Bicycles and Tricycles (1884)

Bicycles and Tricycles (1884)

What the Islington Cattle Show week is to breeders and farmers, the Stanley Show week is to the thousands of persons of all classes who take an interest in the improvement of the bicycle or the more varied developments of the tricycle and the exhibition opened under the direction of the Stanley Club on Monday in the Royal Floral-hall, Convent Garden, bids fair to exceed in popularity its six predecessors.

The large collection of machines and their accessories, such as lamps, bells, patent saddles and modifying gear, includes, it is stated, about 200 different standard patterns of bicycles and tricycles and over 400 specimens exhibited by above 80 different makers and agents. There are few absolute novelties which may be expected to maintain a permanent place in the service or equipment of the cyclist, but, on the other hand, there is a very general adoption of a principle of construction which was brought prominently into notice at last years show in the substitution of double for single driving gear on tricycles.

Again, there is little to note of change or, at all events, improvement, unless it be in workmanship and the fine finish of the bearings in bicycles; though from such returns as can be obtained of the numbers of men who use the two-wheeled machines there is little, if any, falling off in the demand for these ‘fliers.’ But the popularity of the slower and heavier, though safer, tricycle has grown with surprising rapidity and manufacturers are now directing all their ingenuity and skill to diminish weight and to increase the convenience of the three-wheeled machine: while to meet the sociable desires of new accessions to the ranks of cyclists, they have evolved a four-wheeler with a seat for ‘a little one’ over the fourth wheel.

What figures a census of the cycling world would show no one can guess, for the unattached – the nomads or casuals – are a very large unknown quantity; but such statistics as are to hand point to the apparent ubiquity of the cyclist. The Cyclists’ Union has the support of between 200 and 300 clubs, with headquarters in the metropolis and these can show on their rolls some 7,000 or 8,000 members, while it is estimated that there are from two to three times as many clubs in the country. The Cyclists’ Touring Club, with its 800 consuls to guard the interests of members and its 1,000 hotel headquarters and recommended inns, can display a still longer list and reckons over 11,000 members on its books.

The two most generally observable of recent modifications in the construction of the tricycle are the arrangements for bringing the driving gear to the centre of the machine and the placing of the steering-wheel in a line with one of the driving wheels, so as to produce what is called a double track machine. Other devices have for object the easy conversion of a sociable into a ‘sulky,’ and the reduction of the width of machines, effected either by a telescopic sliding of the axle, and, in the case of one invention, by the folding at right angles of the cog-wheel driving gear, or by the withdrawal of a movable section of the axle, for the convenience of those whose housing accommodation is limited in extent.

To diminish the difficulties which the crowded streets of a city oppose to the passing of a machine wide enough for two persons to ride in abreast, several manufacturers have contrived tricycles in which the occupants can ride tandem; while for the daring, high-mettled youth there is shown a tandem racing bicycle, the long, straight horizontal bar connecting the saddles having within it a swivel joint intended to save one rider if the other should chance to be thrown over, or, at all events, to lessen the severity of a predestinate ‘spill.’

Another modern addition to the power of the tourist to overcome the toils and dangers of sudden steeps in travel is provided in various kinds of differential gear. The most curious novelty of the year is a machine intended to give the rider such exercise for his arms, legs and body as he would get in rowing a boat. This contrivance, which has a sliding seat, is called the ‘oarsman’ tricycle. Some of the tricycles exhibited show that a robust rider may accomplish very satisfactory results on these machines. On one, for instance, Mr J H Adams, in September last, rode 242 miles in the 24 hours; another has been ridden over 4,000 miles; and Mr T R Marriott won the 24 hours’ road ride of the London Tricycle Club on a machine with wheels of 42 inches diameter, with a run of 219 miles. The Floral-hall is brightly illuminated in the evening by Jablochkoff electric arc lights. The exhibition closes on Saturday.

The Times, February 6th 1884, p.4

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