First, some exciting news from our cataloguers – our entire collection of serials (over 200 titles) has now been added to Libraries Australia and may be searched on Trove. Included are such rarities as The Repertory of Arts, Manufactures and Agriculture (1802-17), The Scots Mechanics' Magazine and Journal of Arts, Sciences and Literature (1825-26) and a very long run of the Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette (1823-55).
Secondly, June marks the bicentennial of the bicycle - In June 1817, German inventor Baron Karl von Drais first tested his laufmaschine (running machine) on the streets of Mannheim.
Far from an overnight sensation, Baron Drais' invention, which was variously called the draisine, the swiftwalker, the hobby horse, and the velocipede, failed to take off in England.
The Mechanics' Magazine took up the Baron's cause in 1832 with a three page feature, including a front cover illustration, and with this explanation to its readers; -
Baron Drais was, we believe, the original inventor of the Velocipede, which made so considerable a figure in this country some fourteen or fifteen years ago. Since his arrival in England, he has been endeavouring to revive the use of it, and insists that it must have been owing to some error in the construction of our English edition of the invention, or great inexpertness in the management of it, that it fell into such general discredit amongst us.How far his notions on this head are founded on fact, or attributable to the self-delusion natural to all sanguine inventors, we presume not to say (though certainly we have a strong impression on the subject); but civility to an ingenious foreigner demands that we should lay before our readers his own description of his invention in its most improved shape, in order that they may judge for themselves. (Ed. M. M.)
The inventor's own instructions give some sense of the challenges involved in mastering the use of the original bicycle;
After the seat is taken in the manner represented in the prefixed fig. 1, sit with your body rather forward, and lay the hands with outstretched elbows firm upon the balancing board, and try to keep an equilibrium with the machine.With your hands hold the pole fast wherewith you are enabled to govern your own way at pleasure. This must chiefly be performed with the hands, because the under arm and elbows should remain rested, to enable you to have a fine feeling of keeping your balance.Putting your feet very lightly down, you are then to make large, but at first rather slow, steps, parallel with the wheels; taking care to turn your heels outwards, so that they do not come under the wheels.Should you happen to lose your balance, you can generally assist yourself with your feet, or with guiding a little upon the side inclining outwards; but, for turning round, you should guide rather to the inner side, and bear direct towards it.To acquire perfection in the use of the machine, you should make the first trials upon good paths of a certain breadth within doors.After considerable practice in balancing and guiding, you may then propel quicker, holding at the same time both feet from the ground, during the time the machine rolls on at full speed.
Mechanics' Magazine, No 477, September 29, 1832, p. 418.