On Monday we posted the photo above on our Facebook page and received an incredible response. I’ll admit to knowing next to nothing about it when it was posted, our readers have filled in quite a few gaps in the story.
Rather than Yosemite, as some suggested, the photograph was actually made outside the Stalheim Hotel in Norway. Completed in 1885, it was replaced with a more modern version in 1960. The view pictured looked out over the Nærøy Valley. It is even featured on the hotel’s website.
We even got some insights from mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze:
"The bike in profile looks to be a late-1880s Starley Pyscho. Note that it has a rod-stayed cross frame. Similar to my cable-stayed Kite one hundred years later."
Breeze also pointed out that though the date "1898" is written on the photo, the bikes pictured feature solid tires and date from the 1880’s.
The photograph was made by Axel Lindahl (1841-1906), who traveled Norway in the 1880s. Though he was Swedish, he is most known for his Norwegian landscapes.
The photograph is archived in the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, with a date of 1889, which seems to be more accurate given the facts.
It also appears in James BcGurn’s book On Your Bicycle: An Illustrated History of Cycling with the caption: "Not only were safety bicycles more manageable on difficult terrain, but they could carry much more luggage than the high bicycle."
The hotel sits at the top of the Stalheimskleiva, one of Europe’s steepest and twistiest roads. Let’s hope these guys were tough enough to ride their way up! On the way down they likely took advantage of the foot pegs grafted onto the forks, since all the bicycles here were equipped with fixed gears.
Here are some modern views from the same location: