The papers have somewhat less to say upon the subject of velocipedes this week than last, but the furore both among the inventors and users of them is by no means abating. Some extremely curious and novel two-wheeled velocipedes have been submitted to us, in whish the wheels are placed opposite each other instead oi one behind the other. As machines for ladies' use, some of them are destined to obtain 1 favor unless we are much mistaken. Three-wheeled machines are also multiplying in number, and the various w ays of applying muscular power to their propulsion do not seem to be yet exhausted. Four-wheeled velocipedes are also attracting some attention, and there can be no question that this class possess some advantages which go far to compensate for their deficiencies. We have seen a design of a five-wheeled velocipede for clubs, capable of carrying twelve athletes, which seems superior to the one of English origin recently described by us, but the particulars of which we are not at liberty to publish. The fifth wheel is used, of cojirse. as a steering wheel. A velocipede invented by Baron Von Dray and improved by Lewis Gompertzof Surrey in England, with an engraving and description of the same, extracted from the 39th volume of the Repertory of Arts, published- in 1821, is herewith presented to our readers. It will be- seen that it has many features in common with the ones now in vogue, but the method of propelling it is quite different. The object of the improvement of Gpmpertz was to bring the arms of the rider into action, in assistance to his legs. It consisted in the application of#a handle, C, which is to be worked backwards and forwards, to which is attached a circular rack, D G, which works in a pinion, E, with ratch wheel on the front wheel of the velocipede, and which, on being pulled by the rider with both iands sands fhe machine forward, an4 when thrust from him does not and it baoi again, on account of the ratch which allows the pinion to turn in that direction free of the wheel. H is the saddle, and the rest, B, is so made that the breast of the rider bears against it while the sides come around him at some distance below the arms, and is stuffed. The rider could, with this machine, either propel it entirely without the feet, or he could use the feet while the arms were free. The beam, A, was made of beecli wood, and a pivot at, F, allowed the front wheel to be turned to the right or left at the will of the rider. This must have been, although somewhat clumsily shaped, a quite efficient machine, good for the times—forty-eight years ago. The latest novelty is the first number of a paper, The Veloci-pedist, which has made its appearance in New York. It is a quarto of eight pages devoted to velocipede news, and is published by Pickering & Davis, 144 Greene street. It is to be issued monthly. At the opening of their new school at No. 65 Tenth street, in this city, the Messrs. Hanlou gave an exhibition of skill which was said to have been very entertaining. Alive to the value of pleasing accessories, the Messrs. Hanlon had procured the services of a good brass band. The riding of Fred. Hanlon was quite remarkable, being of that excellence to be attained only by one who is already a skilled gymnast. He leaped on and off the saddle of the velocipede when in rapid motion ; sat upon it, guiding it with the feet only ; carried his legs over the leading wheel, and thus sat, preserving his equilibrium with the rudder-post, and rode side-saddle-wise with ease and grace, illustrating admirably how easily the velocipede can be so fitted with a saddle, that ladies may ride with ease. By way of upsetting the prevailing opinion that the velocipede is valueless on a hilly road, Mr. Hanlon ascended a steeply inclined plane, made by placing one end of a board—some eight feet long—upon a trestle three feet high, the other end resting on the floor, thus forming an angle of about 24 degrees, and suggesting a grade equivalent to over 1,900 feet in the mile. This the velocipedist ascended with the utmost ease. It was also interesting to note how successfully he managed the machine under such awkward circumstances as might be supposed to surround a gentleman, who endeavored to reach home on a very dark night and very much intoxicated, using this modernest mode of locomotion. The drunkenness of the front wheel of that velocipede was amusing in the extreme, and at the same time terribly suggestive of ugly falls to its owner, and of the possibilities of his scraping acquaintance with you at every turn. A Boston correspondent writes to the New York Evening Post that a two-wheeled velocipede of the Monod pattern has, during the last two weeks of pleasant weather there, been well tested as to its utility and durability by a young man living nine miles from tho city, riding in and out on it almost every day. The average rate of speed attained was between eight and nine miles an hour, though a speed of ten and even twelve miles was attained in " spirts," or while racing with horses for short distances. The exertion required to move at these rates was comparatively inconsiderable, the momentum of the machine being easily kept up when once it is underway. The exhilarating and beneficial effects resulting from this exercise are more closely allied to those experienced from riding on horseback (which physicians so much recommend) than to any other. Though it requires but very little effort to keep the velocipede in rapid motion, yet the quick up-and-down movement of the feet, when the cranks are revolving rapidly, is wearisome if continued long. But this annoyance, we are glad to announce, is soon to be overcome by a very ingenious and at the same time simple arrangement (the'invention of a Boston gentleman), so applied that a greater speed with a slower movement of the crank can be attained on declines, or on level ground ; while, without dismounting