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Evolution of the Bicycle: from the High Wheel to the modern Bicycle (1860s to 2024)

Evolution of the Bicycle: from the High Wheel to the modern Bicycle (1860s to 2024) In-Person

In 1817 a Frenchman invented the Hobby Horse for walking and gliding sitting on two wheels.  Around 1865 pedals were attached to the front wheel and the Velocipede was created.  By 1870 a series of inventions allowed the creation of the High Wheel or Penny Farthing Bicycle, which underwent a huge surge in popularity in England and the United States.  These High Wheel bicycles became so common that they were known as Ordinary bicycles, or simply 'Ordinaries'.  The High Wheel bicycle was rather unsafe, with a high center of gravity and almost no brakes.  In a few short years the modern shaped bicycle was invented, and the 'Safety' bicycle, with its wheels of equal size, a diamond frame and the rear wheel powered by a chain drive was invented.  This is essentially the same design as is used today in all modern bikes, one hundred and thirty years later.

Join us to learn how these High Wheel bicycles enjoyed their 15 years of fantastic fame in the 1880s and how in modern times the Ordinary High Wheel bicycle is experiencing a revival in manufacturing and racing.  After the talk concludes the presenter will demonstrate how to ride both an antique reproduction 1886 Victor High Wheel and a modern Swedish Racing High Wheel.

Thomas Hawkins has been riding and racing Penny Farthing bicycles for eight years, in the United States and Europe.  He was immediately fascinated by these strange and dangerous machines from his first ride and race in the Clustered Spires High Wheel Race in Frederick Maryland in 2015. Since then he became interested in the history of these early bicycles.  Born in England, Thomas has lived and worked as a tropical forester in Nepal and Honduras. As a Research Associate with Missouri Botanical Garden he made many plant collecting expeditions to the Cloud Forests of Central and South America.  When not riding High Wheel bicycles Thomas enjoys the less dangerous pastime of cave exploration, both in the United States and overseas.

Registration is required. This program is made possible through the generous support of the Chester County Library Trust. Henrietta Hankin Library supports PA Forward Civic and Social Literacy.


Saturday, May 18, 2024
3:00pm - 4:00pm
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
  Adults     Family  
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