american journeys   


Stephen G. Spier - 1886

By Charles Meinert
Web Site Bicycle History Consultant
 

This 5'8" 150 pound wheelmen was also born in 1865 to a prosperous farm family who lived in New Lebanon, New York. The town is located close to the Massachusetts State line and was best known for its flourishing Shaker Community that once existed there.

The San Francisco Morning Call of September 11, 1886 noted, "Mr. Spier asserts that he has ridden the full distance on his bicycle, and, as a matter of proof, he carries a book in which each postmaster along the route has recorded his name, and also affixes the official stamp of his office. To several of our local bicyclists it seems astonishing that he managed to make such remarkable time, considering the rough roads he had to ride over and the excessive heat of the summer's sun." The article concluded with the observation, "The young man does not at all resemble an athlete who had just completed the great task of traversing the continent on wheels. Spier looks quite fresh…Van Meerbeke looked completely worn out when he arrived in this city last Wednesday, after accomplishing his wonderful ride across the continent by way of New Orleans and Arizona. There is unquestionably a great difference in the facial appearance of the two men. Van Meerbeke shows the effects of the sun, Spier's features are not even bronzed." One explanation for the difference was the possibility that Spier covered much of the distance by riding freight trains at times as was admittedly done by others.

Karl Kron (xcvii and xcviii) felt Spier's "mileage figures are entirely untrustworthy…and his character is further shown by the fact that, after writing the expected puff of his 52 in. Expert as 'the best,' he sold puffs of other makes as 'the best'." Kron made an abstract of a typewritten copy of Spier's daily log, but he claimed he was unable to print it because of lack of space. A rather odd explanation when his book, Ten Thousand Miles On A Bicycle had 799 pages. The Bicycling World of March 7, 1890 was more candid when they referred to Spier as, "the young man who rode from New York to San Francisco, that is, a part of the way."

After the ride Spier returned briefly to New Lebanon, but he was soon back in California and active in cycling circles. In 1890 he lost his amateur status by competing with professional riders in a six day race held in San Francisco, and he succeeded W. S. Wing as manager of the prominent Osborn and Alexander cycle store at 628 Market Street in San Francisco.

Spier may have moved to Los Angeles in the spring of 1890 for the Bicycling World of May 23 and July 25, 1890 reported that Mrs. Spier had been given a handsome Rambler by Gormully and Jeffery and that the couple was planning to ride across America in 1891. It is unlikely that the plan was implemented. The last mention of Spier in Bicycling World came on October 12, 1894 when it was noted that Spier had returned from a tour though Mexico and was promoting the Spier 25-mile handicap race in Los Angeles.

There is no known account of Spier's 1886 ride other than the newspaper articles cited.
 

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