Column: It’s all yours for the claimingIn honor of my first significant outdoor bike ride of the year, I’d like to take a moment to talk about a true pioneer in the bicycling world. Dan Henry, who died earlier this month at the age of 99, has made a number of important contributions to bicycling culture. He did early work on suspension systems for bicycles, and he created something called the sling saddle, which is a little like a hammock for your bike.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
In honor of my first significant outdoor bike ride of the year, I’d like to take a moment to talk about a true pioneer in the bicycling world.
Dan Henry, who died earlier this month at the age of 99, has made a number of important contributions to bicycling culture. He did early work on suspension systems for bicycles, and he created something called the sling saddle, which is a little like a hammock for your bike.
He also gained notoriety, apparently, for a demonstration in which, riding a bicycle on rollers, he stripped down to his shorts, then dressed again. I think you’ll agree the less time we spend discussing that, the better off we’ll all be.
But the creation that is perhaps his greatest legacy is something called the Dan Henry Arrow, which so far as I can tell is just an arrow spray painted on the street to help riders find the proper route.
Some will celebrate the Dan Henry Arrow as a true innovation in the field of making sure bikers don’t get lost. Fewer will recognize it for what it really is: A giant step forward in taking way too much credit for something.
Think about this for a second. Dan Henry didn’t invent arrows. The basic idea has been around since, I don’t know, whenever it was people started shooting things with bows. Maybe longer.
I can’t swear nobody used arrows as directional markers in the years before Dan Henry, but I imagine at least during the Renaissance someone looking for a way to get people where they were going realized an arrow worked significantly better than the circles that were the fashion during what I believe was commonly called the Lost Generation.
So, if Dan Henry didn’t invent arrows and he didn’t invent non-confusing directional markers, what he’s basically been given credit for is graffiti. He’s the Banksy of bike touring. Except the only simpler thing he could have painted is a straight line, which he probably would have tried to claim as the Henry Horizon.
In fairness to the late Capt. Henry, a longtime commercial pilot in addition to his paint-related activities, his original arrows appear to have been distinct and surprisingly un-arrowlike. They were essentially circles with a line extending to indicate the direction of the next turn. There were also symbols for “Stop,” “Caution” and maye even “Your stretchy shorts are riding up.” It’s only over time the term has come to apply to just about any painted arrow used in a bike-related context.
Still, I’m not sure I’m willing to cede creator credit to a guy just because he painted something on the street. If that’s all it takes to claim it for all time, there are a lot of doors that are suddenly open to lasting fame.
Give me a spray can and a stretch of open pavement, and all of a sudden I can put my name on a whole lot of things.
Dodecahedrons? They’re mine now. Isocolese triangles, too.
And the entire lyrical catalog of Justin Bieber. Once I find a long enough stretch of road.