Following the transition from the Boneshaker, the high wheeler continued with straight handlebars until the mid-1880s from which time the ‘cow-horn’ style as on this machine became popular. The latter style incorporated bends into the handlebar which allowed a more close-coupled design which provided more room for the rider’s legs.
Speaking of legs, the size of the front wheel depended on the length of the rider’s leg. Contemporary manufacturer’s catalogues recommended the size of wheel according to inside leg measurement. So it was all really rather bespoke.
By 1885 the beautiful but tricky high bicycle had reached its peak, and although its many champions fought valiantly for the next six or seven years they were a dwindling proportion of the growing army of cyclists. It was still a middle-class activity; the lower orders could not afford new machines (even though these could be bought quite cheaply) and the upper classes continued to regard cyclists as beneath notice – except of course when they startled horses being driven or ridden by the upper classes, when they became pests to be exterminated.
The Collection’s exhibit
This machine benefits from a brake and its most interesting feature, tangent spokes. Most high wheelers had radial spokes. Tangent spokes implied a lighter, stronger wheel and were often used in racing. They were also more prevalent in the late 1880s.
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Peyton and Peyton Boneshaker
1869 Unidentified Boneshaker
1878 Starley Quadricycle
1885 Dan Albone 'Ivel' High Wheeler
1885 High Wheeler
Singer Motor Wheel
1902 Dan Albone 'Ivel' Lady's Roadster No.5
Hercules gent's roadster
Stafford Mobile Pup
Scott Squirrel Combi
Triumph Type SD
1924 Sunbeam Lady's Roadster
Ariel Model A
New Hudson 'Imperial' light roadster
1937 Raleigh Lady's Roadster
1938 Jagrose Lightweight
1940 Elswick Tradesman's bicycle
Norton Big 4
Private owner: Andy Preslent
Norton Model ES2 Combi