A smoother ride

As early as the 1880s, cyclists were advocating for good roads, both rural and urban. By the 1890s groups such as the League of American Wheelmen successfully lobbied state and municipal governments for road improvements.

Road building in Massachusetts, 1886

Road building in Massachusetts, 1886

The cycler’s heart beats glad and high

When he knows he never lacks

A road that’s hard and smooth and dry

And free from thorns and tacks.

– A Bicycular Paradise, 1898

Air-filled tires (developed for bicycles), 1890s

Air-filled tires (developed for bicycles), 1890s

Air-filled tires (developed for bicycles), 1890s

Air-filled tires (developed for bicycles), 1890s

In the 1890s bicycle manufacturers began to replace the solid, hard rubber tires attached to the rims of bicycle wheels with removable pneumatic tires filled with air. The tires made for a smoother, easier-to-pedal, faster ride—broadening the bicycle’s appeal and increasing the demand for good roads.

Good Roads magazine, 1892

Good Roads magazine, 1892

G. & J. Pneumatic Road and Racing Tires catalog, 1890s

G. & J. Pneumatic Road and Racing Tires catalog, 1890s

Pneumatic tires made the jump to automobiles.

Political cartoon captioned,

Political cartoon captioned, "The wind won't hold out," 1896

Courtesy of Library of Congress

A bicycle with flat tires is used here as a metaphor for the state of William Jennings Bryan’s 1896 campaign for the presidency.