Here are some more of the heroes, rogues and knaves populating my new book. Left to right: The aforementioned Maxim, exhibiting the Pope Company's horseless carriage in 1899. Pope was the largest bicycle manufacturer in the country when it signed young Maxim as chief engineer of its new motor division. Although Colonel Pope's company jumped ahead of others with its early entries into the motorcar market, building reliable gasoline- and electric-powered vehicles, it was unable to survive the blow dealt by the 'economic downturn' and collapse in the bike market that occurred before the turn of the century.

Marshall "Major" Taylor. That a poor black kid enjoyed consistent access to a bicycle in the first place was extremely lucky. "A freak of fate," as Taylor called it. That he was able to rise to the very top of an aggressively racist sport was all talent, wits and determination. The persecution of Major Taylor by his fellow competitors and by the bicycle world in general, while not universal, was always at a shameful level, often extremely harsh and occasionally violent. In 1894 the League of American Wheelmen (the club started by Pope as a brilliant marketing ploy) voted itself a 'whites only' institution. At the time blacks were not allowed to compete in or even attend the races. Young Taylor had to sneak his way into competition, essentially, entering only road races put on by sympathetic promoters and disguising his entry until the last second to keep the racist uproar to a minimum. Because the youngster often won, his reputation grew and he thus found his way into a few more races. He was too fast to ignore. Eventually he was beating the best riders in the world and became a rich man. Still many venues remained closed to him and he was in many cases denied the same lodging and food as his opponents while on the road. He bought a big house in a nice neighborhood in Worcester and the people there tried to buy it back from him to keep the neighborhood white. He found threatening notes signed 'White Riders,' telling him to get the heck out or else, and was choked into unconsciousness on the track. In an era of rampant racism, the wheelmen took it up a notch or two. If it was like that for Taylor, imagine what it might have been like for a black person of less noteworthy ability hoping to enjoy the sport. It's worth considering their plight when all these newfangled wheelmen start whining about how they are discriminated against on the roads and casually dribble out of their mouths the language of Jim Crow racism to describe their own alleged victimhood.

It takes a village, people. It takes a village of dudes in tophats to teach Frances Willard how to ride a bicycle.

Frances Willard and Hiram Maxim really knew how to live. Both used bicycles to inject an element of adventure into their privileged, comfortable existences. Both appreciated the significance of the bicycle as idea and symbol as well as machine. Maxim figured it opened the minds of inventors to the concept of quick, independent personal transport and led straight to the development of the motorcar. Willard, like other leaders of the movement, saw the bike as a tool to advance women's liberation. To Willard the act of learning to ride was empowering in ways that reached far beyond the freedom of transportation. She wrote a book about the experience, urging other women to take up the wheel. She named her bicycle Gladys, which, I'm just now realizing, could very well have been a play on the latin gladius. Clever lady. Anyway.

Colonel Tsuji was not interested in any of that jive. He looked to the bicycle only for its utilitarian advantages. In 1941 Tsuji masterminded the Japanese invasion of Malaya and the takeover of Singapore -- often considered the worst defeat ever suffered by the British in military affairs. To Tsuji the outcome was easily explained: his infantrymen were on bicycles, while the defenders were stuck in armored vehicles, or were otherwise on foot. The armor could only use suitable roads, of which there were very few on the peninsula, while the bicycle infantry could use small tracks, of which there were many. Blowing the bridges couldn't stop the bicyclists when the riders could just wade across -- the tactic caught more Allied armored vehicles than Japanese invaders. Bicycles versus armored cars on Malay Peninsula, 1941, no freakin' contest.

I didn't bring up Tsuji's bicycle blitzkrieg to suggest that our various wars of today would be better handled by troops on bicycles (or to laud Tsuji, who could be described as an evil man), but to remind us of the trade-offs that come with an all-too-often blind reliance on motors and power to get things done. These trade-offs are evident in all aspects of modern civilization but have been glaring in military conflicts since motors were invented. With the obvious advantages that motors provide has come a certain stupidity of assumptions that has affected outcomes in Korea, Viet Nam, Somalia, Afghanistan, everywhere you find what is called asymmetrical warfare. The French humiliation at Dien Bien Phu, in which the Viet Minh siege force was partially supplied by coolies pushing heavily loaded bikes through the jungle (pictured at left) while the French (with planes and pilots supplied by the US taxpayer) ineffectively bombed the roads, is probably the poster child for this. Notice the long stick coming out of the handlebar on one side, to help with pushing the bike. There was usually a long stick planted in the seat tube as well for the other hand. This is perhaps the most unsexy and most effective use of the bicycle in history.

John Forester could rightfully claim the paradoxical title of the best and worst advocate that bicyclists have had since the1970s. He likes to portray himself as an original but he's really more of a throwback to a certain type of wheelman that arose in the19th century, not long after the invention of the bike and before cars and bike lanes (John Forester Kryptonite) ever existed. The 'vehicular cycling' ideology was born at a time when vehicles had animals attached to the front and were limited by law to single-digit speeds. Forester is the Grand Wizard of the modern version of 'competent cyclists' who cry foul on the streets and raise the alarm of discrimination and who hope to somehow gain 'equality' with other vehicles -- even though bicyclists already enjoy more freedom than any other road user. For reasons I cannot claim to understand the fact of the bicycle's superiority among transportation modes has been rejected by this relatively small yet vocal slice of the cycling community. They embrace victimhood and refuse to let go.

RELATED: THE HISTORY AND FUTURE OF BICYCLING IN AMERICA, WEIRD LITTLE BOOK.

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ROAD BIKING COLORADO  2015

From the cliffs of Colorado National Monument to the switchbacks of Pikes Peak, this book is packed with hard-to-believe rides and stories. It was a joy to produce and I hope it's a joy to read.

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FAMILY BIKING: THE PARENT'S GUIDE TO SAFE CYCLING  2015

Co-authored with Christie! A comprehensive guide for parents who want to pass their love of bicycling on to their kids. Learn how to bike safely with babies and toddlers, then teach them to ride on their own. With a buyer's guide to kids' helmets, trailers, cargo bikes of all kinds and kids' bikes. (No that's not us on the cover.)

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The legendary traffic safety manual has been revised, updated and expanded. This book contains the collective street knowledge of the world's most experienced riders, all wrapped in historical context like a spicy truth burrito. Read it and pass it on!

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