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Gear Shift Bike, 1897

Even after bikes were built using chains, other power transmission modes were tried in early years and continue to be tried today. The chain is just so efficient its hard to beat. An early alternative to the chain and gears utilized a drive shaft. Some added gears to the drive shaft to form a transmission like the early cars were using. This one from 1897 even had a shift lever and a real transmission and a drive shaft that operated with bevel gears to the rear wheel. Having machinery and machinists capable of making bevel gears and transmissions such as this made the transmission to automobiles much smoother and faster.


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.


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.


Brano Meres’ Bamboo Bike

Brano Meres of Bratislava Slovakia has a site where he shows some of his creations that look very wonderful.  One that jumps out as being a little different is his bamboo framed bicycle.  He built this, and has ridden it for a year, with no problems.  It sure looks beautiful!  More great bicycle stuff at his site, BME.



Cleverchimp Rickshaw

Looks like Todd at Cleverchimp has a new model of utility bike, and this looks cool!  Looks like a great kid hauler, grocery hauler, stuff hauler.  Might even be a two seater with a slight modification in the seat.  Good luck, Todd!


TerraTrike Recumbent Trike

The style of recumbent tricycles with two wheels in the front and one in the rear is called a tadpole recumbent, because like a tadpole, the big end is at the front. Here is a very low slung tadpole configured recumbent, patented in 1975, and it has the rear wheel as the drive wheel, with the chain passing alongside the seat.  The two front wheels are the steering wheels, and steering is by an underseat control. In this style of bike, the rider is way more comfortable, with no leaning forward, no saddle soreness, and no weight on his wrists. The wind resistance is also quite a bit less, which is why recumbents can be as fast or faster than upright two wheelers on flat terrain, even though they are generally heavier. A really cool tadpole trike is the TerraTrike, and they have all kinds of information on their site at WizWheelz.  A TerraTrike is shown below the 1975 tadpole.



The Recumbent Couch-Cycle


Nate Welbourn showed me his recumbent couch, and I had to know how that beast came to be built.

"The whole notion of an amphibious tall couch trike is the beer-induced brain
child of a Rat Patrol member who goes by the name of Nancy Porker; I am simply
the conduit between a fantasticly absurd idea which should never have been done,
and something that now exists and is actually practicle to use in the real

Why? That’s a fair question, but one that I haven’t seriously considered
until now; I guess we were looking for a ride with style so we figured a couch
bike is probably going to satisfy that brief, and it had to be a tallbike so
that the eye level of the pilots would be well above that of all but the tallest
pedestrians (good for concerts and the like)… also the couch had to be easily
removeable for parties (it’s held on to the frame by 8 bolts, and the brake and
gear levers simply pull off)…


Yes, we happened to have quite a bit of refuse steel lying about our
workshop too… Plans are afoot for a parasol cover, fold-out bed, etc, etc.
This is a chick magnet by anyone’s standards! In any case, it probably hadn’t
been done before, and that seemed like a sound reason in itself. It made sense
at the time!


What else? Well, you’ll notice a bit of a cocktail bar/table at the couch;
this will soon be completed with drink holders in which to put one’s beer, thus
affording our no-doubt-soon-to-be-patented Steer by Beer Technology (you need a
beer in order to steer!). Seing as we were already building a tall trike with a
serious inherent danger of off-camber cornering disastery, I thought it would
also be great to have a reliable 360degree-turning system, allowing it to
(theoretically) spin on it’s own footprint in traffic. And guess what; it turns
on it’s own footprint!!! It was all "educated guesswork" (I’m a graphic designer
working at a university, so that seemed to make excellent sense!), but I tried
to design the weight distribution such that most was over the back wheels so
that the bike would turn well and minimise the tendancy to roll over and snap
people’s backbones…


After working out some basic dimensions, it just seemed to make some kind
of ‘lateral sense’ to create such a thing which could be ridden into and through
the water without stopping (we had consumed a lot of beer at this point)… that
makes sense, doesn’t it?
After a lot of talk about using empty coke bottles, discarded newspapers
and old candy packets for displacement, I found myself insiting on retaining
‘some kind of hydro dynamics’. We ended up sourcing some old plastic barrels,
chopped the tops off and smashed them together with a film of epoxy. All of a
sudden the hulls became very strong — even stronger than I had invisaged. Then,
we used a 2-part expanding polyurethane foam to fill each barrel, ensuring
enough displacement (and that at the very least, the hulls couldn’t sink), based
on some rather blurry mental calculations. A rudder? The front wheel would


The floatation hulls and associated frame
attach or detach easily by one person and are held in place by 4 high-tensile
bolts. The aqua propulsion system also easily detaches when required. I think
the floatation system weighs about 80kg (you’ll be used to do your own metric
conversions of course, living in probably the only country in the world still
using emperial measurements! Anyhoo…), while the rest of the bike is probably
around 70kg. Surprisingly (and this REALLY surprised me!), she is pretty stable
on land and absolutely stable in the water. We have tried to capsize her,
but to no avail!!
I think I must be quite good at guess work and bring with me a wealth of
good luck, because the test float was so successful that no further structural
changes were required. This was good news, after about 250 humorous hours of
late-night labour and much domestic anxt.


OK, it probably has a top speed in the water of about 1 knot, but it’s a
STYLISH ride! The cops aren’t sure how to take this one, it’s a bike but it’s
much bigger than a car… or is it a boat? We are quietly confident that she is
legal in this country.
So, what’s the next project? Sleep 🙂

H. B. Smith Steam Tricycle

New Jersey manufacturer Hezekiah Bradley Smith patented a steam powered tricycle in 1889.  He also built the American Star Bicycle, which sold for $150 in a time when an average income for a man was $500.  Smith did very well with his manufacturing business, and was elected to Congress in 1879.  He purchased the town of Shreveville New Jersey and invested vast sums of money to make it an industrial center.  He renamed the town Smithville,  and the town still hosts the  company Smith founded, the Smith Machine  Co. Hb_smith_steam_tricycle

Paul Arany’s Recumbent Trikes

I don’t know much about Paul Arany’s trikes, except they look like a lot of fun!