A rider of average height, only thirty-two years old, arrived in India in 1886 from Europe. For two years he traveled the main roads up and down India. He was surprised to see Grant’s Trunk at the time. The greenery of the shade trees he saw on both sides of the roads in undivided India melted his heart. That stunning beauty could not be seen anywhere else. He was reluctant to leave here. But there is no way without going. How could Thomas Stevens, who traveled the world on his bicycle, remain limited to just one country? In 1888, he reluctantly left India from the land of colours.
Thomas Stevens was the first traveler to cycle around the world. In April 1885, he started the journey from New York City on a farthing bicycle. The late 1860s were a period of global development for the bicycle industry. And then it became a big industry. James Starley is known as the father of the bicycle industry, who made many innovations and popularized cycling in today’s era. The bike was not what it is today. They had a front wheel about five feet tall and a short rear wheel only a third of that. The word penny farthing also has an interesting story. The Columbia Ordinary bicycle was launched in England under the name Penny Farthing. They included cast iron pipes, rubber tyres, pedals with bearings, a steering wheel and wheels of the above type. Penny and Farthing are the names of British coins. A penny is a large coin and a farling is a small coin. The big wheel in front and the small wheel at the back came to represent these coins. So the first traveler to cycle around the world began his journey.
Pop Manufacturing Company sponsored the trip. A magazine called Outing had also contracted to publish every stage of the trip in the form of articles. At that time, the American people had a great desire to know the world, especially the countries of the eastern continent. Then there was a joint effort by many to promote the new sporting form of cycling. Another interesting thing is that the Good Roads Movement, an organization that emerged in America during this time, tried to move away from gravel roads to better paved roads that were well tarred.
Thomas Stevens was born in London in 1854 and from an early age he worked and earned his income. He used to travel to many countries. He used to travel on his bicycle in his free time while working in coal mines and other places. Then it turned into a charm.
Having passed through England and the countries of Western Europe without much trouble in the early days of the journey, Stevens faced many difficulties when he came to the countries of Asia. Stevens, who entered Russia, was refused entry there. The British government did not allow access to the then Indian territories in the present day state of Afghanistan. So, when he could not enter India, he crossed the Caspian Sea, traveled by train through Baku, Azerbaijan, and entered India through Batumi, Georgia, the Black Sea, Constantinople, Alexandria, Suez, Karachi and Lahore. Throughout the journey, he received the love and welcome of the soldiers on the borders and the local people of the villages. Sometimes unnatural behavior of nature and disturbance of animals. Bicycles were rolled over bad roads and ships, trains etc. were used to cross bodies of water.
Stevens traveled to many important places in India. In Banaras, Allahabad, Delhi, Calcutta and many other places. He saw women dressed in bad clothes, natives dressed in colorful clothes, traditional healers, magicians, bullock carts, men dying on the streets of malaria, idlers, and streets full of people. Stevens marveled at the beauty of the buildings on the ancient streets. He experienced the rain, snow, heat, wind and monsoons of India for two years. It made its way to Japan via China, Vietnam and the Sino-French war routes. From there to San Francisco. The journey ended in January 1887. Experience records say that he traveled the world on a bicycle and on some days he could not continue his journey due to unfavorable conditions.
Stevens became an American citizen in 1890. A year later, Stevens traded his round-the-world bicycle for a horse and left for Russia, where he was refused entry. There he met Leo Tolstoy. All this turned into announcements every time. Then in 1894 he came to India again under the call of homesickness. Across the Black Sea, through Eastern Europe to learn about Indian yogis.