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When did bicycle touring begin?

The history of bicycle touring

Bicycle tourism, an alternative way to enjoy in safety the beauty of places, far from the big cities, off the beaten path of classical tourism.

All this and our family story are our heritage to be preserved and which must be handed down over time.

velo club napoli italian cycling club 1928 vintage photography
1928 - The Velo Club in Naples, Italy
My grandfather first on left side of this photo.

My family has cycling origins as early as 1928, pioneers of cycling in Italymore precisely in Naples, in southern Italy and was part of a large cycling club, the Velo Club Napoli.

My grandfather and his 2 brothers were part of this club and in our family some grandchildren have cultivated over the time this passion for cycling, someone continuing to ride like an amateur while I created the bike rental service delivered at accommodations provided to make people enjoy self cycling holiday, training, self or guided tours. 

To give an idea of the era when my family started to be in cycling society, they were 11 years before the Second World War, before the great successes of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali at the Giro d'Italia, tour of Italy challenge.

The club united cycling enthusiasts and organized road cycling competitions and velodrome challenges where competed clubs from various regions of southern Italy like for example Campania and Apulia.

To write this post I did a historical research, surfing the web it was very exciting to find an old photo where I recognized my grandfather in Naples in the presence of the cyclist Vincenzo Trigilio, a professional cyclist of the first era of the Giro d'Italia (1921-1929) who participated in numerous local challenges such as the Coppa Caivano to which my grandfather also cycled, a trophy won also by Learco Guerra.

Learco Guerra history of italian cycling
The second from the left, before the WWII my grandfather take a photo
with Mr. Trigilio, pro cyclist on first era of Giro d'Italia

This club also organized cycling training and bicycle touring, in fact, on Sundays picnics were often organized in green areas far from the city, to create moments of aggregation and friendship.

Doing a historical research I was able to discover some information that I want to share with you readers of our site.

velo club napoli italian cycling club 1928 vintage photography
Sundays picnics in green areas with club friends,
My grandfather with Velo Club Napoli jersey.

The first question I asked myself was: when was cycle touring born?

Some historical indications indicate that the first cycling were in France around 1820, but the greatest interest in cycling was in England where 3 people cycled from London to Brighton in 15 hours and from Liverpool to London in 3 days like a modern cycling touring, was in 1869.

Over time the travels became more adventurous, someone started traveling for two years like the San Francisco Chronicle writer, Mr. Thomas Stevens who in this occasion wrote articles included into a 1021 pages book.

The first bicycle tour around the world in 1896 made by John Foster Fraser who with two friends cycled 19237 miles crossing 18 countries in two years and two months.

In Europe, the bicycle was one of the favorite means of the rich aristocracy, who used it for recreation.
Some sources indicate that a bicycle in those years in France had a price between 200 and 500 francs and that a worker had a daily wage of 3.3 francs.

Surfing the web the first cycling club was born in UK at 1878, the Bicycle Touring Club, later renamed Cyclists' Touring Club.
Among the curiosities about this club, had an official tailor who made an official green uniform for the members, the colour changed to grey when green proved impractical because it showed the dirt.

In US the first cycling league was the "League of American Wheelmen in the U.S.", founded in Newport, Rhode Island on 1880. It soon became the leading national membership organization for cyclists in the United States.
The board of directors consisted of two from each state having regularly organization clubs. Membership of this league in US peaked at 103,000 in 1898.

Paul de Vivie washe was an intermediary in the silk industry and often traveled to the UK where he became member of the British Cyclists Touring Club which inspired him in 1881 to create a first club "Les Cyclistes Stéphanois"and after the creation of the Fédération Française de Cyclotourisme, the world's largest cycling association.
Paul de Vivie coin the French word cyclo-tourism and created the Touring Club France, founded on 1889.

velo club napoli italian cycling club 1928 vintage photography
1928 - Velodrome Challenges at Velo Club Naples, Italy
My grandfather second from left side of this photo.

Paul de Vivie's first bicycle was a penny-farthing, he understood the importance of the bicycle in the society and founded a factory for the production of "safety bicycles" called  "Gauloise" over importing and reselling the English bicycles "Rovers". 

