Red Deer’s long history of biking

Tomorrow (Sept. 5) the Tour of Alberta International Pro Cycling Race will make its way to Red Deer from Devon, Alberta as part of the week-long competition.

On Saturday, as part of Red Deer’s centennial celebrations, there will be a bike parade, starting at the Red Deer Farmers’ Market site at 2 p.m. and then proceeding to Barrett Park and the bike trail system.

Red Deer has a long and interesting history of bicycling.

The origins go back to the 1890s during the start of what is often referred to as the Golden Age of bicycling.

The chain rear-wheel-drive models replaced the early styles of bicycles, which could be cumbersome and at times dangerous to ride. These new style of bikes were such an improvement that they were dubbed ‘safety bicycles’.

Moreover, tire manufacturers, chiefly Dunlop, began to produce pneumatic bicycle tires. These air tires made rides much smoother and safer, particularly on the dirt and gravel roads found in Central Alberta.

Bicycling, as a widespread recreational activity, first made its appearance in the community in the spring of 1896. Although winter lingered with a heavy snowstorm hitting on May 4, the Calgary Tribune soon reported that many people in Red Deer had purchased and were learning to ride their bicycles.

At the time, the hamlet had a population of 150.

People quickly became more adventuresome with their new form of transportation.

In August, J.E. Graham made a trip by bicycle from Edmonton to Red Deer. The route was the old Calgary-Edmonton Trail, with lots of ruts, water-filled potholes and other obstacles and challenges.

In the spring of 1899, Reg Burch and Tom Gaetz made a round trip to Edmonton on their bicycles to attend the Dominion Day (July 1) ‘Potlatch’ celebrations.

At the same time, 15 Red River carts made their way up the Calgary-Edmonton Trail to the same celebrations.

One of the most remarkable features of the new sport of bicycling was that it was not limited to men. Despite the usual attitudes of what was acceptable in Victorian times, women took up the pastime with equal enthusiasm.

This was not an easy feat.

The long full skirts of the era could make it difficult to pedal. Nevertheless, bicycling gave women a socially acceptable and rather liberating activity, which they could enjoy with friends as well as their husbands, children or young beaus.

In June 1900, Red Deer celebrated the capture of Pretoria during the Boer War with a parade that included a fife and drum band and also a procession of ‘ladies and gentlemen” riding on their bicycles.

On the most popular brands of bicycles for the pioneer cyclists was the Cleveland, made by the H.A. Lozier Company of Ohio.

Another popular bicycle, particularly for women, was the Hyslop, which was Canadian-made. In the early part of the last century, the Canadian Cycle and Motor Company (C.C.M.) was formed and eventually commanded 85% of the Canadian bicycle market.

Bicycles could cost as much $40 to $50, a considerable sum during early cash-strapped days. However, good quality used bicycles could usually be purchased for $8 to $10 each, often at a hardware or second hand store.

As the biking pastime grew, bicycle races became an integral part of the annual Dominion Day sports events and Red Deer Fair as well as the annual Anglican Church ‘Fetes’ which were also held at the Fairgrounds.

As time went on, longer races of one mile or more became common.

As the century progressed, there was a shift in biking. It came to be considered primarily as a pastime for children, and not for adults. Fortunately, in the past few decades there has been a shift back again so that it is a popular activity for people of all ages.

Just Posted

Red Deer-based Home of Hope to host ‘Heroes’ Charity Gala

International charity has missions in several African nations

Rimbey RCMP on scene of serious collision

A portion of Highway 53 west of Rimbey is down to one lane while crews investigate

WATCH: 2010 Olympic architect John Furlong inspires Red Deerians at Chamber event

Furlong suggests Red Deer should get involved with Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid

Red Deer RCMP recent arrests include stolen vehicles, break and enters and drug charges

RCMP continue their focus on repeat offenders as part of the Pinpoint crime reduction strategy

Red Deer RCMP investigate armed convenience store robbery

Suspect fled on foot with undisclosed amount of cash and cigarettes

U.S. congressman issues dire warning to Canada’s NAFTA team: time is running out

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to resume talks with the U.S.

Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if US takes steps too

Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon.

Wetaskiwin RCMP looking for missing youth

Police say 12-year-old Treston Minde left his residence on his bike Sept. 17 and hasn’t returned home

North Carolina gov pleads with storm evacuees to be patient

The death toll rose to at least 37 in three states Tuesday, with 27 fatalities in North Carolina.

North and South Korea say they plan to bid for 2032 Olympics

Moon and Kim announced a sweeping set of agreements including a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Russia’s reinstatement after doping scandal goes to a vote

The World Anti-Doping Agency is due to vote Thursday Sept. 20, 2018, on possible reinstatement of Russia.

Ontario wins stay on ruling that struck down council-cutting plan

The province had argued the stay was necessary to eliminate uncertainty surrounding the Oct. 22 vote, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

B.C. cannabis producer Tilray hits at $20-billion high as stock price explodes

This is the first export of a cannabis product from a Canadian company to the U.S.

‘Sesame Street’ wants to clarify: Bert and Ernie aren’t gay

The characters are best friends and have many human traits but “remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation”

Most Read