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Luigi Masetti: an “anarchist” of cycling tourism

Luigi Masetti: an “anarchist” of cycling tourism

“Luigi Masetti, l’anarchico delle due ruote” (“Luigi Masetti: the Anarchist on Two Wheels”) is the title of the biography on this incredible character. The book, published by Ediciclo, recounts the travels of this unconventional young man originally from Trecenta, in Polesine (Veneto).

Reading this biography inspired the journey of Giulia Baroncini, whose grandparents actually hailed from Trecenta. To imitate Masetti, Giulia retraced the stages of her first great intercontinental journey: from Milan to Chicago by bike.

Luigi Masetti and two wheels: why he is considered the pioneer of cycling tourism

Luigi Masetti was born in Trecenta in 1864 then eventually moved to Milan. His fame is due to the numerous journeys on two wheels, sponsored and narrated by the newspaper Corriere della Sera. The epithet of the two-wheel anarchist was attributed to him by the co-founder and editor of the newspaper, Eugenio Torelli Viollier.

In 1892, Masetti took his first trip, thus starting the cycling tourism movement. It was a journey around Europe of about 3,500 km.
The first great international trip was from Milan to Chicago, where the Great Universal Exposition was being held. An itinerary of about 7,000 km, at the end of which the first Italian cyclist was welcomed by the US President, G. Cleveland to celebrate the venture.

His fame in Italy grew and Luigi Masetti completed other feats on two wheels, such as the journey from the Alps to the Pyramids in the footsteps of Napoleon and from Italy to Austria passing through Greece and returning along the Balkans.

His most incredible journey, however, was an 18,000 km route from Italy to Morocco, going via Spain and passing through Europe to Norway, then on to the North Cape and Russia and finally to Constantinople (Istanbul). This was in 1900.

His fame eventually declined and there are no reports of further ventures. Masetti died at the age of 75 in 1940.

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What is cycling tourism?

Just like in the adventures of Luigi Masetti, cycling tourism is a way to travel by bike and discover new places, traditions and cultures.
Cycling trips can be either short, within national borders, or a great international adventure like that of the two-wheeled anarchist or of Giulia Baroncino today.

But they are not alone – travelling by bicycle (or at least, making your bike the preferred means of transport after reaching a destination) is increasingly trendy. Cycle tourism is a growing market, also appreciated for its low environmental impact.

Today, cyclists can make use of many tools that Luigi Masetti would not have had, starting with an internet connection and online maps.
Cycle touring bikes today are also increasingly lightweight and high-performance and you can even choose specific models to adapt as much as possible to the type of trip.

The same goes for the wheels, made of increasingly-lightweight materials including, undoubtedly, carbon as the most functional, lightweight and high-performance. For example, Giulia Baroncini travelled with the Ursus TC 37 Disc UD carbon wheels with RD 30 24-hole hubs and high-sliding ball bearings.

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Today the design of hubs, handlebars and seatpost provides greater comfort to cyclists, gives smoothness to the wheels and undoubtedly makes the bikes more rideable and reliable than Masetti’s.

But there is something that still unites the anarchist on wheels and the cyclists of today: a desire for adventure, discovering new places and forging ties. Suffice to say that Masetti preferred to stay in small hotels where he spent little money and met people. This led him to meeting many strangers but also famous people – in addition to President Cleveland, Masetti met Lev Tolsoj in Russia, with the pair going on to become friends.

After all, cycling is a journey of discovery, an adventure that opens doors you wouldn’t expect. It helps you to know the world and others but also to fully understand yourself, your potential and your limits.


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