1910 Cyclist Scouts Training (Boy Scouts)

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Generally speaking, there is, for reconnaissance work, no scout so useful as the cyclist scout, for while he has the advantage of speed over the dismounted scout, he is also far less easily seen than the mounted one. Swiftly and silently he can ride down lanes almost unseen, can dismount and leave his cycle under a hedge, and get on to some high ground to overlook the enemy’s position, whilst a mounted man can often be far more seen than he can see.

Cyclist Scouts Training, 1910

The military, in the early days of the bicycle, saw the machine as a direct competitor to the Cavalry. As a result, officers who saw advantages in using bicycles in warfare – as well as horses – were constantly having to prove the usefulness of the bicycle. Baden-Powell was a strong advocate of the bicycle, and obviously bicycles were absolutely ideal for boys to use. Not only did they provide instant mobility, healthy exercise, and road-sense, but riders could develop mechanical aptitude by keeping the machines roadworthy. They became invaluable to the Scout Movement, and every scout became proficient in cycling.

This handbook is one of the most interesting bicycle manuals of the era, providing good illustrations of bicycles and background information of military cyclist training. Of course, by the time the bicycle was accepted by the military, and cyclist squadrons were formed with the outbreak of WW1, the bicycle’s heyday had passed. The bicycle had already achieved its full evolution by around 1903. But motorcycles and cars underwent a major evolutionary stage as a result of the War and soon after its end, with the introduction of mass-production, cars effectively displaced both the motorcycle and bicycle as the primary form of transportation.