Many have expressed doubts as to the real utility of velocipedes and the permanency of their use. Most of these croakers have based their opinions upon the disuse into which the rude machines of former times have fallen and the want of adaptability to the roughly paved roadways of our cities. Tha first of these objections is answered by the fa:t that the seemingly slight differences in the construction of modern velocipedes from the primitive ones, have entirely changed the character of the vehicle. They are no longer draft vehicles, they are locomotives, and are as much superior to the original straddle bar on wheels, as the improved steam locomotive is to the old time stage coach. As to the sscond. point, what will objectors say when it is announced on good authority that the spirited Common Council of Brooklyn propose to bridge the gutters for the accommodation of velocipedestrians. The Brooldyn Union says of this project: " Whole streets will no doubt in due time be modified to meet the requirements of the coming vehicle. We are informed that our beneficent Prospect Park Commissioners are already proposing to give the velocipede the benefit of a special course. In view of the existing demand, as well as of the plain prospects of this institution, we take the liberty of suggesting that the gutters of the city be bridged. Whether it be effected with iron or with flagging, it can be done with perfect ease and tolerable economy, and would be viewed by every one as a great convenience. It is a little job which we commend to the paternal mercies of the City Fathers." It adds that if this is long delayed " The whole city will rise in its might to demand little iron bridges over the gutters." We believe in the utility of tiie velocipede, as well as in its capacity for affording amusement, and shall not be disappointed to see Henry Ward Beecher's prediction fulfilled, and devout worshippers propelling themselves ?with all due gravity and decorum to church on Sunday. Velocipede livery stables are the offspring of scant supply and large demand. " Velocipedes To Let" greats our eyes every day on the way to our ofiice. Velocipedes rent at 60 cents an hour in Boston. The same city has adopted the sou-riquet of " velocipedagogue " for those who teach the art of riding them. A New Orleans paper gays that the Crescent City proposes to purchase twenty-five velocipedes for each fire company in the city. Detroit has caught the complaint, got it badly, so a friend informs us who has just come from that enterprising city. An expert suggests through the columns of the Evening Post, a few improvements much needed in the present style of the two-wheeled velocipede, as well as some cautions to be observed by those who intend to purchase. Up to the present time the velocipede in this countiy has been used almost entirely in cities, and but very few have given them a trial on our country roads, though there is no longer any doubt of their utility in rure. As yet no machine is provided with protectors to keep the mud and dust from off the back ; and this is one of the most important improvements that can be made. For from actual experience it has been found that one's back very soon gets a coating of dust over it, which is thrown up by the hind wieel; while for the front wheel there should also be a protector (fastened to the support of the wheel, to turn with it), to prevent that wheel from rubbing upon the pantaloons, a serious annoyance. The saddle should be as far down between the wheels as possible without coming in contact with them, and the support for the front wheel, to which the handles are attached, should incline backwards, so that the center of the cross bar at the top shall be at least nine inches from a perpendicular drawn through the center of the front wheel. For it is obvious, and experience has proved it to be so, that more force can be exerted and a greater speed more easily attained if the body is thrown well back and the whole frame kept nearly straight, than if the legs are forced up and down in the position that one assumes while sitting in a chair. In this latter position he may pr6ss hard enough to raise himself from the seat, but in the former the machine itself must give before he can be moved by pushing. The ingenious arrangement for supporting lanterns on some machines are a waste of time and expense; better some sort of clamps to secure a light umbrella in front when the sun shines hot, or it rains, as well as clamps, or the like, for fastening a traveling bag on the rear, for wo must look forward to next summer, when so many excursions and trips into the country will be made on these machines. Before purchasing any machine, but particularly tho cheaper ones, examine them closely yourself, or if not a judge of good mechanical workmanship, ask a friend to do it for you. Many defects are concealed by the coatings of paint, particularly in the castings and forgings; and a machine that is weak in any point is a dangerous one to use in fast riding. Be sure that every bolt is properly secured by nuts that cannot be shaken off;" they should be riveted on to the fcolt, for they will soon work loose if not so fastened. The crank should never toe keyed on to the shaft, but fastened on to a square head. The manufacturers at present are pocketing immense receipts at the expense of the excited and incautious public. A good machine can be made to order under the direction of al- most any good mechanic for a sum much less than is charged for any now in the market. That the career of the " velocipedestrian " is not one of unalloyed happiness is gently suggested by the following inquiries, propounded by a novice in a Western journal: " If a fellow goes with his velocipede to call upon a lady, whose house has no front yard, and no back yard, and there is a lot of boys in front of it ready to pounce upon his machine, and the lady is smiling through the window, what is he to do with it ? " If a fellow, riding his velocipede, meets a lady on a particularly rough bit of road, where it requires both hands to steer, is he-positively required to let go with one hand to lift his hat; and, if so, what will he do with his machine ? "If a fellow, riding his velocipede, overtakes alady carrying two bundles and a parcel, what should he do with it ? " If a fellow, riding his machine, meets three ladies walking abreast, opposite a particularly tall curb stone, what ought he to do with it ? " If a lady meets a fellow riding his machine, and asks him to go shopping with her, what can he do with it ? " If the hind wheel of a fellow's machine flings mud just above the saddle, ought he to call on people who do not keep a duplex mirror and a clothes brush in the front hall ? " If a fellow, riding his velocipede, encounters his expected father-in-law, bothering painfully over a bit of slippery sidewalk, what shall he do with it ? " If people, coming suddenly round corners, will run against a fellow's machine, is he bound to stop and apologize, or are they? " If a fellow is invited to join a funeral procession, ought he to ride his machine ? " And is it proper to ride a velocipede to church; and, if so, what will he do with it when he gets there V There should be a " mixed commission " of ladies to decide these questions. Prof. Sweet, of Providence, R. I., a well-known pedestrian and rope walker, is to commence, on the first day of June next, the unparalleled feat of .propelling a velocipede of his own manufacture, a distance of three thousand miles in thirty days, averaging one hundred miles per day, for a wager of $5,000. During the trip, he is to ride the velocipede one hundred and fifty miles in twenty-four hours, and one trial only will be allowed. A correspondent from Tonkers writes us about the velocipede of 1818. He was at that time a possessor and a rider of one and remembers it with affection, recalling with indignation the prohibition of their use by the action of the New York City Fathers of that date. The Canton (Ohio) Republican proposes to make a velocipede with rimmed wheels, so that it can be run at the rate of a hundred miles an hour on a single rail of a railroad. In case of meeting a lightning train, wouldn't it be very bad for the bicycle ? The New Steel The Philadelphia Ledg&r says it is suggested that as other substances beside carbon, tungsten, manganese, chromium, silicon, etc., may enter into composition with iron to form varieties of steel, boron will also enter into composition ; and that the new steel recently described in our columns, of which tools were made possessing extraordinary hardness and cutting power are composed of boron steel. This will do for a conjecture, but its real constitution cannot long remain hidden.
This article was originally published with the title "Velocipede Notes" in Scientific American 20, 9, 131 (February 1869)