Across Anatolia on a Bicycle

with Daniel Pontillo

hosted by Chris Gratien

This episode is part of an ongoing series entitled History of Science, Ottoman or Otherwise.
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What does it mean to wield or possess a certain technology? What are the limits to associational claims to technical expertise or superiority? In this podcast, Daniel Pontillo considers these cultural and social dimensions of technology through a study of the travel narrative Across Asia on a Bicycle, in which two American men set out at in the heat of the late nineteenth-century bicycle craze to use their new technology to tame the rugged Asian geography. In our discussion, we focus on the first leg of their trip, which was carried out in Ottoman Anatolia (click here for a complete PDF from GoogleBooks)

Daniel Pontillo is a doctoral student at University of Rochester studying brain and cognitive sciences (Linkedin)
Chris Gratien is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University researching the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. (see

Episode No. 137
Release date: 27 December 2013
Location: University of Rochester, NY
Editing and Production by Chris Gratien
Images from "Across Asia on a Bicycle" digitized by GoogleBooks

Citation: "Across Anatolia on a Bicycle," Daniel Pontillo and Chris Gratien, Ottoman History Podcast, No. 137 (27 December 2013)


Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. and William Lewis Sachtleben with their bicycles in western China
Original caption simply reads "a contrast"

An evening in a village

An Ottoman Zaptieh carries bicycle across river on horseback

This bread, which they refer to with the Turkish "ekmek," was not all that appealing for the American travelers, but they found it extremely convenient as they slipped it over their heads so they could eat it readily while on their bicycles.

This rider reportedly called their bicycle a "devil's carriage"

American bicyclers strike a pose with a group of curious villagers

Discussing the nuances of Islamic learning with a kadı in Sivas


Ezgi Yalcin said…
Tarihçi said…
For a story of the American cyclist Frank Lenz who was lost in 1892 around Eleşkirt, I recommend David Herlihy's book The Lost Cyclist. The Untold Story of Frank Lenz's Ill-Fated Around-the-World Journey. (Mainstream Publishing 2010). Sachtleben came to Turkey to search for Lenz.