Esplanade closure begins February 1st

“Lost Cyclist” has historical Portland connection

Posted by on February 23rd, 2010 at 9:00 am

Cover of The Lost Cyclist.

David Herlihy’s forthcoming book, The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance, has a Portland connection that’s over a century old.

Herlihy, author of the award-winning Bicycle: The History, got in touch recently to tell us a bit about the story of Frank Lenz, the “lost cyclist.”

Back in 1892, Lenz set off from Pittsburgh on his innovative “safety” bicycle (a prototype of the modern bicycle design) with an aim to cycle around the world. According to legend, and Herlihy’s book, Lenz disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Turkey two years later.

But before his strange disappearance in Turkey, Herlihy says the Portland Wheelmen (now known as the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club) gave Lenz a “hearty reception” in the fall of 1892. Here’s more from Herlihy:

“[In the book] I recount an amusing adventure he had in your city, and also publish a poignant letter he wrote from the Portland Hotel to his step-uncle, revealing that he had embarked on his tour to escape a “miserable existence” at home with his step-father.”

Here’s an old photo Herlihy shared of Lenz gazing at Mt. Hood way back when:

Bikes, international intrigue, family drama, and adventure — I love it already! The Lost Cyclist will be published this summer by Houghton Mifflin (you can pre-order it from Powell’s now). I’ve got a review copy on the way and stay tuned for a possible book signing event with Herlihy in the coming months.

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  • Eric February 23, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Check out the road surface! You can see why paving was of such importance to bicyclists. The image of Mt. Hood also makes clear the allure of a paved cycle path from Portland all the way out to Mt. Hood – something that was never completed, but for which Col. L.L. Hawkins advocated and got significant chunks of press.

    The Portland wheelman reference is intriguing. To my knowledge there is no continuous history for the Portland Wheelmen, so I’m not sure it’s quite right to say “now known as.” Moreover, and perhaps Joel will know better, I have not found any information on a club specifically named the “Portland Wheelmen.” Portland bicyclists were often called collectively “wheelmen” or “Portland wheelmen,” but not a club by that name. At the same time, there were tons of clubs and associations, most of them short-lived, and it’s not at all unlikely that there was such a club. I’m eager to read this portion of the book! Thanks for sharing!

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  • tobin February 23, 2010 at 10:25 am

    That photo is classic! Any chance of finding a print of it somewhere?

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  • SteveD February 23, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Read an article on Frank Lenz and his trip around the globe in the Adventure Cycling magazine last year (I think). I’m pre-ordering the book.

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  • Dan Liu February 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    If anyone finds themselves at the Suds & Duds Laundromat and Gift Shop in Republic, WA (east of the Cascades), there’s the woman that runs it claims to have been one of the first bicyclists to visit the Three Capes. Apparently, she and her fiancee took their leftover WWII ration cards after V-J Day, bought a pair of “Victory Bikes,” got married, and biked from Olympia, WA to Oakland, CA. Her name is Sedate Bretthauer, and she is probably close to 90 years old. She’s still quite feisty. It’d be worth getting her story someday soon…

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  • Winona February 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

    You can download the Frank Lenz article from the January 2009 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine via our Publications Archive – here’s the direct link to the PDF:


    Media Director
    Adventure Cycling Association

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