Cyclists have been riding the roads in and around San Angelo for the last 120 or so years. The modern bicycle was invented in 1861, and by 1885 bicycles were getting to be quite common on San Angelo streets. In May of 1888, the Standard-Times reported that bicycle fever was spreading throughout the city.
Riding a bicycle during the early days resulted in numerous incidents or questions about bicycles. The newspaper reported that on February 20, 1886, a Mr. Frank Harris ran his bike into a horse drawn phaeton owned by a Dr. Early, causing quite a bit of confusion and uproar. The San Angelo city council voted to ban bicycles from sidewalks in 1892, and a Mr. J. Harris suggested in August of 1892 that he felt cowboys would have a hard time rounding up cattle on bicycles.
Competition has always been a part of cycling, and that was certainly the case in the early 1900’s. Activities during the Concho Valley Fair in 1891 included bicycle races, and San Angelo native Rhodes Baker won both the 5/8 mile and 1-mile cycling events at the Brownwood Fair in 1892.
These early cyclists also competed informally for bragging rights. A report in May of 1888 stated that M.N.Burgess completed a ride from San Angelo to Ballinger in seven hours, and the Standard-Times noted that in April of 1892 Rhodes Baker did a round trip ride from San Angelo to Knickerbocker and back in less than three hours.
Early cyclists, like those of today, were prone to do long rides that took several days and covered a lot of miles. One of the most intriguing early cycling trips involved San Angelo residents Rhodes Baker and George Allen, who completed a twelve day, 425 mile trip on their bicycles that took them from San Angelo to Sonora, to Del Rio, across into Mexico, and back through Rock Springs to San Angelo. This ride was done in hot July weather, on rough wagon roads, with all of their gear (including fly fishing rods) strapped to their bicycles.
Bicycle clubs were popular back then, as clubs organized across the nation during the 1890’s. The first San Angelo cycling club, the San Angelo Wheelmen, was formed in April of 1892, and a newspaper report in May of 1892 noted that a Miss Itena Patch had mastered the art of riding a bike, so local ladies were considering forming their own bicycle club. The legacy of the original San Angelo Wheelmen cycling club continues today with the San Angelo Bicycling Association (SABA).
A lot has changed since the early days of San Angelo cycling, and yet — just like the early local pioneers of our sport — we still push on the pedals to make the bike go, curse the windy days, and enjoy the feeling of rolling down the road as we complete another two-wheeled adventure.”
– Bill Cullins, 2009