The net practical value of the velocipede (1862)

The net practical value of the velocipede is not yet settled. The next six weeks will go far towards it. Riders who have made the experiment have always ascertained that it is quite one thing to ride at the rate of twelve or fifteen miles an hour – even better time has been made – on a smooth, hard floor and quite another to take even the best of roads, with their occasional inequalities and an inch or two of dust or sand here, and again an inch or two of damp soil or mud. Walter Brown has travelled fifty miles, in about four hours and forty minutes in a hall, including some stops for rest and he made a mile in three minutes and fifty seconds. Let us see, by and by, if anyone can make even thirty miles a day on the best stage road that can be found, with less labour than he could walk with. At the Union Course on Long Island last Tuesday, the track was in “fair” condition for trotting horses, but for about a quarter of a mile it was soft and heavy, the velocipede wheels sinking into the sand about two inches. William Pickering made the best time, coming in exhausted after a mile in five minutes and fifty-seven seconds. We shall be glad to hear from our velocipedists and there are some superior riders in Hartford, the results of their experiments, as the roads grow hard and smooth.

Supplement to the Courant, 1862, Volume 35, p.92

Velocipedes, how they are made and how to use them (1862)


How they are made and how to use them

The velocipede, about which the Parisians have run mad at the present moment, are of various kinds. Some have two and others three and even four wheels. All have either pedals or reels on which to place the feet and usually either brakes or levers to regulate the speed. The two wheeled velocipedes, the bicycles as they are styled, are intended for the male sex only and are by far the swiftest machines. They are usually of wrought iron, and have pedals or reels attached to the front and larger wheel and the working of which, by a light movement of the feet, gives the requisite impulse to the vehicle. The saddle is poised on a bar of iron suspended a few inches above the top of the fore wheel. The hands rest on a handle in front of the machine, which, working on a pivot, serves as a balancing pole, the equilibrium being preserved by giving a slight twist to this handle. The brake, which at once stops the revolving motion of the wheel, is applied by means of a sharper twist. Here are the rules which one of the most skillful amateurs has drawn up for the guidance of beginners: “Run beside your iron horse, leading it, as it were, with your hand, so as to familiarize yourself with its movements; this will be an affair of a few minutes merely. Then commence practicing with it on a slope and after mounting it, let it move forward of its own accord, while you occupy yourself with studying the effects producing by the inclination which you give to the balancing pole or handle of the machine. When you thoroughly understand the action of this place one foot on the pedal and follow its movements without assisting them. The difficulty with beginners is to restrain the unnecessary expenditure of muscular force; they ordinarily perform ten times the labour that is requisite. Next, repeat the experiment on level ground, having both feet on the pedals and working them alternately with scrupulous regularity. Speed is obtained by simply accelerating this movement. After an hour or two’s practice, the tyro will be able to accomplish a distance of from thirty to forty yards without running the risk of an upset. Should the machine incline to one side, all that is necessary to be done is to remove the foot on the same side from the pedal and place it on the ground. This can of course only be accomplished when the velocipede is of a moderate height, which, by the way, is the proper kind of machine for beginners to make their first essays with. To alight, both feet are raised from the pedal at the same instant, which has the effect of slackening the speed of the machine. The feet are then placed simultaneously on the ground without the handle being let go.” The tricycle, or three-wheeled velocipede, is easier to guide and safer to use than the bicycle; its speed is, however, less rapid; still it can be made to pass a carriage going at a full trot. As the fair sex largely patronize this vehicle, the seat is more commodious than that of the bicycle; having sides and back of wicker and a horse hair cushion to sit upon. The hind wheels, though large, are light and revolve with facility; the fore wheel, which is smaller, serves to guide the machine, being acted on by means of the handle, which causes it instantly to turn in the direction indicated by the rider. The pedals are shaped like slippers, which facilitates the movements of the legs and at the same time admits of the foot being disengaged instantaneously. The movement required to impel the machine is a perfectly natural one, analogous, in fact, to that of walking; that is to say, without the slightest pressure of the foot and certainly without producing any unusual fatigue, for the motion of the leg develops itself, as it were, until the limb becomes fully extended, entirely without effort. In addition to all these advantages, the largest three-wheeled velocipedes have a lever which follows the line of the eccentrics attached to the pedals and fits on the axles. By assisting the movements of this lever, the speed of the vehicle is considerably increased and a simple presure against it checks the rotary movement of the wheel and stops the progress of the machine. This lever is, in fact, both a means of impulsion and brake. Ordinary two-wheeled velocipedes range in price from two hundred up to four hundred francs, according to the completeness of their fittings. Velocipedes de lux mount up to almost any sum. Three-wheeled machines are priced at from at one hundred and sixty to one hundred and fifty francs, while smaller size, for children, can be purchased for fifty francs. The somewhat numerous et ceteras comprise the requisite instruments in the event of the machine getting out of order on a journey, with a lantern, a grease box, India rubber cushions for the iron bar in front of the machine, on which the legs are generally allowed to rest when not in action and an indicator to mark the distance travelled. The speed attained by the swifter kind of velocipedes average from 12 to 13 miles an hour; adepts find no difficulty whatever in accomplishing fully 30 miles within 5 hours without once alighting from their vehicles. – A couple of amateurs making a tour through a part of France challenged each other as to which could perform the greatest distance within 24 hours. One gave in after having accomplished 87 miles; the other went on an additional 36 miles in all. On the 21st of September a party of nine quitted Rouen early in the morning, mounted upon velocipedes and arrived in Paris in time for dinner the same evening, having performed the distance of 85 miles, exclusive of stoppages at a rate of speed averaging between 10 and 11 miles an hour. It should be understood that in impelling a velocipede the limbs are not constantly in motion, as on level ground when the impetus is at the average rate, or when the machine is descending an imcline, the feet may be removed from the pedals and the legs be placed on the bar fixed in front of the velocipede for this purpose. A slight impulsion given to the vehicle from time to time suffices to keep up the speed. The ascent of any incline greater than 1 in 25 is said to be impracticable. When the rider, therefore, encounters a hill of more than average steepness he has to dismount and lead his velocipede by the hand, which he can do with almost the same ease as he can carry an ordinary walking stick.


