The Velocipede

Bike Wm

The bicycle is a staple of modern college life, but in 1868, they were novelties. Fr. Sorin spotted one while on a trip to Paris in December of that year, and immediately made plans to secure one for Notre Dame. He wrote to the students:

“I send you...a beautiful velocipede, one of the largest and best finished in Paris. I wish I could have sent a dozen instead of one...That it will be a source of new and great enjoyments, I have no doubt. After you have tamed it, you will please give a ride upon it to Eddie, Willie, Charlie, and Georgie of the Minims.”

It was indeed in need of taming. The first bike was all iron with a leather saddle. It lacked any springs or much of anything to provide for smooth transport, and its configuration caused its rider to bounce uncontrollably on the seat. As a result, a student’s turn riding the contraption usually ended when he fell off, often with some type of minor injury for the trouble.