By: Hillary Delaney
Bicycling in Boone County can mean anything from a short ride in the park to a long, challenging tour. This pastime is nothing new to our area, and current trends show continued growth in this sport. The early cyclists in the region often enjoyed touring our area.
As early as the 1870s, groups began to form for the purposes of promoting and participating in cycling. The “Ordinary”, a type of bike with a large front and much smaller rear wheel was frequently used by the post-Civil War cycling groups, but proved rather dangerous. It’s successor, the “safety bike” that is quite similar in style to modern recreational bikes, began to gain popularity circa 1885. These bikes were more comfortable and provided an ease of mounting and dismounting the “Ordinaries” did not. They also offered a chain-driven technology not found in earlier bikes, which made them much better suited for a ride in the countryside.
Boone County and other areas of Northern Kentucky gained popularity as tour routes with groups like the League of American Wheelmen. This organization published first-hand accounts of experiences and road conditions regularly, and worked to improve matters to further their sport. The League even endorsed political candidates in the late 19th and early 20th century. Groups like this are credited with improving road conditions throughout the country and prompting the development of the highway system we enjoy today.
In several 1883-4 issues of the periodical Outing and the Wheelman: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine of Recreation, cyclist and writer Karl Kron gives a firsthand account of his 1882 trip through the “hills of Kentucky”. Beginning his trip in Covington, he rode up through Kenton County and into Florence, where the roads were a bit muddy, but began to improve as he made his way to Walton in under two hours.
Our area makes another appearance in the 1912 guidebook of the League of American Wheelmen, excerpts can be seen on the website www.nkyviews.com. Some of the suggested routes are as follows: