Daisy, Daisy, give me your serpent, do!

One of the proudest memories of my musical career is of a mission undertaken on behalf of the Dutch nation to a Swedish folk festival, at which a programme of James Last covers was performed to accompany the wobblings of a display team of penny-farthing riders. Some believe that the deep affinity that exists between aficionados of useless musical instruments and the velocipedist may derive from a shared interest in energy system management, while others predict the imminent discovery of a genetic disorder requiring exposure to filthy lubricating oil. Three important pioneers of combined air- and road-borne transport are

  1. Dayton C Miller (1866-1941), one of the early theorists of shell shock, who was a keen cyclist and a formidable flutist. “His interest in bicycling went as far as lecturing on the mechanics of this art.”
  2. Maurice Selmer, of the renowned family of instrument makers, who converted to making bicycle pumps during the Second World War. “And he never looked back,” shouts someone from the kitchen.
  3. Steve Roberts who, sponsored by Sun, built a machine called the Winnebiko which he pedalled over large stretches of the States. Peter van der Linden writes: “I can easily believe that the value of all the electronics sponsorship, labor, and design work is in excess of $1.4M For example, the Winnebiko featured 5 computers (SPARC, Mac, PC, etc) solar panels, 2-meter multimode ham radio, motion sensitive pager activating security, cellular phone, satellite link, air horns, disk drive, 3 modems, over 30 circuit boards, speech synthesizer, tv, digital shortwave radio, and much, much more. And a flute.” Bizarrely, his Computing Across America is out of print.

The biggest problem of visionaries is usually a reluctance to produce proper documentation, which is why the world is fortunate to play host to Paul Schmidt. Engineer Schmidt, while not apparently inclined to ophiclobatics, has compiled some very interesting stuff about old bicycles, serpents, and other incredibly useful things, including some bike maps I hope to try out when the Spanish finally get round to deporting me.

Thanks for the tip to Dave, the world’s finest lecturer on the relationship between ingrowing toenails and modern trumpet technique, given a glass or two. You should without question buy Dave Perry’s Bike Cult: The Ultimate Guide to Human-Powered Vehicles (); Philip Scowcroft’s Roads and Road Transport in Music is also good.

Similar posts


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *