The Construction of Velocipedes (1848)

Sir, – observing that some of your readers an interest in the construction of velocipedes, I beg to offer a few hints on the subject. I have no doubt, my ideas will require some qualification, but believing  that a simple and inexpensive velocipede might be turned to better account than as a mere hobby horse, I submit them to be tested by such of your readers as have leisure and opportunity for the job.                                                   Pedestrian

It has been doubted by many persons whether a better method of locomotion can be devised than that with which nature has provided us, but we know from experience that, in many cases, a load can be carried by a man with greater ease on wheels, than on his back and the reason may be, that when the load is supported, it leaves the man at liberty to use his strength to best advantage. Can then the weight of the body be carried, with greater ease on wheels, (ie.) does it require more exertion to overcome the friction of the load of the body on the road, than to lift the body a certain height at every step, as it does in walking? Supposing the power required to be the same in both cases, some other advantage must be shown in favour of the velocipede to give it the preference and this advantage, I think, is as follows. I have found from experience that it is easier to walk down the gentle descents and up the steep ones, than vice versa, if the height to be surmounted be the same in both cases and particularly when carrying any weight. The reason I take to be this. – At every step down the steep descent,the body suffers a shock, which has an injurious effect on the breathing, and the long ascents, though slight, seem endless; whereas the rest which is gained in walking down the gentle descent gives one wind and strength to go vigorously up the steep incline. Now the advantage of a velocipede would be in the speed and ease with which one could go down hills of all inclinations and which I think would more than compensate for lifting the weight of the velocipedes up the hills. If this view of the case be correct, it is evident that we must have a velocipede, as light as possible and free from all complications; to meet this want, suppose the following arrangement. A pair of large light wheels, say six feet diameter, running loose, on an axle, from which hangs the seat. (This axle would probably require to be bent.) This seat must be placed in such a position that the traveller can either touch the ground with his feet and push himself along thereby, or allow his weight to be carried entirely by the wheels. To ensure safety and steadiness within certain limits, the axle must be provided with two levers, fore and aft, with small wheels at their extremities; these wheels would only touch the ground to prevent the seat from overbalancing in either direction. With such a velocipede, the power would be applied, intermittingly, in proportion to the nature of the road and this kind of motion is probably better suited to the body, than “the infernal grind,” which our friend Mr Mantilini so much deplored, but which is perpetuated in some of the modern velocipedes. The wheel being disconnected, corners might be turned with great difficulty and a small break on the boss of each wheel would serve to guide the velocipede from side to side, the whole weight of the body being thrown on, to check it promptly, in case of danger in going down hill. Small boxes might be attached to the levers above mentioned to carry luggage and by altering their relative position the velocipede might be fairly balanced. It is imagined that a machine of this description would fully satisfy the requirements necessary in practice.

The Artizan, Volume 6, by Artizan Club, 1848, p.230-231

Leave a Reply