How to Give a Wheelmen Demonstration

Bulletin #: 32
Revised: 2014-05-01
by G.W. Sanderson

Wheelmen are often asked or may volunteer to give presentations to show early bicycles at public events. This is an opportunity to educate people about the history and development of the bicycle and to show our beautiful machines. A Wheelmen Demonstration of Bicycles is a structured format for showing bicycles that illustrate their history for the education and the enjoyment of the public.

The major stages in the development of bicycles may be classified as:

  1. Draisines (1817)
  2. Velocipedes (mid 1860s)
  3. ‘Ordinary’ or High Wheel Bicycles (1870s)
  4. High Wheel Safety Bicycles (early 1880s)
  5. Adult High Wheel Tricycles (early 1880s)
  6. Hard Tired Saftey Bicycles (mid 1880s)
  7. Pneumatic Tired Safety Bicycles (ca. 1889 to the present).

Examples of as many of these major stages as possible should be included in a Wheelmen Demonstration of Bicycles, and a complete demonstration should be composed of as many of the following components as time, and available bicycles to show, permits. The steps for preparation and presentation of a Wheelmen Demonstration of Bicycles are as follows:

  1. Advance Preparation
  2. ‘Introduction to the Program’ to be given at start of the Demonstration
  3. Display of Examples of each stage in the development of bicycles
  4. Explanation and demonstration of riding techniques (normally, this is integrated into “3. Display of Examples”)
  5. A demonstration of ‘trick riding’
  6. Answer questions from the audience
  7. Close the Demonstration

Note: Any of the items 3 through 6 may be omitted from a Demonstration if there are limitations on time, availability of riders, or appropriate bicycles that would be required for any portion of the program.

Explanation of Components of a “Wheelmen Demonstration of Bicycles” listed above:

1. Advance Preparation

A “Presenter” should be chosen. The Presenter should be chosen ahead of time so that the person can prepare for narrating and controlling the Demonstration. This person should be a member of The Wheelmen who has agreed to play this important role, should be knowledgeable about the history of bicycles, and should be prepared to speak to the public (the audience) about this subject. Also, the Presenter also should be dressed appropriately for the occasion.

A space adequate for the Demonstration should be chosen and arrangements should be made to ensure that it is available for the Demonstration (a reservation may be required). (Note: It may be necessary to obtain formal permission to use the space from the civil authority governing or the owner of, the property involved.) It is important to remember that bicycles need considerable space in which to maneuver when being ridden.

If a large crowd is expected, it may be necessary to have a microphone and loud-speakers available to project the Presenter’s voice. This equipment will need to be provided and some form of electrical power must be available for its operation.

Finally, the bicycles and the riders who will participate in the demonstration should be identified ahead of the actual demonstration, and they should be instructed what they are to do during the program and when they are to do it (or what their cue will be to start their activity).

2. Introduction to the Program

The Presenter should start the Program by:

  1. Welcoming the audience to the Demonstration,
  2. Introducing himself or herself,
  3. Briefly explaining that this is a Demonstration of the First Century of Bicycles and Bicycle Riders by The Wheelmen and that this demonstration illustrates the history of bicycles from their origin in 1817 up to about 1917.
  4. Briefly explaining what The Wheelmen organization is, and what this organization is all about (i.e.; Riding, Collecting, Restoring, Research, and History).
  5. Finally, giving a very brief overview of what will be included in the Program that is about to be presented.

3. Display of Examples of Each Stage in the Development of Bicycles

The Presenter will call out, one-by-one, examples of bicycles from each major stage in the development of the bicycle in so far as examples from these stages are present. Normally, the bicycle being demonstrated would be:

  1. Wheeled into the demonstration area,
  2. The bicycle would then be mounted in front of the audience,
  3. After mounting, the bicycle would be ridden around the demonstration area,
  4. Finally, the bicycle would be dismounted and wheeled out of the Demonstration area.

These actions, and their sequence, would show the audience how the particular bicycle being demonstrated was used by its rider.

