Rutland Bicycle Club

I live in the state of Vermont and have had an avid interest in local cycling history.

One of the first clubs to organize in Vermont, the Rutland Bicycle Club, came into existence on November 12,1881  Here is an account of one of their earliest rides that took place in the Autumn of 1882. This account was published in The Wheel, Vol. 4- No. 2 - Page 3,April 1883. 

I owe my introduction to the Rutland Bicycle Club to Prof. Louis Vivanco, Phd. of Burlington Vt.. Professor Vivanco has gathered a fascinating compilation of early Vermont cycling history. He uncovered the photos of the R.B.C. while doing research at the Rutland Historical Society. Thank you to Louis and thank you to the Rutland Historical Society for sharing this history!


On the morning of September three members of the Rutland Bicycle Club assembled at their headquarters ready for the signal to start; they were Captain Knapp, Geo. Tuttle and the writer "Nick L"., and were mounted  respectively on a 52-inch Harvard, a 48 inch Expert and a 56 inch Expert.

Promptly at seven o'clock a start was made: it was just after a hard rain,and the roads mads were hard and smooth with the exception of a few soft spots. We were scarcely out of the
village when the first hea___ - I beg your pardon - dismount was taken by Knapp, much to the amusement and gratification of a party in a buggy who were following us ; no damage being done, however, we started along again and were soon flying down a long hill "legs over." No sooner had we reached the bottom then we resumed the pedals for a short pull up another hill, and then down we went again into and through a lot of black mud at the bottom, and for about a mile further the road was quite muddy.
After wheeling through the mud, however, we had a short stretch of hard level road, over which we spun at a lively gait and into the village of West Rutland. We passed through without a dismount, and then down a long grade, which we coasted, and up again on the other side of the valley.

We glided along in this way for about nine miles, and then dismounted to refresh ourselves with a drink of spring water. (I should like to say, here, that this is one of our finest roads, and that we can leave Rutland and ride through to Hydeville, fourteen miles, without a necessary dismount, some of it is perfectly level and nearly all of it is of hard river gravel.) Mounting again, we pedaled along until we reached Castleton, at 8.18 a. m., distant from our starting-point eleven miles ; we stopped here a few minutes for some repairs to Knapp's bell, which had worked loose on the brake, and then on we rode again. Tuttle took the side- walk, and as he rode along saw a large yellow dog in advance, wagging his tail as if glad to see him. As he came nearer and saw that the dog was not going to stir, he tried to turn out, but the wheel struck the dog and he let out a howl and made for the back yard to think it over. Luckily, " Tut." did not get a spill, but let all riders beware of dogs. They never appear to see the machine at all, and will sometimes try to jump through the spokes in the large wheel.

We passed through Castleton, and into and through Hydeville ; just out of Hydeville we were obliged to dismount and walk a sandy hill. Mounting again we rode along until we found some newly made road which is unridable, but we took the sidewalk here and rode without dismounting, keeping the sidewalk until we reached Fair Haven; here we stopped for more extensive repairs to Knapp's bell, which had again worked loose; but finding a screw this time which we made to answer the purpose of securing it, we again resumed our journey. Between this and our next stop we found some very fine roads, hard and as free from ruts as a floor, with very few hills and those slight ones.

Our next stop was at West Poultney, where we arrived at 10 o'clock, the total distance from our starting-point being twenty-two miles, here we rested for a short time in a farm-yard, taking a little mild refreshment under the shade trees.

From here on to our next stopping-place we found some pretty steep and long hills. Knapp being the only one who successfully surmounted the entire series. Arriving at the top of the last one, we saw at the foot of the next down grade the place where we intended to dine, and down we went into the village and up to the hotel where we dismounted for dinner. Our " cyclos " showing twenty-nine miles since starting.
After dinner, and a little walk around the village, we mounted and resumed our journey. Our afternoon's ride, although somewhat the shortest, was much harder than that of the forenoon, most of the hills being so stony as to be unridable. We asked one farmer about the roads, and he informed us that there were "some hills and some stones." We can say that we found both the "hills" and the "stones," and generally they were combined. There were some stretches of good level road,however; but all things considered the road was rather poor.

We were two and three-quarter hours doing the fourteen miles to Rupert, Vt. Here we took a rest of thirty "minutes, and after a slight lunch felt better. We then started on to finish our day's trip, and the roads being very good for the rest of the way, we had no trouble in getting along all right. We had a little spurt with a locomotive, but it had a " cinder path " and distanced us.
As we were riding along. Knapp, who was rather in advance, appeared to have some trouble with a skittish horse; so 56 and 48, who were in the rear, thought it best to dismount. I dismounted first, but " Tut." was nearer than I supposed and could neither dismount nor turn out, and as his wheel struck my back over he came, throwing his arms around my neck, and thus supporting himself while his foot caught in the spokes of the wheel and held that up. The horse instead of getting more frightened at this demonstration, as one would suppose, walked right by us, the driver wearing a broad grin but not saying a word. I suppose he thought it was our regulation dismount. Mounting again we soon caught up with Knapp, to whom we had to explain matters a little. A few minutes longer ride brought us to Salem, N. Y., where we put up for the night. Salem is fifty-two miles from Rutland, and our running time was six hours forty-eight minutes.

The next day being Sunday we of course attended church in the forenoon, and as we had to wear our uniforms we excited some comment; but I expect as bicycles multiply, folks will get used to short clothes, and not have the impression that one who wears them is a professional sport or the like.
Leaving Salem at 2.15 p. m. we started on again. Just as we left the village a man drove out with a horse and buggy, ahead of us. We had agreed before starting that we were to have no racing on Sunday, so we made no attempt to get ahead of him, but rode along at an easy pace. By frequent use of his whip he kept ahead of us for about two miles, and then of his own accord turned out and let us pass him. We had just kept up a comfortable gait all the time, neither trying to pass him or let him get way ahead, and we were pretty sure his horse could not stand it long. During our afternoon's ride we passed a fine lake called Lauderdale, I believe, and just after leaving this lake we had to ascend a long, steep hill with quite an abrupt water bar at the top. Only one of us succeeded in getting over this without dismounting. We encountered here as fine roads as can be found anywhere ; some of them running along for perhaps three- fourths of a mile, completely shaded by over- arching trees.
We passed through Cambridge, 12 miles from Salem, at 3.45, from here to Hoosick Falls (10 miles), where we put up for the night. We did not meet with any incident worthy of note. The writer took one fall while coasting, and was thrown some twenty feet, but landed right side up, picked up the machine and mounted again. I can say that I had an Expert with at least one " cow-horn " handle.
We arrived at Hoosick Falls at 5.25, and went to the hotel. We retired shortly after supper in order to get a good rest for our next day's run.

The next morning we left Hoosick Falls at 9.10 a. m. Just out of the village we met a man driving a horse, who did not appear frightened until we were close to him; then he attempted to turn around, using one of the forward wheels as a pivot. We dismounted, and one of us grabbed the horse, while the others led the machines by, and listened to a lively debate between the man and his wife, he main-
taining that he wanted to come by the " other road," and she that they "always came by this road." They finally started off sputtering at each other.

We rode on for some time, the roads getting more and more sandy as we progressed. We passed through North Petersburgh, and up and down hills more or less sandy until we arrived at North Pownal, where we had our lunch, and took a little rest.

As we left North Pownal, we had to ascend quite a grade, and Knapp and Tuttle became badly mixed in each other's machines. One of them had to dismount about half way up the grade, and the other, in trying to pass him, caught his pedal in the spokes of the other's wheel.
They were obliged to walk the remainder of the hill, but mounted again at the top. We rode rapidly down the other side, and into several inches of sand at the bottom; after ploughing through this for some distance, we came to a hill which we were obliged to walk, it was so sandy; arriving at the top, we found a little more ridable road until we reached the Massachusetts State line, where we rested again (if the reader thinks we rested considerably on this day's trip, he must lay it to the sand and the heat).

Leaving the State line, our next stop was at what was called Sand Spring, a summer resort and bath; we took a dip in the bath-house. 
From here to a little village called Greylock, we were obliged to walk most of the way; our road passed near Williamstown where, I believe, there is a bicycle club, although we saw none of its riders.
From Greylock to North Adams we rode nearly all the way on the side-walk, the road being nearly, if not quite unridable.
Our cyclometers showed 22 miles from Hoosick Falls to North Adams, and when we arrived we were just about dripping.

We had intended, when we left Rutland, to ride clear through to Springfield, but could get nothing but discouraging reports of the roads for the next thirty miles beyond North Adams, so the next morning we took the train home.

If any of our fellow wheelmen come to Rut- land, we will take them over the ride we made in the morning of the first day on this run, and we can assure them of A-1 roads in good weather. Nick L"


Here are some photos of the club members

(Photos courtesy of The Rutland Historical Society,Rutland Vt.)


A members roster 1881, an invitation to ride, plus the club logo


In 1884 the Club raised funds and opened a fantastic ice skating rink that would double as a bicycle riding rink in the warmer months. The cost was $15,000 ! The rink went bankrupt in one year !

Here is a photo of C.G. "Nele" Ross - Captain Rutland Bicycle Club taken at Springfield Massachusetts when the club visited that city to attend the annual cycle races 1883 . Ross poses with a Rudge Racer.

This is the club document box