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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Herlihy Sheds Light on ‘The Lost Cyclist’

‘Epic Tale of an American Adventurer’ at Boswell Book Co.

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When bicycles were introduced in the 19th century, they were largely condemned as hazardous fads; nevertheless, by the end of the century, bicycling had become not only a crucial mode of transportation, but also a popular pastime. That popularity increased after the invention of a new, safer model, the forerunner of the modern road bike. In 1892 Frank Lenz, an entrepreneurial 25-year-old Pittsburgh bookkeeper, decided to take advantage of this exciting new world of travel on the “mechanical horse”—as well as seek personal fame and fortune—by announcing that he would cycle the globe.

Lenz’ story is captured in David Herlihy’s new book, The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance. While a global ride had been accomplished in tandem, Lenz’s journey was unique—and more dangerous—because he chose to go it alone.The Lost Cyclist is a true story that follows Lenz’ around-the-world attempt, which began on May 15, 1892. Lenz started his journey with a 57-pound bike, 13 pounds of camera gear and 25 pounds of other equipment and supplies. The trip, sponsored by Outing magazine, was scheduled to cover 20,000 miles and span three continents.

Sadly, however, Lenz vanished after crossing into Turkey, a country submerged in ethnic tensions and violent fighting. After Lenz goes missing, the book turns its focus to another man, William Sachtleben, a long-distance cyclist who set off in search of Lenz (at the behest of Outing) in hopes of shedding light on his disappearance. The joint stories of Lenz and Sachtleben portray the joys and dangers of bicycling as told through the incredible adventures of these two men. The Lost Cyclist is a well-researched story about our nation at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the world of American biking, in particular.This riveting tale of pride and tragedy is brilliantly captured in Herlihy’s historical detail and vivid descriptions.

Herlihy, who also authored the in-depth Bicycle: The History, has been featured on NPR and Voice of America. The Wheelmen, an association of antique bicycle collectors, awarded Herlihy the McNair History Award for his research in 1999. The Lost Cyclist was named one of Amazon.com’s “Best Books of the Month” in June.

Herlihy will speak at Boswell Book Co. at 7 p.m. on July 13 in an event co-sponsored by COG Magazine.

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