The Adventure Of The Solitary Cyclist, Arthur Conan Doyle (1903)

A frightened pedal-pusher is the beneficiary of Sherlock Holmes’ forensic skills

In this short story (one of thirteen that usually appears in The Return Of Sherlock Holmes), the great detective comes to the rescue of Miss Violet Smith, young music teacher whose weekly cycle ride to and from work is troubled by a mysterious peddler who always keeps his distance. Holmes hides behind hedges, inquires after the tenants of a nearby hall and applies his trademark deductive powers to the case.

Happily, by its conclusion, the resident of Baker Street has foiled a dastardly plot and freed Miss Smith from unwanted bondage.

Written, as they were between 1880 and 1914, the appearance of cyclists in Conan Doyle’s detective tales is hardly surprising. Indeed, given the popular novelty that bicycles represented in late Victorian and Edwardian England, and the way in which they brought mobility to vast new swaths of the population, it is surprising that they are not more prevalent.

Alas, ‘Solitary Cyclist’ is a long way short of Holme’s most interesting cases. Indeed, although the Sherlock Holmes stories were an established success at the time this one was written, it was originally rejected by Strand Magazine, for which it was first intended. As such, it makes for an interesting curio, but hardly worth seeking out.

Happily, though, the case that follows in The Return Of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure Of The Priory School, has far more to engage cycling readers. Holmes has to draw on his encyclopaedic knowledge of bicycle tyres to track his quarry in a plot with enough twists and turns to genuinely test the pipe-smoking sleuth. As Holmes himself might have said, it is often necessary to peer beyond the obvious to find that for which you are looking.

PS Nov 12

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