The major categories of bicycles that should be displayed, if examples are available, are:

  1. Draisine or Hobby Horse (first bicycle, 1817)
  2. Velocipedes (mid 1860s)
  3. Ordinary, Penny Farthing, or High Wheel Bicycles (developed in 1870s and perfected in early 1880s)
  4. High Wheel Safety Bicycles (early 1880s)
  5. Adult High Wheel Tricycles (early 1880s)
  6. Hard Tired Safety Bicycles (mid 1880s)
  7. Pneumatic Tired Safety Bicycles (ca. 1889, pneumatic tires and bicycle frame perfected in early 1890s)

Note: If there are no examples available for the demonstration of any of the major stages listed above, the Presenter should give the audience a very short description of a typical bicycle that would characterize the category.

Note: Additional information on each major category of bicycles is given in Wheelmen Bulletin No. 12 (revised 2012). This information should be reviewed before making a Demonstration to ensure that the points to be covered are correct, but please do add any anecdotes that might make the presentation more interesting.

While this demonstration is proceeding, the Presenter should point out the most important features of each bicycle being demonstrated and give explanations for any particularly interesting feature of the bicycle and/or the way the rider copes with the peculiarities of the bicycle. It is generally interesting to audiences to see the different ways an Ordinary bicycle can be mounted (i.e., standard mount from the rear, or pedal mount) and dismounted (i.e., standard dismount stepping down to the rear, pedal dismount, and emergency dismount).

4. Explanation and Demonstration of Riding Techniques

As mentioned above, this is normally integrated into the demonstration of bicycles from the various major stages of bicycle development from the first bicycle (the Draisine) to the perfected pneumatic tired safety bicycle of the 1910s. If there is no demonstration of bicycles from each of the major stages in the development of these vehicles, this part of a full Demonstration should be incorporated into the brief oral description of typical bicycles that characterize each major stage in the development of bicycles.

5. A Demonstration of Trick Riding

This is a real crowd pleaser so it should be included in any Demonstration if one or more trick riders are present.

The organizer(s) should identify the trick riders who will be present and ask them to agree to perform at the Demonstration when called upon. Set some ground rules (such as 5 tricks per person, or 4 minutes for each rider, and any other rule that is appropriate for the Demonstration), and make sure that all of the trick riders understand these rules. Remind the riders that safety is most important in this situation, so they should not attempt any trick that they are not entirely familiar with and they are sure the trick can be performed without accident. In no case should any act of trick riding involve the onlookers or include non-Wheelmen members of the audience.

During the Demonstration, be sure to introduce each trick rider as they come into the demonstration area. This introduction should include

  1. where the rider comes from and
  2. anything else about the rider that might be interesting to the crowd. Each ‘trick’ should be described for the audience as it is being performed, although the description need not be too exhaustive.

6. Answer Questions from the Audience

If practical, the Presenter should take a few questions from the audience. This helps to clarify the parts of the Demonstration that may not have been clear to the audience, and it provides a mechanism for the onlookers to identify more closely with the subject of the Demonstration. Taking questions is facilitated by having Wheelmen (in appropriate riding attire) dispersed among the audience and ready to answer questions that may be posed by people in the crowd that are near them.

This part of the Demonstration should be omitted if the crowd is so large that communication between the Presenter and the audience is difficult, or if the program is too long. In all cases, this part of the Demonstration should be short (say no more than 3 or 4 minutes long in most cases) so that the overall program moves along at a pace that holds the interest of the audience.

7. Close the Demonstration

At the conclusion of the Demonstration, inform the audience that the show is over. Thank the crowd for their attention, and tell them that we, The Wheelmen, enjoyed telling the story of the bicycle, and demonstrating our historic bicycles. We also enjoyed showing how these bicycles work and a bit of what they can do. In closing, we, The Wheelmen, wish everyone good luck and good health, and we wish all bicycle riders many years of enjoyment with their silent steeds.

The closing comments should be very brief, and they should reflect the character of the Presenter. The thoughts given in the preceding paragraph should be taken as a starting point by each Presenter for fashioning a few sentences that reflect the Presenter’s character.

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