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Anecdotes from the Archive

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A Cycle for all Seasons

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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So far, the weather this spring has brought us all sorts of dashed hopes, with warm, “normal” days immediately followed by chilly, windy, rainy weeks. Whereas the beginning of this week had many stripping off their winter layers and getting out of the house to enjoy temperatures above 60 and sunshine, the end of the week has brought a winter storm with record snowfall.

So why bother getting excited if the weather is just going to turn it’s backs on us once again? Before giving up completely, I’d like to present an invention from the November 10, 1888, Scientific American issue that helped its users transition from winter into spring—and back again, if necessary. Touted as “simple” and “cheap,” Herman H. Holtkamp’s patented attachment for bicycles allowed the wheels to move over surfaces covered in ice and snow. A runner, or “shoe,” attached to the back wheel by means of clipping it to a bracket. The bracket was adjustable in order to fit different-size wheels. To provide traction and stability for the front wheel, several cylindrical metallic plates were attached at various points. The cylinders were lined with leather or some other kind of cushioning to protect the tire, and were clamped to the wheel rim by flanges that protruded from their sides. Normal breaking methods could still be used.

Holtkamp’s attachment was made of steel, and could be sharpened “for special feats on very smooth ice.” It could be taken on or off in a very short time, allowing any cyclist to conquer that capricious beast, Mother Nature.

About the Author: Nature Publishing Group and Scientific American are working to digitize all past issues of the magazine. Mary Karmelek is in charge of checking over each issue, and in the process she uncovers fascinating, captivating and humorous material buried in the yellowed pages of our past.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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