Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Crazy bikes

The blog for MAKE magazine posted this photo of a pretty crazy-looking bike the other day, and it inspired me to look for other unusual bikes.

The Dandy Horse or draisene (named for German inventor Baron Karl von Drais) was patented in 1818. It had no pedals, but was instead propelled by the rider pushing along the ground with her or his feet as if they were walking or running. The front wheel and handlebar assembly was pivoted to allow steering. The height was not adjustable, so each one had to be custom-made to measure.

In the 1870s and '80s, the most common form of bicycle was the ordinary bicycle a/k/a highwheel a/k/a pennyfarthing. Lacking a steering system, the huge front wheel was to provide stability at speed. Also, since the pedal was affixed directly to the wheel, the only way to increase the distance you traveled per pedal revolution was to make the front wheel as large as possible.

FYI: The name refers to the British penny and farthing coins of the time; the former being much larger than the latter so that the side view of the bicycle resembled two such coins placed next to one another.

Eventually the chain-driven bicycle was introduced, and the pennyfarthing fell out of style, though the love of riding up high remained. Check out this page of some early tallbikes (such as this one below).

Lastly, and my favorite of the bunch, is this story of a couple of guys who toured the Canadian Maritimes in a Couchbike. Here they are in the drive-thru of some fast food spot. Awesome.

Technorati tags: , , ,

1 comment:

Craig Xor said...

Drive-thru would be tight in that thing.
I read that the Wright brothers helped improve the bicycle a little bit, or at least built their own.