There’s a reason Zipp is in Indianapolis – this midwestern city is a hotbed of motorsports and central to the age-old human quest for speed.
In this special episode of the Zipp Speed Podcast, we take of look at the fascinating century old ties between bicycle racing and motorsports. That linage eventually would lead to the creation of Zipp Speed Weaponry more than 30 years ago, and still plays a role in Zipp’s speed innovations today. SRAM’s home of Chicago also played a central role in popularizing bicycles, as we will see.
More than a century ago, bicycles were the fastest thing on wheels. Cars and motorcycles were trying to catch up.
Consider this passage from the definitive book on the history of American bicycle racing, Hearts of Lions …
US Census data indicates that America at the start of the twentieth century had 10 million bicycles, compared with 18 million horses and mules, and some 8,000 motorcars. One of the largest bicycle-making centers was a neighborhood in Chicago called Cycle Row. For nearly two miles along Jackson Boulevard, Cycle Row was lined with cycling-related stores and shops, most turning out bicycles with ready-made parts and fittings for shipments around the country.
It may be hard to realize today, but bicycle racing is one of the country’s oldest sports. The first recorded competitions took place in Boston’s Beacon Park on May 24, 1878—two years after the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was formed, three years after the first running of the Kentucky Derby, and thirteen years before basketball was invented…
We’re pleased to welcome noted cycling historian Peter Nye, author of Hearts of Lions: The History of American Bicycle Racing, to the Zipp Speed Podcast. Both Peter and Zipp content manager Dan Lee are board members of the US Bicycling Hall of Fame, with its museum in Davis, California. We think you’ll find their conversation about cycling’s historic links to motorsports fascinating.
Please stick around for this episode, as Peter and Dan discuss more about the history of cycling, including the little known story of William F. Ivy, an African America who in 1909 finished 27th in Paris-Roubaix—he is the first American to ride the Queen of the Classis, and his result was the best for an American until Greg LeMond was fourth in the 1985 Paris-Roubaix.
Peter also tells his fascinating journey into bike racing in the early 1960s and how cycling helped sustain him during the toughest times of his life.
Photos from The Fast Times of Albert Champion: From Record-Setting Racer to Dashing Tycoon, An Untold Story of Speed, Success, and Betrayal (Prometheus Books, 2014.)