Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Leonardo sketched bicycles before people could ride them

Our son Walt wanted a bicycle, and we let him spend his own money for a black single-speed. Later he wanted a three-speed, and he had money enough to buy it. My husband and I knew little about bikes, and he knew a lot.

In 1963, we rented bikes in London and rode a few weeks along England’s south coast. Walt wanted to stop at every bike shop because he was interested in the derailleur system of gearing.

At youth hostels, fellows were eager to tell the young American boy about the advantages of the derailleur system of changing gears.

The English dealers were happy to take him to their workrooms to explain a system we had not encountered in America.

One Columbia shop had taken in a yellow bike with the different gearing system. Walt bought it. It wasn’t long before he sold his single-speed bike and was saving for a new imported French Peugeot he located in a shop in Springfield. Chub and I were patient with Walt’s curiosity and eagerness to learn "if he kept his grades up."

At his shop near London, Jack Hearnes told us about the history of a little church nearby. It was Gray’s - the church where he wrote the elegy - and there was a colorful little stained-glass window that many cyclists came to see. The 9-inch square stained glass had been made for a church in Italy and had been moved to this little church in England.

"The window attracts lots of visitors. It was made from a sketch of a two-wheel vehicle by the great Leonardo da Vinci!"

Off we went to see it. Leonardo had no last name; his father was an important man who cared nothing for the child or its mother, a simple peasant girl. People of the town reared him, and he became known as "Leonardo of Vinci."

The second "doodle" was taken from one of the many sketchbooks in which Leonardo scribbled - as we often do when things move slowly.

It was one of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of designs that Leonardo left behind. He designed machinery, air conditioning, farm and carpentry implements, did work in anatomy and geology and even designed machine guns.

Modern workmen have been able to follow his detailed plans and have come up with workable models.

When Walt and his wife, Mary, vacationed in Italy, they brought me a navy blue T-shirt that has one big scribble of a two-wheel vehicle - a workable bicycle, no doubt.

Leonardo wrote left-handed with letters formed backward. He sang well and devised his own musical instruments. His chief skill, however, was sketching. No sculpture by Leonardo remains.

The bicycles interest me most.

The tiny stained-glass window near Jack Hearnes’ bike shop seems to hang from "sky hooks," and the one on my navy blue shirt looks as if Leonardo stopped in the drawing of it.

Born in a hillside village near Florence in 1452, and dead in 1519, this man left some of the greatest gifts for humanity of all time.


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