What’s better than riding a bicycle? Looking at stuff related to bicycles, as this lessens the chances you’ll be struck by a right-turn-making moron who doesn’t understand that the pictures of a bicycle and the words “BIKES ONLY” painted on the street actually MEAN SOMETHING IN THIS TOWN. Also, you don’t have to wear a helmet when visiting these various bike-related artifacts in the National Museum of American History’s permanent “Object Project” exhibition, so your hair will look nicer.
Light it up
Long before the LED flashers of today, bicycle lamps were used by cyclists who took to the street before dawn or after dark. Often filled with kerosene (which sounds like maybe not the best idea), they typically had red and green side lenses to differentiate left from right.
The champagne of bikes
The 1896 bike belonging to Mrs. M.N. Wiley of Montgomery, Ala., is sure to be at the top of some kid’s Christmas list. Probably Blue Ivy’s. The Ladies Columbia Bicycle was embellished by Tiffany & Co with sterling silver and gold designs on the frame; ivory-grip handlebars; and wheel rims made of bird’s-eye maple. Wiley’s initials are studded with 12 diamonds and eight emeralds. The extravagant design is expected to take over D.C. after we give up on Metro and transfer the system’s entire budget to Capital Bikeshare.
Blink and you’ll miss him
Marshall “Major” Taylor was America’s fastest cyclist from 1897 to 1900 and the second African-American to win a world championship title in sports (the first was boxer George Dixon, in 1890). The museum displays photographs and advertisements for competitions where spectators could watch him ride by them really, really fast.
Riding a bike while having breasts is no excuse to stop looking like a lady. The Ferris’ Good Sense Corset Waist, as seen in the museum’s 1897 ad for the undies, keeps your legs moving and the circulation to your lungs completely cut off.
National Museum of American History, 1400 Constitution Ave. NW.
Read more about biking in D.C.: