I had started reading this book months ago, but then had to return it to the library. When the LGRAB contest came up (see at right), it seemed like a splendid time to resume reading that book. The Lost Cyclist chronicles the round-the-world bicycle ride of Thomas Allen and William Sachtleben and the attempt by Frank Lenz to accomplish that same feat in the opposite direction about a year or two later, in 1892-93, under the auspices a periodical called Outing.
I'm not going to do a "book report," as my lovely spouse Kathleen keeps calling it, but I do want to mention a couple of the things that particularly struck me. Lenz's racism--referring, for example, to the Chinese people he hired to help him as "coolies"--was really jarring. But in the main, the accounts of his junket were fascinating. For instance, he had to use rail beds for travel (owing to the general impassability of roads), which required him, on at least one occasion, to hang from a railroad overpass, his bike in the other hand, when a train surprised him.
I also loved that Lenz was swarmed in every town and city, so rare were bicycles in those days--though not so rare that there were bicycle clubs in most large cities, including female members. I can relate to the excitement he generated--when I'm on the bakfiets (cargo bike). Seldom do I venture out on the cargo bike without getting shouts of "nice bike!" and without getting stared at.
And I couldn't help putting myself in Lenz's place as he traveled through Japan and China without speaking a word of those countries' languages. While it's true that I went to St. Petersburg, Russia, without knowing a word of Russian, I went there as part of a writing seminar and was therefore hardly on my own. I can't imagine how frightening it must have been for him, all on his own, especially back then when foreign countries were truly foreign to most people.
I would say "spoiler alert" if it weren't for the fact that the title Lost Cyclist pretty much clues the reader in at the start that all does not go well for Lenz. I will read on now with trepidation, wishing my good thoughts could alter his fate.