Before bicyclists dreamed of multispeed gearing and paved roads, Frank Lenz headed out to pedal around the world.
Six months into his tour, he passed through Sandpoint and Spokane during the rugged and captivating trip researched by David Herlihy and presented in his new book, “The Lost Cyclist: Epic Tale of the American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance” (Houghton, $26).
Loosely backed by sponsors and a contract to send back dispatches about his travels, Lenz left his home in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1892.
His writings detailed numerous encounters with people that likely would not have occurred had he been on foot or horseback rather than on his two-wheeled attention magnet.
He was riding a new-fangled “pneumatic safety,” the prototype of the modern bicycle that captured much attention because it had two wheels of the same size and inflatable tires.
The bike weighed 57 pounds, or about twice the weight of a modern touring bike. It had two gears, but he had to pull of the rear wheel, flip it over and put it back on the bike to make the switch.
“That fall, he passed through Spokane and was much impressed by its development and surrounding beauty,” Herlihy said. “Sadly, two years into his epic journey, just as he was nearing Europe, Lenz disappeared mysteriously.”
Herlihy is scheduled to be at Auntie’s Bookstore on Saturday at 2 p.m. to present a digital slide show of photographs that Lenz made from 1890-1894, both before his ill-fated world tour – when he was riding an old-fashioned “high-wheeler” – and during the world tour as he crossed the United States, Japan, China, Burma, India and Persia.