Cycling across Persia in the 1890s

In 1896, three British men set off on “the longest bicycle ride ever attempted, just 19,237 miles over continuous new ground” – including a ride through Persia.

The three cyclists in 'Around the world on a wheel'

John Foster Fraser’s account of the two year trip is full of colonial-style anecdotes (many of which are a little too close to racism for many modern readers). His was also not the first bike-trip acrossPersia(the earliest I can find was two American students, Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. and William Lewis Sachtleben, in 1894 – click here if you want to read their whole account).

Of course, one can’t underestimate the practical difficulties of cycling across the deserts and mountains of Persia, especially at a time when roads were much rarer than now. And JFF does have a few stories that are perhaps worth re-telling.

Mozaffer al Din - looking grumpy in his big kolah

For example, click here to read about the cycling display he and his friends put on for the Zill-i Sultan, in the grounds of the Chehel Sutun.

And here, for his account of the harem he passed on the road, travelling in ‘hutches’ swung aside mules – just like the descriptions here and here in the blog earlier

Perhaps most fun of all – though second-hand – is his account of Muzzafer ad Din’s coronation. The

“crowning of the Shah . . was a quiet but irksome ceremony. The day was excessively hot, and as soon as His Majesty could escape, he hastened off to his private rooms . . ten minutes afterwards, [he was] sitting in a draught and his shirt sleeves, on some steps in the corridor, the crown still on his head, though pushed somewhat awry . . ‘Oh, I am so warm! And this thing’ he said, taking off the crown and pitching it on one side, ‘is so heavy. I hope I won’t have to ever put it on again.’

On another occasion he took off his big kolah, which was weighty with big diamonds, and, throwing it to the corner of the room, said ‘I’m not going to have my head cracked with a load like that on it. Let the stones be removed’.

Click here if you want to read the whole of JFF’s adventures – Persia is on pages 110 to 200.

1 thought on “Cycling across Persia in the 1890s”

  1. Thomas Stevens went through Persia on an Ordinary Bicycle before his book was published in 1888. It has the similar title of “Around the World on a Bicycle”


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