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The First Bicycles

January 3, 2023

Mr. Weir, former Fenelon Falls Public School principal, with bicycle

The first bicycles were penny farthings (the ones with the large front wheel, which allowed rapid travel without the use of gears), carrying riders high off the ground. They were somewhat difficult to ride (especially given the poor condition of early roads) and falling from that height would hurt.

In 1891, Charles Burgoyne purchased one of the first safety bicycles (essentially the modern bike) in Fenelon Falls for $125—enough money to buy an undesirable farm lot. Over the next decade bicycles became common. Burgoyne took his friends William Heard and Robert DeLury on a bike ride all the way to Bobcaygeon, which was an accomplishment given the quality of the roads. The Bobcaygeon Bicycle Club had red, yellow and black uniforms and went for a spin on Tuesdays and Fridays. In 1897 the community celebrated as Vera Bonnell and Zetta Bottom led a dozen ladies and gentlemen in the Bobcaygeon Fair Parade. By then there were 44 bicycles in Fenelon Falls. A bicycle with the celebrated Dunlop tires cost $33.

Sturgeon Point quickly established itself as a place to go cycling, as the community removed the stumps from its roads to facilitate cycling and produced a postcard to promote the exciting new sport. In the generation that followed, the bicycle became the symbol of freedom for youth. With a bike they could go visit their friends without needing their parent’s vehicle.

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