Recycled History: What if our founding fathers were as crazy about bikes as we are?

February 17, 2014

by Kristin Butcher

To celebrate President's Day, we thought we’d rewrite history the only way we know how. In lieu of “facts” and “historical accuracy,” we imagined how life would have gone if our founding fathers had access to the bikes of today.

George Washington


wrongbike.com

George Washington led his troops across the frozen Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776 in a surprise attack that turned the tides of the American Revolutionary War. Washington’s chief of artillery, Henry Knox, was quoted as saying, “One need not a slow, wooden landing vessel when the icy expanse of the mighty Delaware may be adroitly traversed on a Moonlander.

“Fat bikes for FREEDOM!” reigned from then on as the clarion call of the Continental Army. And Americans savor their freedom to this day by riding snowy, icy or sandy terrain on bikes equipped with comically large tires.

*As of this publication, a thorough search of the Internet has yet to find any historians refuting the fat bike’s pivotal role in Washington’s strategic domination of the Revolution.

Thomas Jefferson (and Ben Franklin)


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We all know that Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, secured the growth of democracy as the third president of the United States, and invented many clever machines. Many do not know this story, however. After an evening of drinking ale, he and Ben Franklin were trying to decide whether to bike on home or get to work writing, as the deadlines for the Declaration of Independence and Poor Richard’s Almanac were both fast approaching. And as classic (and modern) procrastinators do, the two ignored both wise choices and tackled a completely unrelated task.

Instead, it was that night that they drank countless beers and came up with an idea. Turns out, founding father Ben Franklin’s greatest contribution to bicycling is rarely mentioned. He had a penchant for making all of his own socks, specifically bike socks. And on each pair, he stitched a little beer mug on the cuff. In lieu of sewing his name on the bottom, he adorned all of his socks with the following:

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” –Ben Franklin

*The quote is mostly true. The rest of the story could go either way.

Abe Lincoln


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Honest Abe is famous for abolishing slavery, slaying vampires with his trusty axe, and advocating for basic equality. He once said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all bikes are created equal.” He would later reuse much of that speech as the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln was known for his vast quiver of diverse bikes. Penny-farthings, Washingtonian fat bikes, hand cycles, and 29ers all found favor under Abe’s mighty frame. While a recent documentary shed light on the famous president’s vampire-slaying exploits, much less attention has been given to Abe’s creation of the fundamental equation of bicycle ownership. Abe combined his love of algebra with his passion for bikes to produce the equation for determining the perfect size of one’s bike quiver: n + 1, wherein n is the current number of bikes owned.

*Abe’s mathematic wisdom is not confirmed.

Honor your founding fathers and life-changing Presidents by getting on your bike this President's Day. We bet that it will be as fun as this article. 

Kristin Butcher is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado, she spends her time writing about people, the outdoors and, of course, bikes. You can read her column, Butcher Paper, in BIKE Magazine.

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