The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance

The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0547521987

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and gamely set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent for Outing magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg.

He never made it. His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz’s trail. Bringing to light a wealth of information, Herlihy’s gripping narrative captures the soaring joys and constant dangers accompanying the bicycle adventurer in the days before paved roads and automobiles. This untold story culminates with Sachtleben’s heroic effort to bring Lenz’s accused murderers to justice, even as troubled Turkey teetered on the edge of collapse.

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pictures taken, for fear of compromising their souls, Lenz devised a timer from the parts of a music box so he could set up his camera and allow a delay of five, ten, or fifteen seconds—enough time to get himself into the picture. Lenz borrowed a friend’s bicycle and began a crash course on safety riding, suffering what the Chronicle Telegraph described as a “narrow escape from death.” Elaborated the paper: “He was speeding down Fifth Avenue on a new solid rubber tire wheel when, just in front

currency. Finally, in early April, the pair crossed the mile-wide Bosporus in a small steamer, accompanied by their host’s twelve-year-old son, who had volunteered to point out the caravan road on the other side of the strait. As the Americans hopped on their wheels and began their first pedal strokes on Asian soil, the boy bade them an emotional farewell. Allen described the wrenching scene in their book Across Asia on a Bicycle: “He trotted for some distance by our side and then, pressing our

knee. He decided to go back to his trusty Light Roadster. Despite the setback, Lenz was assuredly, as the Bulletin proclaimed, a “rising luminary in the racing field.” But he was not satisfied being a mere local celebrity. He was, after all, a proud denizen of Pittsburgh, a city known for producing overachievers of international repute. The steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, for one, had started out as a bobbin boy in a local cotton mill and was now the world’s richest man. The financier Andrew

Department or Terrell, let alone the Turks. Moreover, his relationship with Worman was rapidly deteriorating. The editor was taking great pains to disassociate himself from his outspoken investigator, who rarely wasted an opportunity to blast Terrell in his letters home, much to the dismay of Washington. “We wish in no wise to be responsible for anything Mr. Sachtleben has chosen to say,” the editor assured the State Department. “We are not willing to share in the insinuations made against Mr.

pretext to compel the porte to arrest and perhaps execute a few token Kurds from the Hamidieh regiments—a reprisal of sorts for their alleged abuse of the Armenians. For his part, he insisted that his government would not be cowed and would adhere to proper legal procedures. Terrell’s initiative seems to have spurred the porte into action, at least temporarily. The day after his visit, the grand vizier cabled the governor of Erzurum to remind him that the Lenz case was not an ordinary one and

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