The Lost Cyclist
In the spring of 1892, Frank G. Lenz, a gallant young accountant and expert amateur photographer from a modest German-American family, set forth from his unhappy home in Pittsburgh to circle the globe atop a new 'safety' bicycle with inflatable tyres (essentially the modern machine). He brought along a large wooden camera, which used newly introduced film, and arranged to send regular reports to his sponsor, Outing magazine, effectively making him a harbinger of the great bicycle boom that was about to explode with stunning social and industrial repercussions.
Two years, fourteen thousand miles and many adventures later, after crossing the United States, Japan, China, Burma, India and Persia, just as he was about to enter Europe for the home stretch, Lenz vanished. His presumed murder in Asiatic Turkey jolted the American public and drew international attention.
Including many rare photos, The Lost Cyclist is a fresh reminder of how the bicycle has long inspired big dreams in so many of its enthusiasts. It breathes life into an era when it took a true adventurer to explore the globe.David V. Herlihy
is a freelance writer who specialises in bicycle history. His first book, Bicycle, was a critical and commercial success, and received the 2004 Award for Excellence in the History of Science and the 2005 Sally Hacker Prize.
The Lost Cyclist
Random House Australia
Author: David V. Herlihy
Interview with David V. HerlihyQuestion:
What inspired you to write The Lost Cyclist? David V. Herlihy
: I've been into bicycle history for a good 20 years now. I'm especially interested in the invention and development through the19th century. Lenz is a name I would often come across when reading American cycling literature of the 1890s. I knew that his story would captivate bike enthusiasts, and I felt confident that it would also appeal to the general market because it speaks to the youthful human spirit. And when I started to find unexploited materials relating to his ill-fated world tour, such as unpublished photographs taken by Lenz himself, I knew I had to do this.Question:
What research went into The Lost Cyclist?David V. Herlihy
: Quite a bit. Not counting my initial research, which goes back about a dozen years, I spent a solid four years researching the book. During the last two I was also writing it. I traveled extensively in the US and Europe, including Turkey, to research in libraries and archives. Much of my best material, however, came from tracking down descendants of key figures in the book, to see if they had any papers of interest. Question:
How were you able to find so many rare photos?David V. Herlihy
: The images mostly came from four collections, two private and two institutional. I found them all using internet-based tools. John Lenz, in Florida, who descends from one of Lenz's step uncles, has a wonderful collection of Lenz photos from his hi-wheeling days. John Herron, who lives in the Boston area near me, has an album of photos taken during Lenz's world tour, assembled by Lenz's best friend Charles Petticord. And the Special Collections department at the UCLA library has papers relating to William Sachtleben (the cyclist who went looking for Lenz in Turkey), as does the Seaver Center in the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.Question:
What is it about bikes that originally inspired you?David V. Herlihy
: Since I was six the bicycle has symbolized freedom and adventure to me. I've always used bikes to get around town and I've done several tours in the US and Europe, though nothing on the scale of a world circuit. I also appreciate the beauty of classic Italian racing bicycles, and have a small collection from the 1960s through the 1980s.Question:
How often do you ride your bike?David V. Herlihy
: Not as often as I should. Mostly I ride a folding bike around Boston, but occasionally I go on three or four day bike rides. I will be riding soon on the Otago Rail Trail on the South Island of New Zealand and I'm very much looking forward to that.
Interview by Brooke HunterBuy it now at