Above: A new-fangled cross frame bicycle outside Castle Inn, Chiddingstone, Kent. From ‘Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News’ magazine, 23rd April, 1887.
Below: This Transitional Velocipede in the same location outside Castle Inn, Chiddingstone, Kent. Photographed January, 2014
1870 Transitional Velocipede
36″ Front Wheel, 26″ Rear Wheel
37″ from top of saddle to ground
An Extremely Rare Early Transitional
This is one of the earliest transitional velocipedes. The rear wheel is smaller than the first generation of velocipede, but the design has not yet evolved into a very small rear wheel, which is the more common variety of ‘transitional.’ Observe the elegance of the machine: the design of the backbone; the spring curved at the rear; the tapered head; quality joints and fittings.
It has its original wheels, with a rebuilt hub in the rear and some replacement spokes.
FROM VELOCIPEDE TO TRANSITIONAL TO ORDINARY (PENNY FARTHING)
When the Velocipede first went on sale to the public in Great Britain in 1869, the public’s response was instantly positive. As a result, every engineer and blacksmith who was able started making velocipedes in earnest. Everyone wanted a part of this revolutionary new machine.
Many hundreds of velocipedes were made and sold in 1869, and many of the manufacturers immediately put this income towards improving the velocipede’s design.
The main problem was that the machine required an athletic rider. Johnson’s Hobby Horse had set a precedent in 1819 for a lady’s model, so makers in 1869 also considered ways to adapt the velocipede so female riders – as well as gentlemen with shorted legs – could use it.
This evolution required the rear wheel to become smaller in order to reduce the wheelbase. A few years later, they were also designed with a larger front wheel to propel the machine forward more efficiently.
But for several years from 1870, velocipedes retained standard size front wheels with rear wheels decreasing in size. In other words, they were part-velocipede, part-ordinary.
These ‘half-way’ machines did not have a special name at the time – in fact there were few of them, as bicycle evolution progressed relatively swiftly from velocipede to ordinary – but they are now retrospectively known as ‘transitionals.’
Observe the evolution in the illustrations below:
1. 1869 VELOCIPEDE – FULL SIZE REAR WHEEL; SPRING RIGHT-ANGLED AT REAR
2. FIRST STAGE OF TRANSITIONAL (This Machine) – SLIGHTLY SMALLER REAR WHEEL; SPRING CURVED AT REAR
2. SECOND STAGE OF TRANSITIONAL – EVEN SMALLER REAR WHEEL; SPRING CURVED AT REAR