The bicycle is a literary machine. No sooner was it invented than it began to show up in novels. In Valle-Inclan’s Misericordia, which was published in 1887, one character rents a bicycle to ride around Madrid. It is interesting to think of the Madrid of those days — the brutal poverty, the crude injustice and the gritty personalities that Valle-Inclán learned to see thanks to Galdós — with a bicycle in the picture. Imagine a democratic, futuristic machine, moving among the slow donkey carts and the arrogant carriages of the aristocracy.
Marcel Proust had a weak spot for the bicycle, and liked to place his “young girls in flower” on them, dressed in the white sporting costume that dispensed with so many fussy adornments and corsetry, and heralded a new age for women. H. G. Wells said that every time he saw an adult on a bicycle, he felt more confidence in the possibility of a better world.