we say, the less pleasant daily chores of life, and finding places (and people willing to help him) to do so. I choose to believe that he was allowed his own key to the handcuffs to facilitate his “private time”.

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