* 4. History of Tricycles



The first tricycle was built in 1680 for a German paraplegic named Stephan Farffler, who lived near Nuremburg. He was a watch-maker and the tricycle had gears and hand cranks.

Two Frenchmen, named Blanchard and Maguier invented a tricycle in 1789, which prompted the Journal de Paris to coin the words ‘bicycle’ and ‘tricycle’ and publish them on July 27th to differentiate between the two types of machines.
Denis Johnson patented a tricycle in England in 1818, and a three-wheeled swiftwalker was introduced in 1819.

On November 18, 1876, James Starley introduced the Coventry Lever Tricycle, a side-driven two-track, lever-driven machine, and that started the tricycling craze in Great Britain. It had two small wheels on the right side, that both steered simultaneously. A large drive wheel was on the left side. In 1877, he introduced the Coventry Rotary, one of the first rotary chain drive tricycles.

In 1879, twenty types of tricycles and multi-wheel cycles were produced in Coventry, England, and by 1884, there were over 120 different models produced by 20 manufacturers. Tricycles were used especially by those who could not ride high wheelers, such as women who were confined in the long dresses of the day, and short or unathletic men.


From 1881 to 1886 in Great Britain, more tricycles were built than bicycles, but this was primarily a class phenomenon, since tricycles were more expensive, perceived as more genteel, and the upper classes had the disposable income to buy them for the women in the family. As a result, tricycling remained popular in Great Britain long after riders turned away from them elsewhere. They even had regular racing.

Tricycling has a cult following these days. They are also used by older persons for recreation, shopping, and exercise. In Asia and Africa, tricycles are used primarily for commercial transportation.


The tricycles produced from 1876 to 1884, of which Starley’s Coventry Rotary is the most famous example, are considered first generation tricycles, and showed a wide variety of inventiveness as the best design was sought. There were many two track tricycles with side steering built to operate on rutted doubletrack roads.


By 1885, the second generation of tricycles had appeared. The Humber Cripper, named for professional racer Robert Cripps, was typical. It had the modern pattern of two rear wheels with a front wheel bisecting their track. Front wheels were usually about 18 to 24 inches in diameter, the rear wheels were usually about 40 inches. The wheelbase was about 32 inches, as was the track width, and they weighed about 75 pounds, although racing models were about 40 pounds.

The third generation of tricycles are like today’s, and the 1892 Starley Psycho was one of the first. All three wheels are of equal size, in this case, 28 inches. By 1900 however, the pneumatic tired safety bicycle took away most of the tricycle business since it provided an adequate amount of stability for most riders. Except for having modern bicycle components added, the tricycle has not really evolved in any substantial way since the turn of the 19th century.


* Thanks to Bicyclopedia for the history of tricycles –


Published on October 17, 2007 at 5:23 am  Leave a Comment  

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