On the trail of the high-riding fiberglass bicyclists

Yesterday’s Zippy strip, set in Sparta WI:

(#1) Ben Bikin’ astride his high wheel, with an attitude

The Sparta WI bicyclist. On Sparta and its roadside attraction, from Wikipedia:

Sparta is a city in and the county seat of Monroe County [in west central Wisconsin] … along the La Crosse River. The population was 10,025 at the 2020 census.

… Sparta is at one end of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail. Opened in 1967, this is considered to be the first rail trail conversion. It is a 32-mile (51 km) bike trail that was redeveloped from an abandoned railway and passes through rural scenery and three tunnels. It is part of the larger Wisconsin bike trail system operated by the state of Wisconsin. Based on this, Sparta dubs itself the “Bicycling Capital of America”; the entrance to the town is marked by an oversized sculpture of a bicyclist on an old-fashioned penny farthing high-wheel bicycle. The statue, named Ben Bikin’, has been given the title of “World’s Largest Bicyclist.”

(#2) Ben Bikin’ in situ

An annual bike ride held annually in October and called the “Will to Ben” runs between the Ben Bikin’ statue with another from the same mold, named Will B. Rolling, which is located in Port Byron, Illinois.

The Port Byron IL bicyclist. On Port Byron, from Wikipedia:

Port Byron is a village in Rock Island County, Illinois … and part of the Quad Cities Metropolitan Area [Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, Rock Island and Moline in Illinois, along the Mississippi River]. The population was 1,647 at the 2010 census.

And the village’s Will B. Rolling statue:

(#3) Riding on the river

The Zippy take. The fiberglass statues are of course entertaining pop-cultural art, but Zippy kicks things up a level by engaging Ben Bikin’  in banter about the Sparta bicyclist’s artistic goals.

Whoa! Self-aware fiberglass.


4 Responses to “On the trail of the high-riding fiberglass bicyclists”

  1. John Baker Says:

    This may be just a roadside attraction, but the penny-farthing or high wheel bicycle was a real thing, popular in the 1870s and 1880s but superseded after the safety bicycle was invented in 1885. It looks like it probably would be quite difficult to get on one. Wikipedia confirms that:
    “Mounting requires skill. The rider must first grasp the handlebar and place one foot on a peg above the back wheel. Then the rider scoots the bicycle forward to gain momentum and quickly jumps up onto the seat while continuing to steer the bicycle and maintain balance.”

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Oh, dear; I didn’t mean to suggest that penny-farthing bicycles were an invention of the roadside attractions; of course they were a real thing, and I knew that.

      • John Baker Says:

        Of course you did, Arnold. It would amaze me if that were not the case. My comment was really more directed toward Bill Griffith. But it seemed relevant here, since we were discussing the strip.

  2. John Baker Says:

    And, to clarify, I expect that Bill Griffith also knows about the penny-farthing. One way to think of the strip is that he was playing on the ambiguity of “you,” which can mean either the person addressed (who was built on top of the bicycle) or persons generally (who would board a penny-farthing using the technique described in Wikipedia).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: