Doubtful Devices

JIM McGURN looks at some early Road 'bikes'.

Bramley and Parker's Machine 1830

What may have been the world's first tandem tricycle was invented by the Englishmen Bramley and Parker. This patent office drawing omits the nearer rear wheel for purposes of clarity. One suspects that the under growth of levers provided the gentleman on the rear with cause for contemplation.

Landis' Machine 1861

This invention by a Mr Landis of the USA seems to be intended as a toy rather than as a road vehicle. It may have been destined for use in amusement parks.

Julien's Machine 1830

It is not entirely clear how Monsieur Julien powered, balanced or steered his inscrutable vehicle. Despite these apparent defects the inventor has found nothing for the rider's idle hands to do. The curious spikes on the rear wheel provide further cause for speculation.

Gleason's Machine 1868

Mr Gleason an American inventor, was sensitive to the state of the roads. He conse­quently patented a cycle which supplied the very road it travelled on: a fore-runner of the modern caterpillar- tracked vehicle.

Bolton's Machine 1804

Bolton's manumotive carriage was patented in the USA. Democracy was clearly not the driving force. The operator's rolled up sleeves are, however, an honest indication of the amount of work involved in propelling the machine.

Cochrane's Machine 1831

Strange though it looks, Cochrane's manumotive carriage, propelled by a rowing action, may have been more efficient than those driven by hand operated cranks. Steering was not always considered necessary by early designers of road vehicles.

Mey's Machine (1870)

A Mr Mey of Buffalo, USA invented this remarkable vehicle, which was equipped with a whip for encouraging the dogs. These animals could, according to Mr Mey, 'impart motion to the wheel and to the vehicle, as will be clearly understood'.

Ward's Machine c. 1870.

Mr T. Ward of New York sought to attain the perpendicular by fixing heavy weights below the axle of his unicycle. It has been calculated that, had he weighed 12 stone, he would have needed for his purposes about a quarter of a ton in weights, with the forks of the proportions shown.

Hemming's Machine 1869

Many early inventors were obsessed by the idea of putting a rider inside an encompassing monocycle. Mr Hemming, an American, both built and marketed such a machine. It weighed, he claimed, just 30 lb and could reach a speed of 25 mph. Such a speed may well have been possible downhill, against the wishes of the hapless rider.

Ovenden's Machine 1761

An unfortunate footman was obliged to propel Ovenden's mechanical carriage by bouncing on the cranked rear axle, whilst holding on to the strap provided. In deference to sensibilities, Mr Ovenden boxed in the toiling servant's legs.

Croft's Machine 1877

Mr Croft of the USA intended the rider of his machine to punt along the public highway, steering with his feet. The fluttering beard in the inventor's drawing unmistakably demonstrates the demonic speed of the vehicle.