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Farewell, my bicycle, I’ve got a motor-car

Stanley Show of Cycles, 1896. Cycles, and horseless carriages, too. 12 of them. Two had been displayed at the 1895 Stanley Show, the first time the British public were shown these new contraptions.

Stanley Show of Cycles, 1896. Cycles, and horseless carriages, too. 12 of them. Two had been displayed at the 1895 Stanley Show, the first time the British public were shown these new contraptions.

This poem seems to show that the late Victorian middle-class bicycle boom was well and truly over by 1897. In fact, cycling continued to be a popular form of leisure and transport for some of the moneyed classes through to about 1910. For instance, the composer Edward Elgar didn’t take up cycling until 1900 and explored the Malvern lanes close to his home until 1909, before his wife, finally, made him hang up his Sunbeam in favour of a motorcar.

Nevertheless, the poem demonstrates how, for some, the bicycle was quickly becoming slow and old-fashioned. Pedestrians, previously tormented by cyclists, were now to be tormented by early motorists.

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My bicycle, my bicycle,
That standest idly by,
With silvered spokes, and plated hubs,
And gear extremely high.
No more shall I a-scorching bend
Above thy handle-bar.
Farewell, farewell, my bicycle,
I’ve got a motor-car.

My bicycle, my bicycle.
By light of sun or lamp
We’ve covered many thousand miles.
We’ve sped through dry and damp;
But never more at dawn or eve
Shall I thy tyres inflate;
The times are changed, my bicycle,
Thou art not up-to-date.

They tempted me, my bicycle.
My swift and silent steed,
With tales about a new machine
That goes at lightning speed;
And still serenely shall I go
Careering through the land,
Though thou art sold, my bicycle,
A bargain, second-hand.

My bicycle, my bicycle,
‘Twill be no longer mine
To chase the flying pedals round,
No more I’ll curve my spine;
But sitting idly at my ease,
I’ll travel with the best,
For I shall turn a handle, and
The car will do the rest.

My bicycle, my bicycle,
It makes me smile with glee
To think how often we have made
The slow pedestrian flee.
With sudden swoop we’ve come full speed
Upon him from afar;
I’ll do the same, my bicycle,
Aboard my motor-car.

Farewell, farewell, my bicycle;
Where flies the wayside dust
I’ll haply chance to pass thee by
(Unless my boilers bust);
For wheresoever on the road
I journey, near or far,
It’s my intent to make things hum
With my new motor-car.

From Hardware Trade Journal
June 1897

By 1902 the Stanley Show of Cycles had been almost wholly taken over by motor vehicles.

By 1902 the Stanley Show of Cycles had been almost wholly taken over by motor vehicles.

The Graphic, 1902

The Graphic, 1902

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