If You Were Handcuffed to a Bike, Would You Ride Across the US?

October 30, 1919

Tony Pizzo pedaled into New York City on his bicycle to conclude one of the more unique coast-to-coast journeys using that mode of transportation. Pizzo, who had completed a stint with the U.S. Navy earlier in the year, began his transcontinental trek in California during the spring. He and C.J. Devine, another recently discharged sailor, accepted a dare from silent-film comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle to travel across the United States via bicycles. Arbuckle wagered $3,500 that neither man would make it to New York City by November 1, 1919.

In a ceremony at Venice Beach in Los Angeles during the spring of that year, Arbuckle handcuffed Pizzo and Devine to the handlebars of their respective bicycles to make it even tougher to abandon their cross-country ride. Pizzo and Devine then embarked on their journey, each often wearing their sailor uniforms en route. They ate, drank, washed up, and did everything else while shackled to their bicycles.

Devine was hit by an automobile while they were pedaling through Kansas, however, and consequently unable to continue the trip. Pizzo rode the rest of the way to New York City on his own. After reaching his destination two days ahead of Arbuckle’s deadline, Pizzo checked into a hotel. The next day, New York City Mayor John Hylan formally unlocked the handcuffs and freed Pizzo from his bicycle.

The New York Times reported, “It had taken Pizzo since May 18 to make the trip and he declared . . . that he would not do it again for a million dollars.” The following year, however, Pizzo – accompanied by a fully recovered Devine as his manager – rode back to Los Angeles handcuffed again to the same bicycle. In 1921, Pizzo accepted a dare in which he undertook a bicycle tour of all of the states in the union at that time. For more information on Tony Pizzo and his bicycling achievements, please check out https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/tony-pizzo-bicycle-ride.

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