An Alternative History of Bicycles and Motorcycles: Two-Wheeled Transportation and Material Culture accounts for the nineteenth-century creation and development of two-wheeled vehicles, both human-powered and motorized. Specifically, the book focuses on the period from 1885 (which saw the appearance, simultaneously, of the Safety bicycle and the Einspur, the first motorcycle) to 1920, while exploring implications for later bicycling and motorcycling. We argue that invention of these vehicles, rather than the product of gifted individuals, should be seen as the consequence of a number of historical, economic, cultural and political forces that intersect so unpredictably that the notion of a genius inventor is reductive.
The common evolutionary model of development from the bicycle to the motorcycle oversimplifies both the technology and its origins. Stripping the vehicles of all their material and cultural associations, such a model fails to advance our understanding of the devices, their creators, and their riders. Taking a contemporary vehicle and tracing its lineage creates a false sense of evolutionary necessity in its creation, and fails to account for the many possible developmental paths that were, for whatever reason, abandoned. By contrast, our book adopts a material culture approach, a form of inquiry that stresses the connections between artifacts and social relations. We consider not simply the bicycle and motorcycle as material objects but focus also on the complex socio-political and economic convergences that produced the materials, materials that in turn themselves shaped the vehicles' appearance, function, and adoption by riders.
Publisher: Lexington Books
Number of pages: 200
Weight: 422 g
Dimensions: 239 x 158 x 19 mm
This work refutes the conventional story of a linear evolution from the early bicycle powered by human exertion to the first motorcycle that resulted from someone's bright idea to mount an internal combustion engine in a two-wheeled frame. The real story is far more complicated. For the first time, the material side of the story-not just design and technology, but macadam and asphalt, rubber and cotton, and denim and leather-receives the attention it deserves. This book is must reading not only for anyone interested in the history of transportation, in social history, and in popular culture, but also for every bicycle and motorcycle rider who doesn't spend every minute of his or her time with hands on the grips and eyes on the road. -- James J. Ward, Cedar Crest College
In An Alternative History of Bicycles and Motorcycles, Suzanne Ferriss and Steven E. Alford convincingly lay to rest the idea that there was a simple evolution between the bike's and the motorcycle's design and development. By meticulously exploring the materials and roads that shaped their production, along with the riders who were attracted to two-wheeled transportation, they not only uncover the social, cultural and political contingencies that shaped these technologies but also highlight a number of contemporary examples about design and function to understand advances in technology and their limits. A wide range of scholars will find their book useful and insightful, as well as anyone interested in bikes, motorcycles, and the larger and complex ways in which they shaped one another and our ideas about mobility, style, and freedom. -- Randy McBee, Texas Tech University
You ride, but have you thought about the origins of rubber and steel? About the link between Roman roads and U. S. interstates? About why your great-grandparents thought the bicycle seat would lead to nymphomania? Ferris and Alford are engaging guides to the materiality of two-wheeled culture. Fascinating, and indispensable for the enthusiast. -- Ted Bishop, University of Alberta