Deeds of Derring-do! The Edwardian trick cyclists who could teach us a thing or too in "Fancy Cycling" by Isabel Marks

Move aside hipsters of East London, there's some new kids on the bicycle block ready to casually steal the mantle of cool from under your wheels.  Who are these brave new trend setters, these leaders of the cycling pack?  A bunch of Edwardians in hoop skirts, bonnets, and wool suits who've been putting your bike skills to shame since 1901, that's who.

"Fancy Cycling" by Isabel Marks was first published over a hundred years ago, and a beautifully bound hard cover facsimile edition is soon to be re-released by Old House Books.

 Don't try this at home kids.  Actually, do.

Our straight-faced Edwardian cycling subjects are arranged in a variety of impressive, unlikely and down-right fanciful bike trick demonstrations.  And they want you to learn their extraordinary array of skills, too!  "..the saving quality of grace, the acquisition of a perfect balance, of a correct position, and of exact ankle action should be to the cyclist even as Mecca is to the follower of the Prophet - the goal of his desire" excited Ms Marks.

And there are not just flourishes of encouragement herein, but exact and detailed instructions on how to perform effective track stands, coasting on the handle bar, riding backwards, standing on the saddle and efficient skidding.

Eat your heart out, Florence Welch.

But all that is mere child's play and once mastered will provide a solid foundation for the more accomplished bicycle tricks such as the (surely once legendary?) "cycling butterfly dance" (pictured), knitting whilst awheel, jousting by bike, picking up handkerchiefs from the saddle, removing your jacket whilst riding (shocking!), balancing your bike on top of a table, or better still, balancing your bike on top of a tight rope on top of a table, skipping with a hoop on your bicycle, and my personal favourite - and surely only to be attempted by the most scandal-proof of cyclists - a move for a rider and his closest two friends that is simply described as "a venturesome trio".

There's tips on how to select the best gear ratios, how to prepare the ground for bicycle tricks (strangely there's no mention of padded floors or bicycle helmets, though it would appear Ms Marks does favour a dashing bonnet for the ladies), and how to recruit friends to form a troupe of bicycle tricksters.

 And I thought track standing on a Boris Bike was impressive.  Try doing it when you're 11 years old dressed in full Edwardian get up next time...

"I humbly crave your kind indulgence", wrote Ms Marks in 1901 "for the interesting subject upon which I have ventured to dilate, somewhat after the fashion of those who intrude where angels fear to tread.  May my insignificant efforts be of some little service to the merry band of tricksters; and may the tracks of their wheels be ever increasingly present in the land"

Little could she have guessed, over a hundred years later, that her book would still be doing just that, and helping to bring smiling faces and grazed knees to newly inspired trick cyclists across the country.

"Fancy Cycling" the facsimile reproduction will soon be available via the Publisher's Website, for order at all good local book store and via

For more bicycle-based nostalgia, do check out this article on The Guardian bike blog about the come back of the Penny Farthing by Carlton Reid.

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