Frank Lenz: The Lost Cyclist

The Lost Cyclist

Last Wednesday night Kai and I popped into our local library to view a slide presentation and discussion led by David Herlihy, author of “The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance”.  The event, sponsored by Local Motion, the Old Spokes Home and the Fletcher Free Library, provided secure valet bike parking for those in attendance.

Herlihy’s book chronicles the adventures of Frank Lenz, an amateur photographer and cyclist who began an around the world cycling tour on a new-fangled “safety bicycle” in 1892.  Although the sport of cycling was just beginning to grow more popular at that time, Lenz was one of few to try such an epic adventure.  Quitting his job as a bookkeeper, at 25 years of age, he set out from New York City on his solo trip with much public fanfare.  Along the way he would send in reports and photographs to “Outing” magazine, who sponsored the trip and covered his story through print.  Obviously, the reports weren’t as instantaneous as the modern day blog – they lagged behind the actual trip by a few months – but the public remained thoroughly fascinated with his adventure and they followed his progress with zeal.  Unfortunately, his tour came to an end in 1894, when he disappeared mysteriously, somewhere in Turkey.  Herlihy covers the speculations of the public, the reaction of Lenz’s family and friends, and the eventual investigation into Lenz’s disappearance in his book.

Seeing Lenz’s photos of the (non-existent) road system at that time and the environment in which he sometimes traveled, we realized how lucky we were to be setting off on our tour with modern day conveniences like paved roads, a GPS, and access to the Internet.

To add to the ambiance of the evening, Glenn Eames of the Old Spokes Home provided an example of the type of bike that Lenz rode during his trip, a Victor Model “C”:

That’s the braking system!!

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