Supplement to the Courant, 1862, Volume 35, p.212 *


Gooch’s Aeirpedis, or Pedomotive Carriage (1843)

Gooch’s Aeirpedis, or Pedomotive Carriage

(To the Editor)

Sir – if you think the following worthy of a place in your valuable journal I shall feel much obliged for its insertion I trust that the machine may be found so far practicable as to become useful to some of tour readers; for not withstanding the great number of vehicles of a similar description that have been constructed at various periods, by different individuals, some with great ingenuity and mechanical skill, yet, on the other hand, many have been initiated with an utter disregard of mechanical principles; and all or most of which I have seen, or had drawings of, seem to come under one general term – a useless toy. Now should mine, either by the amateur or the mechanical practitioner, be considered to fall under the same title, of course I must; but, Mr Editor I must say I have made this hobby one of my peculiar hobbies for more than twenty years. I first tried the common velocipede, or dandy horse, condemned it and tried again and again, upon different mechanical principles, the treadle, the winch, the crank and the hand lever. They have all come under my repeated trials and all but one are equally condemned. I find that a carriage of any kind, moved by machinery, let its combinations be ever so simple and its propelling power is to be put in action by muscular energy, either by the feet or arms, must be attended eventually with fatigue of body; for not only the weight of the machine to be moved, perhaps from 80 to 1oolbs, but also the weight of the driver himself, which is from 140 to 150lbs more, is to be moved by muscular action alone. All this is seldom considered by the amateur in his pleasing dreams of rail-road speed with his new carriage. His machine is at length completed and brought out.

“ To take a quiet ride in some green lane,”

And, to his great mortification, his plan is tried and is “found wanting.” The first enquiry is, “What is amiss?” Some crank, some lever, some unfortunate wheel is not rightly applied; it must be altered, it must be modified; and so it is, till at last it is laid aside, perhaps hurled headlong, into a garret or lumber room, as waist material, the result of the inventor’s folly. I have seen several, not only of my own, but also of others, come to a similar fate. As I have said above, I have examined a great variety of plans, but the inventors have so often forgotten that man is to be the power supplied, who is certainly a progressive animal, but at the same time is but a walking animal; and I fear he can never become anything else by his own exertion. I do, therefore, consider, that the nearer we can come to the natural movement of man, to aid his progress, the nearer we shall come to the proper method. I have accordingly invented a Walking Machine. There are several machines in Norwich and I think there are at least five on this same principle, which means to be the most useful. Four of us, the other day, went on a journey from Norwich to Cromer and back again the same day, which from my house at Lakenham is a distance of 47 miles. We were not tired; one of the party is but seventeen years of age, I am upwards of sixty, the other two are middle-aged men. We now contemplate another journey, of 56 miles, as soon as there comes some rain to cool the roads, and I have no doubt but we shall accomplish it in a day with but little difficulty; as about seven years ago I had one of these machines in which I travelled61 miles in a day and was not more tired than I should have been in walking twenty miles. The reason is this: the pedestrian, whilst walking, places himself inside the frame, leans forward on the two handles and is assisted on his way by the motion of the machine, which carries him nine or ten feet at every stride. We can walk up a hill, or an inclined road, at about four miles per hour, without much exertion; move on a level road at five miles per hour; and go down hill at ten or twelve miles per hour; and riding at the same time; so as to average about six or seven miles per hour, with much ease.                                                                                  G R Gooch


The Magazine of science, and schools of art, Volume 4, 1843, p.121-122