From the earliest days of the bicycle – the velocipedes of 1868/1869 – men used their machines to go as fast as possible or as far as possible to beat previous records.
The London to Brighton road provided a popular feat of endurance, mainly because its 60-70 mile length was feasible in daylight hours – bear in mind that brigands still occasionally lurked after dark in 1869. But also because the Royal Mail stagecoach (which had armed guards) published their timings so there was an established record against which you could compete.
…and I thought that trying to trim a few minutes off my car’s GPS satellite navigation’s estimate was a modern phenomenon. No, it’s in our blood 🙂
While sweaty and grimy blokes raced their boneshakers as fast or as far as possible – followed by a few pints of beer down the pub – aristocratic ladies gently steered their tricycles around Hyde Park, afterwards stopping for tea with fellow tricyclists. Even in the early days, cycling was a sociable affair.
An interesting point is that the culture of boneshaker riding led to that of postwar adolescent motorcycling: the rockers of the fifties were no different from their grandfathers.
Meanwhile, the evolution of the tricycle, with its differential to aid cornering, led to the development of the car. Compare the above illustration of the 1880s Olympia Tandem Tricycle with Henry Ford’s 1896 motorised quadricycle, below. Once the fourth wheel was added, a larger engine could be fitted directly in front of the differential while maintaining the equilibrium of the chassis. Thus the automobile was born …the child of the tandem tricycle and quadricycle.
1890s Tandem Quadricycle
This tandem quadricycle is a very interesting contraption, though nothing is known about. It’s similar in design to the Rudge illustrated below, with the passenger seated in front which was the configuration of the tandem tricycles of the 1880s. It is a lightweight machine, with narrow 24″ wheels with solid tyres.
The steering and brake are operated by the driver from the rear seat. The brake operates on the differential. There are steps on the rear axle for mounting to the rear seat.
The front rider’s only function is to pedal, while supporting himself on the handlebars to his sides, which act as a brace against the pedals. The machine is missing the footrest which should protrude forward for the front rider when coasting down hills. (That is assuming he hasn’t already jumped off at the prospect of coasting downhill and being the first to encounter any obstacles).
It was previously on display for many years in a museum, where it was used for local parades.
THE QUADRICYCLE OF 1766