ADVENTURES IN BIKING
Long before automobiles ruled the road, there was a unique form of transportation during the 1880s that claimed to be the fastest vehicle. The high wheel bicycle was popular among many during its time, especially young professional men such as Pittsburgh native Frank Lenz.
Although Lenz found enjoyment in using his high wheel bicycle on the C&O Canal towpath while riding between Cumberland and Williamsport as he made his journey to New York City, he later returned in May of 1892 with a new form of transportation.
As Frank Lenz resumed to the C&O Canal towpath, he brought along his new-fangled low-mount bicycle known as a “safety.” With its new inflatable tires and lower frame, in comparison to the high wheel bicycle, Lenz deemed the “safety” as the blueprint for the future, and he was right.
While using his new bicycle and heading to Washington, DC to pick up his passport, Lenz was planning his trip “around the world,” and jotting down progress reports for his upcoming writings in the Outing, a monthly magazine dedicated to outdoor sports. However, while writing about his upcoming worldly experiences, he came across an engineering marvel along the C&O Canal – the Paw Paw Tunnel. Lenz would then recount his ride through the Paw Paw Tunnel by stating:
“Twenty-eight miles below Cumberland, I came to a tunnel nearly a mile long, going straight through the mountain. I rode in confident enough, but it soon grew so dark that I was glad to demount and walk through mud and dripping water. Luckily, no canal boats entered the other end before I got through, for the path is too narrow to allow the mules to pass a bicycle.”
Following his ride through the Paw Paw Tunnel, Frank Lenz would continue his journey around the world for another two years while crossing through the United States, Japan, China, India and Persia. However, Lenz would soon disappear in eastern Turkey, and neither his remains nor his bicycle were ever found.