A Brief History of Bicycle Racing

By Stacy Nelson

When bicycles first appeared, people immediately wanted to test how fast they could go by racing them. History holds the first recorded bicycle race on May 31, 1868 at the Parc de Saint-Cloud, in Paris. The race was 1.2 km and the winner was an Englishman named James Moore. He rode a wooden bicycle with iron tires.

However, bicycle racing in the early days was considered very dangerous. Bicycles were not up to today’s standards and racing them coined the phrase, “breakneck speed” because if a rider crashed he would fly over the front handlebars with disastrous results.

Professional bicycle racing was so popular in the United States that it practically became the national sport of the U.S. during this time. Racers were like superstars; early racers include Arthur Zimmerman and Marshall “Major” Taylor.

Bicycle racing also became popular around the world. Bicycle racing was one of the events in the first modern Olympic games held in Athens, Greece in 1896. The first Tour de France was held in 1903. It was a promotional event for the French newspaper, L’Auto.

Of course bicycle racing has continued to grow in popularity, especially here in Oregon, and thankfully now we have not only safer bicycles, but safety gear as well.

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