H.G. Wells: The first bicycle touring author October 29th, 2014
H.G. Wells wasn’t just a visionary when it came to time machines or men walking on the moon, he also wrote the very first book about bicycle touring, which also helped give rise to the female emancipation movement.
The Wheels of Chance features a story about a man and a woman cycling through the English countryside and addresses topics of social change, like female emancipation. It was written at the height of the first cycling craze (1890–1905), when practical, comfortable bicycles first became widely and cheaply available and before the rise of the automobile. The advent of the bicycle stirred sudden and profound changes in the social life of England when even the working class could travel far, fast and cheap, and the idea of travelling for pleasure became a possibility for thousands of people for the first time. This new freedom began to weaken the rigid English class structure and it gave a powerful boost to the existing movement toward female emancipation, which Wells explores in his story.
The hero of The Wheels of Chance, Mr. Hoopdriver, is much like any modern day bicycle tourer. He is a frustrated draper’s assistant (a position Wells briefly worked) who was under-paid and over-worked. This inspires him to take a bicycle tour of the Southern Coast on his annual 10-day holiday. He reevaluates his life and, of course, falls in love.
The Wheels of Chance is reprinted here for your convenience, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. We hope you enjoy it. ~ Scott
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Don’t miss these bicycle quotes from Wells.
And more great bicycle quotes from the Women’s Suffrage
and Feminist Movement.