To support his business activity Mr. Paule de Vivie had created a magazine denominated  "Le Cycliste" which over time became one of the most influential cycling magazines in history.

In this magazine Mr. Paule de Vivie wrote articles signing up with his nickname, Vélocio: which should mean "the one who goes fast by bicycle".

This makes us smile because his nickname is very similar to our brand, Veloce which translated into English means "Fast"!

Mr.Paule de Vivie used to discuss hot topics such as the animated debate with Mr. Henri Desgrange, creator of the Tour de France, on the use of the gear on bicycles.

Mr. Henri Desgrange on 1902 has declared to L'Équipe sports newspaper: 

"I always believe that the change of speed is for people over 45 years old. Isn't it better to triumph with the strength of your muscles rather than thanks to the mechanical artifice of the derailleur? We are softening for me ... give me a fixed gear bicycle!"

In fact, the Tour de France forbade the gear on bicycles until 1937.

Mr. Paul de Vivie was a supporter of every technical innovation related to the bicycle, also proposing double chain or triple chain bicicles, he was one of the first (1897) to use a kind of connecting link that allowed him to manually open and move the chain from one sprocket to another, at least until the enthusiastic adoption of the freewheel (1900), then created the first rudimentary gear with levers (the 1908 Prével d 'Arley) until the almost definitive Chemineau which was the last gear he could pedal (1930).

Mr. Paul de Vivie, who used to do even 40hours on bicycle, shared on his "Le Cycliste" magazine his commandments of bicycle touring: 

1. Short and infrequent stops so as not to lose concentration

2. Light and frequent meals: eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty

3. Never go beyond your possibilities with efforts that lead to lack of hunger and sleep

4. Cover yourself before you are cold and unclothe before you are hot. Don't be afraid to expose your skin to the sun, air and water

5. Eliminate, at least during the cycling, tobacco, wine and meat.

6. Never force, stay within your limits, especially in the early hours when you are tempted to spend too much because full of strength.

7. Never ride for self-love, vanity.

Paul de Vivie, known as Vélocio, died on March 4, 1930 in Saint-Etienne, due to a fractured skull after being hit by a tram when leaving his house on his bike.

Today, for those who want to pay homage to his memory, it is possible to visit a monument dedicated to him on top of the Col de la République climb, outside Saint-Etienne or taking part in the Flêche Vélocio, a 24-hour team randonnée with a free course where you have to travel the maximum number of km in 24h. Organized annually by the Audax Club Parisien.

velo club napoli italian cycling club 1928 vintage photography
1930 - The Velo Club in Naples, Italy during a local challenge
my grandfather indicated with cross sign on asphalt


In Italy bicycle tourism arrives in 1894 with the Touring Club Italia, founded by a group of 57 speed riders, with the aim of spreading the ideal and practical values of cycling and travel.

The touring club Italy in 5 years reaches 16,000 members. This was an innovative club, proposes the first cycle paths in 1895, installed repair boxes and medical first aid along the streets and opposes the tax on the velocipedes.

He collaborates in the drafting of the first Traffic Police Regulations and contributes to the embellishment of the railway stations.

In 1897 he began the construction and installation of tourist road signs. With the advent of automobiles, the Touring Club Italia topened up to all forms of tourism.

The pleasure of the bicycle is that of freedom, perhaps better than a liberation. To go everywhere, at any moment, stopping at the first ambition of a whim, without worries as for a horse, without servitude as in a train. 

It is not the journey or its economy in doing it that satisfies us, but the faculty of interrupting and changing it, that instinctive poetry of a carefree improvisation, while a proud force swells our hearts to feel so free.

The bicycle acquires its first political and social connotation transforming itself into a link between aristocracy, bourgeoisie and people, between city and countryside, in a flywheel for the emancipation of women.

Over the years, cycling has always proved to be a good alternative to traditional travel because it can be easily customized under disposable income and physical fitness, although e-bikes have made this type of tourism accessible to a greater number of people, reconsidering everyone's limits.

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