The pace of technological advancement in the modern era is one of the most remarkable aspects of the human experience. Think back just ten years ago and how different your day to day life was, how limited the info stream was, and how little we shared outside of our circle of friends. The all powerful Facebook was just a year old, the iPhone wouldn’t be around for another two years, the Star Wars everyone was freaking out about was Revenge of the Sith, and an upstart video site named Youtube was first introduced. Looking back gives us perspective on just how far we’ve come in such a short span, but if we go back to the beginning of the industrial age we find that folks did the very same thing and looked back on just how far they had come.

This photo comes from a 1911 issue of Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review. It offers a contrast on just how far two-wheeled locomotion had come in the 40 years that occurred between the two photos. The comparison starts with a privileged gent from Cleveland, Ohio atop his “bone shaker,” one of the earliest and often credited as the first successful bicycle designs, comingout of France in the mid-1860’s. Speed as we know it developed quickly once the motorcycle was introduced at the turn of the century, but only after several incarnations and experiments with bicycle design. On the right we see the tuck, the ideal position that every kid with a bicycle knows that he needs when speed is the goal, and a stance that originated in the first days of motorcycle racing. The rider is a Maryland racer named “Chic” Thomas, and his mount is a top of the line 7HP Indian from 1911, dressed and ready for the track. 

You may even wish to take it a step farther, imagine the machines that were available 40 years after that. You find the hulking, beastly road machines of the 1950’s and the nimble, no-nonsense powerhouse flat trackers. Pull forward again and in just a few jumps, roughly a single century in the whole of human existence and you enter the modern age of super bike speed and the super computer, truly a remarkable progression.