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The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance Hardcover – June 18, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, June 2010: Frank Lenz was a man driven by his passions. As an accomplished "wheelman" during the late 19th century, Lenz’s dreams were dominated by the emerging sport of cycling and an intense desire to make a name for himself. In May of 1892, he attempted to fuse both by embarking on a quest to circumscribe the globe by bicycle. The journey had already been accomplished in tandem, but Lenz upped the ante--and raised eyebrows--by announcing he would ride his dangerous route alone. The Lost Cyclist is a riveting tale of tragedy, pride, and naivete that is both brilliantly told and meticulously researched. Opinions may differ as to whether Lenz was unaware or unconcerned by the inherent dangers he faced, but the story of his fateful journey belongs on the varied shelves of cycling enthusiasts, mystery fans, and nonfiction devotees alike. --Dave Callanan

Product Description
In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized "safety-bicycle" with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and gamely set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent for Outing magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg.

He never made it. His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz's trail. Bringing to light a wealth of information, Herlihy's gripping narrative captures the soaring joys and constant dangers accompanying the bicycle adventurer in the days before paved roads and automobiles. This untold story culminates with Sachtleben's heroic effort to bring Lenz's accused murderers to justice, even as troubled Turkey teetered on the edge of collapse.

A Look Inside The Lost Cyclist
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Lenz (far right) in Glenshaw, with W. T. McClarren and Charles Petticord Lenz (far left) and Petticord (center) on Smithfield bridge, leaving for New Orleans. August 1891 From left to right: Petticord, McClarren, Lenz, and identified friend near Natrona. Note Lenz's homemade umbrella. Lenz in Washington, PA
Lenz and Petticord meet two "safety" riders on the National Road in Lewisville, IN, August 1890 Lenz tips his cap in Greenfield, IN. August 1890 Lenz and Petticord in Effingham, IL, on their way to St. Louis, August 1890 along the National Road Petticord and Lenz in Collinsville, IL, August 1890.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. When the bicycle first gained popularity in the 1880s, intrepid daredevils were quick to seize upon it as a tool of exploration and an indicator of resourcefulness. Frank Lenz and William Sachtleben were two such enthusiasts. Sachtleben and a partner had gained notoriety for cycling almost across the globe, including through China, a region that was alien to Westerners at the time (they traversed particularly difficult sections by train). But Lenz proposes something truly dangerous: he will cycle the entire world alone, and he won't shy away from the hard parts. Lenz's exploits become the talk of the cycling world, but don't reach prominence in America until he disappears in eastern Turkey, a hairsbreadth from reaching his goal. Sachtleben is sent to Turkey to investigate and ends up wading through government corruption, tribal alliances, and a region in the throes of revolution. This meticulously-researched account exposes readers to an unfamiliar world. Readers with a love of cycling or curiosity about this moment in history will appreciate Herlihy's knowledge and passion, but the simply curious may feel at times like they're pedaling uphill.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (June 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547195575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547195575
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Leslie Reissner on May 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
L.P. Hartley began a novel with the sentence: "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." And in his new book, "The Lost Cyclist," noted cycling historian David Herlihy introduces us to a most peculiar world, albeit with elements that we would still recognize. The book is actually two stories The first deals with Frank Lenz, a young bookkeeper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who became a noted high-wheel bicycle racer in the late 1880s before recognizing his chance for fame and fortune would really come with the advent of a new kind of bicycle, the "safety bicycle," with new-fangled pneumatic tires. Frank Lenz decided to take advantage of the new invention, then in its infancy, and using his skills as a cyclist, and as a passionate amateur photographer, his achievement would be the first around-the-world solo cycling trip on a safety bike. To this end, he sought out sponsorship and arranged with the editor of New York's "Outing" magazine to send back stories and photos of his trip, which was expected to last two years.

He began his formal launch of the around-the-world tour on May 15, 1892 from Pittsburgh, setting out with a 57 pound Overman bicycle, 13 pounds of camera gear and 25 pounds of other equipment. He headed eastwards and in New York met worked with the editor of Outing to garner maximum publicity before beginning the trip proper on June 4, heading west and crossing the United States in five months. He was 25 years old.

Although Frank Lenz may have been slight in stature, weighing 145 pounds, he was clearly, as one witness is quoted in the book as saying, "he was quite a novel person-one possessed of great pluck, energy and determination...
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Full disclosure: I'm an avid bicyclist, with a small collection of bicycle-abilia, so this book had me from the title. But just because a subject is enticing doesn't always mean the book will be.

I'm pleased to report that The Lost Cyclist is a meticulously researched, fast-paced, supremely readable book that had me staying up later than I'd intended several nights in a row just so I could keep reading.

Focusing on what today is a mere footnote in cycling history, the book is really the story of two--even three--bicyclists whose exploits gripped the nation over a century ago, and only one of whom was actually lost. Frank Lenz, of the title, was an accountant and promising bicycle racer in the era of high-wheelers, but for a variety of reasons, never realized his potential. Inspired by the accounts of Thomas Stevens, who had traveled by bike on three continents and written about and sketched what he saw, Lenz aspired to cycle around the world too, only he would undertake his trip on a "safety bicycle," the new-fangled design that had two wheels of equal size and, in his case, inflatable tires. And he would travel with a camera, taking photographs of the sights.

Ambitious, entrepreneurial, intrepid and naive, Lenz successfully solicited the support of Outing magazine to underwrite his dream. He started in New York, then pedaled across the U.S. to San Francisco, where he hopped a ship to Japan and then to China. Embarking on the Asian portion of his itinerary, he encountered harsh conditions and xenophobia, particularly in China, but made his way to Burma, through India, Persia and finally to Turkey, which was experiencing considerable unrest on the eve of the Armenian massacres. And it was there that he disappeared.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was not aware of the events portrayed in this book. Further, I haven't been on a bicycle in several decades. The former was set right by the reading of this book. The latter is something I hope continues.

Herlihy's writing of the dawn of bicycle racing and foreign treks via two-wheels was quite enlightening. The story of Frank Lenz's journey was spotty due to the limited communications from him due to his locations. And, of course, much of the story of his disappearance must be conjecture.

There are different styles of writing here. Much is reportorial and many times doesn't really capture the emotion of the people in the story. Herlihy lost several opportunities to draw us closer to the locations described.

The photographs are great and significantly add to the book. The few maps included, however, do far too little to graphically show not only the locations, but also the great distances and geographical challenges Lenz and the others faced. Since those challenges were a major part of the book, more graphic information would have really added to the story.

The epilogue is mainly too philosophical and of little help in closing the story. Hindsight is, proverbially, twenty-twenty and postmortems are of necessity full of speculation. These what-ifs did not really add to the book.

Another negative was the continued use of certain buzz words. Too often I felt I was reading a story by a sports writer. I love sports, but their overuse of the same descriptive words is legend. After so many instances of 'globe girdler' and similar by Herlihy, I was ready to scream. The four stars are for the story being told. The writing, though, wasn't up to that level.

This should be of interest to readers with an interest in many fields - bicycling, travel, history, etc. The negatives don't outweigh the reading this little known story.
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