Cyclists made first century bike ride on penny farthings

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Ten thousand cyclists are preparing for either back-to-back centuries or a 1-day double century in the Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic (STP) this weekend.

Cyclists in STP 2010

Cyclists in STP 2010

The root of the event — the century bike ride — was first documented by two guys on penny farthings more than 130 years ago.

Today, most recreational bicyclists target the goal as they become more accustomed to sitting and spinning.

While the metric century at 62 miles is a stepping stone at many organized bike rides, the 100-miler is a crowning achievement. It’s often rewarded with a bowl of strawberries, a slice of pumpkin pie, or maybe even a pulled-pork sandwich at the finish line.

No such niceties welcomed the first two century riders — Henry Schimpler and Orville Anderson — who undertook a 100-mile ride on a cold December day in 1880 on a dare.

WFPL News (an NPR affiliate in Louisville) reports the two well-known bike racers headed out of Louisville for Frankfort at 3 a.m. They returned home at about 10 that night.

December was a good time to travel, says Bardstown Road Bicycle owner Carson Torpey. The dirt roads would have been frozen, which made for easier travel than muddy roads.

Although they took a few spills along the way, they were young and reported to work the next morning.

Their ride was reported in the Louisville Commercial and recorded by the League of American Wheelmen. In 1884, the national cycling magazine “Outing and the Wheelman” gave Anderson and Schimpler credit for the first 100-miler in 24 hours.

With modern machines and smoother roads, endurance cyclists can double or triple distance in a day.

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