The History of Velocipedes (1869)

The break in the French type of velocipede is applied as we have seen by screwing the steering apparatus round in the hand, whereby the pad is pressed against the hind wheel. Another English kind, patented by Messrs. Brown and Green, have a special arrangement whereby the break is instantly adjusted being part of the framework. This, called the Luton “instanter” break, has now come into considerable use and at any rate has the merit of efficiency, as the machine may thereby be brought up in the space of a few yards. The method of applying the break, in the American machine, is by sitting back in the saddle and so compressing the pad attached to it firmly, back upon the hind wheel. Most of the modern velocipedes have a stirrup with one flat side which runs easily upon the axle, and is always kept in the right position by a weight fixed underneath. This has been since improved upon, by a triangular construction whereby one side of the stirrup, is always ready to receive the foot. It is claimed in this kind of stirrup that the ankle joint is brought more into play and the knee thereby relieved, as it allows of any part of the foot being used, whilst in other stirrups the shank or weakest part can alone be employed. Several endeavours have been made by manufacturers to overcome a difficulty which exists in steering the machine, owing to the danger of having the two wheels turning in contrary directions when rounding a curve. It is often found that even in a very slight turn the front wheel is forced against the leg and the hold of the feet upon the stirrups thus rendered almost impossible. Some makers have endeavoured to overcome this, by only allowing the front wheel a play of 400 in each direction: this being declared to be sufficient for the sharpest curve. Others have made the hind wheel the steering wheel, thereby always having the front wheel in a line and getting rid of the danger of the feet leaving the stirrups.

The evil incident to the turning of the modern velocipede, is however, entirely overcome in a powerful but slight form of the machine, known as the “Phantom.” From the sketch it will be seen that in the “Phantom” the carriage or backbone connecting the wheels together, instead of being an unyielding bar of iron, is formed as a kind of framework somewhat in the shape of a diamond. This frame is made of strong steel bars and gun-metal; in its centre is a perpendicular joint, so constructed as to hinge together the front and back halves of the carriage and when the machine is moved upon a curve the sides of the front and back wheels are made to approach as though one of the wheels was about to be folded back upon the other. Each wheel turns upon its base as upon a pivot and the axles of each radiate or point towards the centre of the curve or circle in which the machine is moving. The effect of this is that no matter how sharp the circle upon which it is placed, the back wheel is turned in exactly the same line of motion and in fact passes over exactly the same course as the front one.The Saddle is attached to the front half of the machine, and the rider moves with that half, and consequently retains the same command of the treadles, even upon the sharpest curve, as if the machine was going upon a perfectly straight course. Every part of the rider’s body is constantly in exactly the same position as regards the driving wheel and in no case is it at all possible for the legs to come into the slightest contact with the rims of the wheels. In the event of a fall it is equally impossible for the rider to become entangled with or locked between the different parts of the machine in the way depicted in the case of the ordinary Bicycle. If the rider, in a moment of extreme danger, relaxes his hold of the steering-handle, the worst that can happen to him is that he will come to the ground, and even then it will most probably be upon one of his feet and the machine will roll away from under him. Certainly if it falls upon him it will not and cannot, entwine itself about his limbs. Thus it is found that as each new difficulty presents itself in the construction of the machine, some method of overcoming it is devised, and we may fairly hope that before long the bicycle will approach as near perfection as modern mechanical science will allow.

The velocipede, its past, its present & its future, J F Bottomley (1869)


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