The Velocipede (1837)

The Velocipede

Sir, – I  should feel much obliged if yourself or one of your talented correspondents would explain, why the numerous and ingenious attempts made to effect locomotion by the velocipede, have hitherto proved abortive: what is the rationale of a velocipede? Does it diminish friction, or has it hitherto only transferred it in a disadvantageous manner and what is the desideratum? Can a man employ his muscular power to effect a greater velocity than walking or running, by mechanical interventions, without a proportionate exhaustion; or has nature placed a limit that no ingenuity can pass? There is a wide difference between the actions of walking and that of rolling; is not the latter a positive mechanical advantage? In point of fact, is the velocipede a toy or a machine? There seems some analogy between skating and velocipeding and I know from experience that I can attain a velocity of eight or ten miles an hour by the former, with the same exertion that I could obtain four or five by walking or running; what is the rationale of this? If the efficiency or non-efficiency of the machine were calculated and proved, it would, doubtless. The waste of much ingenuity and labour. I have read your notices of Mr Adams’s work on “Pleasure Carriages,” with much pleasure, but, in reference to his invention or plan for keeping the wheels equal, by enabling the vehicle to lock without the usual bearing on the front wheels, I cannot help doubting whether a great disadvantage would not arise, to the direct progression of the carriage. In the ordinary construction, the connection of the motion of the four wheels is well maintained, the weight bearing equally on them all, but, if the connection between the wheels were broken, as it would be by Mr Adams’s central joint, the weight  upon either pair of wheels, being divided, would,, I conceive, create a tendency to a vacillating motion in the direct progress of the carriage; the wheels being constantly liable to be thrown out the same line.

Your obedient servant,

A constant reader

August 14 1837

The mechanic’s magazine, Vol. 27, 1837, pp.340-341

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