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Brave Young Men

The high-wheel bicycle inspired a cult following.


Dapper gentleman with his high wheel bicycle, Brandon, Manitoba, ca 1885

By 1880, athletic young men in Europe and North America had embraced the high-wheel bicycle and organized themselves into clubs and other organizations.

Canada’s first club was established in 1878 in Montreal, and many others followed in places like Victoria, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Halifax. With the support of cycle manufacturers, they set up races, toured the countryside—often writing articles about their journeys for one or many cycling publications—and lobbied for better roads and traffic control, among other things. Mostly, though, they just rode their swift and elegant bicycles, watched enviously by those who were too old, cautious, respectable, or poor to join them.