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Jarvis Recumbent Bike, 1902

This was not the first recumbent bike, but it is certainly an early one. I have no information that this was ever built, but it sure was ahead of its time. It is very similar to long wheel base recumbents on the road today.


The Lallement Bicycle, first U.S. bicycle patent, first crank drive bike.

The crank is such a simple device that one could assume it is as ancient as the wheel.   The function of the crank was performed in the ancient world by handspikes which would be inserted in holes to move a capstan, and moved periodically to new holes around the cylinder of the capstan. 

In about the first century AD cranks were used on Roman medical devices, but it was not until 850 AD that proof of a crank in Europe is found, in a picture of a man sharpening a sword on a grindstone turned by a crank.  Other references show the crank in use in certain regions by about 1100 AD, and use in a variety of tools in Europe was widespread by 1600 AD.  Of course, the Chinese had used the crank since 100 BC. 

The Frenchmen Pierre and Ernest Michaux added cranks and pedals to the existing form of the bicycle, by adding them to the front wheel in 1861.  Some people believe that this modification of the Dandy Horse makes the Michaux brothers the inventor of the bicycle.  However, the version made by John Starling was much closer to the modern version of the bicycle, and most people credit him with the invention of the modern form of the bicycle.  Other contenders for earliest bicycle invention include Kirkpatrick MacMillan in 1839.

The Michaux brothers partner was Pierre Lallement, who may also have been the original inventor or collaborator in the crank powered bicycle. Lallement immigrated to the U.S. and got a patent on his crank powered bicycle, which was the first U.S. patent on a bicycle, in 1866.   


Bicycle Front Suspension 1891

This appears to be a front suspension bike, patented in 1891.  The seat and cranks are attached solidly to the rear wheel, but if the front wheel hit a bump it would be allowed to raise up against the spring located near the crank.  Interesting.  Many other early suspension designs are in the Bicycle Technology section of the Patent Pending blog.  In the top version of this bike, steering is by handles by the saddle, which is connected to the front wheel by cables. There is no traditional handlebar.   I think the inventor was trying to allow the rider to sit upright and not have to lean forward to steer the front wheel. That might really relieve some back strain.


1863 Rear Wheel Steering Trike

Here is a cool trike, tadpole configuration, built with the horse lover in mind. When one technology is replaced with another, the new technology often mimics the old one, either to be conservative in design, or to appeal to users of the old technology. This trike is very early on the American scene, and might appeal to riders used to horses. It is steered by reins which control the rear wheel, and is propelled by the rider lunging the front legs of the horse up and down, to turn the cranks attached to the front wheels. This patent was used as a reference first to invalidate the Lallament patent, and later was acquired by Colonel Pope as part of his patent portfolio used to obtain royalties from all bike manufacturers.


The Rambler Bicycle

Thomas B. Jeffery was born in Stoke, Devonshire, England.  At the age of eighteen he emmigrated to the United States, and moved to Chicago.  Later he worked making models of inventions for submission to the U.S. Patent Office by inventors.  With partner R. Phillip Gormully he formed a bicycle company and became the 2nd largest bicycle manufacturing company in the U.S.  One of his accomplisments was developing a clincher rim and tire so that pneumatic tires could be used more effectively on bicycles.


The Gormully and Jeffery bicycles included a model called the Rambler. In 1900 Jeffery and Gormully sold their interest in their bicycle company and bought a factory in Kenosha Wisconsin, and began making automobiles. They kept the trademark “Rambler” from their bikes, and their cars were called Ramblers. This is Jeffery’s first automobile. Some of his early designs had a front mounted engine, and a steering wheel, but his first production models conservatively followed the Duryea pattern, and had a tiller and a rear engine.

The Ramblers costs in the $750 to $850 range, and has an 8-hp, 1.6L, 1-cyl. engine mounted
beneath the seat. In the first year of sales the Rambler became the second largest selling car, with 1500 automobiles sold, second only to Oldsmobile.


Multiple Geared Driveshaft Bike

Here is yet another way to achieve multiple speeds on a bike, by the use of a driveshaft and bevel gears. This one has multiple bevel gears on the drive shaft, and multiple bevel gears on the wheel plate, so it could achieve a wide range of gear ratios.


Early Recumbent Bike

Here is an early (1949) recumbent bike which is similar to many recumbents seen on the road today. An even earlier recumbent was by Jarvis, and the recumbent that set world speed records was by Charles Mochet.


Early Driveshaft Bike, 1893

Here is a good way to have multiple speeds on a bike without using a derailleur.  This bike has two gears on either side of the front sprocket, and a driveshaft for each of them.  One driveshaft would be disengaged while the other was engaged. the driveshafts engage bevel gears on the rear wheel.   This might be a little heavy, but should work just fine.  bevel-gears-18931

Other driveshaft drives were patented in 1897 with a transmission and a gear shift knob and in 1891 with a single drive shaft. Alexander Pope also patented a driveshaft bike.

Gears for Drive Shaft Bike

In the late 19th century many bicycle industry pundits thought that drive shafts would be the bicycle power train of the future.  The patent below was a way for the bevel gear of a drive shaft bike to engage a selected gear, and to change to another gear for more gearing options.  This system might have been in use today had not derailluers been developed to allow a chain to be moved from gear to gear.


Tandem Bike, 1891

Here is a nice design for a two wheeled tandem bike, with each rider’s seat being directly above a wheel.  This is from 1891.