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In 1880, Louisville Men Became The First Americans To Do A 100-Mile Bicycle Ride


The Tour de France began Saturday in Leeds, England.  The 21-day race traverses more than 2,200 miles and the riders will average 107 miles on the bike every day.Though no Louisvillian has ever raced in the Tour de France, two Louisville men are known to be the first Americans to ride at least 100 miles on a bicycle in less than 24 hours.In 1880, Henry Schimpler and Orville Anderson rode their penny-farthings from Louisville to Frankfort and back for a total of 104 miles and a place in the history books.Carson Torpey, the owner of Bardstown Road Bicycle and a cycling historian, said the young men were tempted by a dare.They took off from Louisville on a “cold December day,” Torpey said.“Which was probably good because the dirt roads would have been frozen, which would have been easier to ride on,” he said.Schimpler and Anderson headed out of town around 3 a.m. and, 19-hours later, came barreling back to Louisville in a snow storm, in the dead of night.“They took a few falls because they couldn't see the road surface real well, being young guys in their 20's it didn’t bother them too bad. They were back at work the next day,” he said.An account of the ride was published by the long defunct Louisville Commercial and recorded by the League of American Bicyclists.Not much else is known of Schimpler.  Torpey said he moved to Chicago for some time then returned to Louisville, but the history books mention little of what became of him.As for Anderson, after spending some time as a contributor to the Louisville Commercial, he shot and killed a man during a dispute in the house he and his mother were staying.Anderson was not convicted, according to Torpey, but he “had bad mental problems” and was sent to a hospital in Florida.He escaped from the hospital and his body was eventually found along a railroad track.“He was walking back to Kentucky,” Torpey said.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.