or stopping, the gear may be easily and quickly changed to obtain more power for ascending hills, or running over rough ground. The Boston Transcript says: " The velocipede mania is beginning to revolve in a lively manner round the ' Hub,' as well as elsewhere. Curiosity is awakened, invention stimulated, and experimentists are getting to be numerous. Two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and four-wheelers, and wheelers that can be multiplied or reduced in their rotary power as practice and skill may warrant, are rushing into the market. The schools have their pupils and spectators; and tho not exactly novel—for something very like it has been known before—style of locomotion is rolling into favor as a popular notion, even if it should prove to be only a nine days' wonder. The various qualities of various machines are coming to be discussed with as much zeal as the diversified .merits of horse flesh ; and the dogmatists, v. iseacres, and experts in regard to these new substitutes for legs are to be heard talking, as men are wont to talk of the wind, strength, bottom, gait, and ' go ' of Eclipses. Dexters, and Ethan Aliens. " It is amusing to notice how rapidly this fresh idea has germinated, budded, and bloomed, and is actually bearing fruit in the way of active action. There are trials and competitions on the Common and in other convenient localities, as well as efforts and essays in halls up-statfe and down-stairs. Old fogies laugh ; the sanguine prophesy a future population mounted on rolling stock that requires no oats ; the boys are jolly over the whirling fun; and the question is getting to be an interesting one as to how extensively the social system is to be revolutionized. Something of utility, convenience, and economy may come of the innovation ; meanwhile it is certainly the source of innocent amusement, steals time away from poor gossip, angry disputes, and promotes muscular development, even if it has not as yet—as it was predicted that the railroads would—turned the horses oet to grass or filled the carriage bazaars with vehicles to be Bold for a song, the owners having no further use for them. Theref ore let the innocuous furor rage, say we ; let it become contagious; let it agitate and convert everybody, at least until it shall, early in the spring, mount the members of the legislature, and swiftly send them off on various radii, to the enjoyment of their homes and private business." In Rome, the Eternal City, the velocipede has broken out. A writer from that city says : " The last fashion is the velocipede. Gentlemen are practicing in their court yards, and one or two are daring enough to venture in the streets. One bold man has been seen on the Piazza di Spagna." Velocipede schools have been opened in Springfield, Mass., and Lexington, Ky. Three of these schools are in operation in Newark, N. J., and the pupils number three or four hundred. A Massachusetts man has made a model for a one-wheel velocipede. It is to be a wheel eight feet in diameter, with convex spokes meeting at the extremity of the axle. The seat and the treadles which move it depend from* the cranks on the axle, inside of the wheel, and the rider is, theoretically, to guide his steed as simply as a wheelbarrow is steered. It is stated that the Executive Committee of the Michigan Agricultural Society, have arranged for a grand velocipede race during the ensuing State Fair. Premiums to the amount of $1,000 are to be distributed. Other committees, if wise, will follow the example thus set them. - A velocipede race, by experts, would " draw " more than fat bullocks or balloon ascensions. An inventive New Yorker has placed on exhibition at Pear-sail Brothers' riding school, a three-wheeled machine, with which he thinks the ladies will be able to compete with the two-wheeled steeds of their gentlemanly cavaliers. It consists of an easy basket-work seat placed over two wheels. A small wheel projecting in front is guided by a rod passing back to the hand of the lady occupying the seat. The rear wheels have a pedal attachment, by means of which the lady can work up to a moderate rate of speed with but little exertion. The Messrs. Pearsall have introduced their pupils to some very difficult performances recently, the latest one compelling them to mount an inclined plane. A miniature hill has been thrown up at one side of their riding-room, about five feet high, rising at an angle of nearly forty-five degrees. Many of the pupils have succeeded in passing over it safely, but the majority of them, ;thus far, have reached the bottom, sadly mixed up with their velocipedes. Mr. William H. Henriques rides, at Pearsall's school, a velocipede built by Wood Brothers, of the most elegant finish, we have seen. The guide handles are of solid ivory, and the mountings combine both gilt and silver plate. Its cost was $165. Miss Katie Putnam is astonishing the citizens of Davenport, Iowa, by her skillful management of the bicvcular velocipede. 118 To add to the effect she wears a bicycular garment, and thus ? attired " makes the machine fly." j A correspondent writes us from Lowell, Mass., that velocipedes have descended upon that city of spindles, and that with the coming of good roads, in spring, a velocipede freshet may be expected. They cannot avoid the contagious influence of I this enlivening sport, it seems, even in the most industrious towns of industrious New England. Thsre is a very general complaint of the high prices maintained by manufacturers, but so long as the demand so far exceeds the supply, as is the case at present, a reduction is not probable, and although manufacturers are reaping a harvest from the business, the public must wait until competition has produced the so much wished for cheap velocipedes.
This article was originally published with the title "Velocipede Notes" in Scientific American 20, 8, 117-118 (February 1869)