A Brief History of Bicycles Through WWII: Background information when reading The Undertow

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The Undertow

A Novel

by Jo Baker

The Undertow
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  • First Published:
    May 2012, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2012, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
A Brief History of Bicycles Through WWII

In The Undertow, the second-generation Billy Hastings makes a name for himself as a racing cyclist in the years between World War I and World War II and goes on to serve in a vital detachment of bicycle soldiers on D-Day in 1944. Bicycle racing had already accumulated a long history by the 1920s and military groups all over the world, such as the British Cyclist Divisions, experimented with bicycle infantry, ambulance transporters, messengers and scouts. (Bicycles were more affordable than horses, and they reduced the need for fuel used by motorized vehicles.) Here are a few significant turning points in the chronology of bicycle history:

    Drais's Laufmaschine 1817
  • 1817: Baron Karl von Drais of Germany invents an early bicycle prototype he calls a laufmaschine ("walking machine" - which later becomes known as a "draisine" in honor of the baron). The machine has wheels and handlebars, but no pedals, and is maneuvered by pushing the feet against the ground.


  • The American Velocipede, 1868, a wood engraving from Harper's Weekly
  • 1865: Pedals appear, and the ...

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