The Ordinary / Penny Farthing

The invention in the 1870s of the metal-rimmed wheel with wire tension spokes introduced the next phase of bicycle design, the development of the high ordinary or ‘penny farthing.’ Front wheels could be constructed of a diameter only limited by the inside leg measurement of the rider. Tall cyclists with long legs had a built-in advantage!

Use of the ordinary was limited to athletic young men.

Long distance tours were made and, in the 1880s round-the-world rides were accomplished. However, the ordinary is not for the faint-hearted.

Machines were developed in which the driven front wheel was reduced in diameter and a form of ‘gearing-up’ was introduced between the pedals and the wheel.

Geared-up chain drives, lever treadles and epicyclic hub gears were all tried and ‘geared front-drivers’ enjoyed a short vogue during the 1880s..

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