Unusual Tricycles

Gallery opened Dec 2003

Updated: 13 Feb 2017

Amphibious tricycle added
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Tricycles are themselves rather unusual on the road today, though in Victorian times they were relatively common. Even today's tricycles have relatively unusual versions in their ranks- such as the folding recumbent tricycles made by Greenspeed. (external link)
This page, in accordance with the philosophy of The Museum of RetroTech, deals only with really unusual tricycles.


Left: The Rudge "Coventry" Rotary Tandem Tricycle: 1884

Seating for two. This famous machine demonstrates that the designers of the day were not afraid of asymmetry. It is propelled by the big wheel, driven by both riders, and steered by the two small wheels, which are interlinked by rods.

Left: The Rudge "Coventry" Rotary Tandem Tricycle: 1884

It was claimed as an advantage of this format that it was only necessary to find two tracks between the bumps as opposed to the three required for a conventional tricycle.

This example is at the Metz Bicycle Museum in Freehold, New Jersey.


Left: The Amphibious Tricycle: 1885

This was built by Mr H Savage of Worcester in 1895. It was reportdly peddled for some distance up the River Severn and then ridden onto dry land. Note the scoops fitte to the front wheels for propulsion in the water.


Left: The Police Bondage Tricycle: 1898

This remarkable conveyance was built in 1898 by the Davis Sewing Machine Co, of Dayton, Ohio. The intention was that arrested persons could be swiftly conveyed back to the police station under restraint. It was actually called "The Police Patrol Tricycle".

It can be just discerned in the picture that the unfortunate gentleman in custody is secured to the tricycle at wrist and ankle by manacles and leg irons.

The policeman at the rear has his own set of pedals so he can contribute to propulsion.

I think it is safe to assume that the idea did not take off.


Left: The Giant Eight-Man Tricycle: 1898.

And that is pretty much all I know about it; all I have is the picture. So let us speculate...

I suspect this is a promotion for "Vim" tyres. The Vim label can be clearly seen on the two nearest tyres, and it also appears on the plate just above the front fork.

The chap in the centre of the photo looks like he is in charge.

This machine required eight men to pedal it, though only seven are visible in the photograph. The two rather lugubrious chaps at the front are clutching twin steering-wheels. Directional control must have required some good co-ordination.

Date of photo around 1898.

Left: The Giant Tricycle Strikes Again: 1898.

Amazingly, I have tracked down another picture of this machine. It was taken in Canada in 1898. The caption states it took six men and a boy to propel it, (Eh? I think we can assume the "boy" bit is a journalistic joke) and that the rear wheels were 14 feet in diameter.

The tricycle was reported to be hard to control in wet weather, as its balloon tires were completely free from tread.

Left: The Giant Tricycle Reveal'd!

This machine has finally been tracked down. It was indeed a promotional stunt, publicising "VIM" tyres made by the Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Company. In 1985 ten men rode it 37 miles from Nashua to Concord, New Hampshire, to take part in the Merchant's Week Bicycle Parade; not that it was strictly speaking a bicycle.

The wheels were 11.5 ft in diameter (not 14 ft as stated above) and it weighed 1900 pounds, presumably including the crew. Apparently it terrified all the horses it met, and an advance party was required to throw blankets over the heads of said horses to stop them bolting.


Left: Another Unusual Tricycle: date unknown

I think no further comment is required.

So I shall naturally add one.

The tyres appear to be compressed flat, but since the eletricycle is manoeuvring on some sort of fabric this is by no means certain. The picture probably dates to the 1950's.



Left: The Street-Printing Tricycle: 1895.

This extraordinary tricycle appeared in 1895. The solid rubber wheels are fitted with printing blocks that were continuously inked to leave printing on a hard road surface. The machinery at the rear is not an engine, but includes two inking rollers and a tank for gravity-feed ink supply. How long such a message would remain legible on a busy street where most of the traffic was horse-drawn is a question that I, for one, do not feel qualified to answer. Quite possibly the municipal authorities objected strongly to having their roads written on. At any rate, the idea seems to have sunk without trace, and the world is not the poorer.

I was under the impression that this machine was featured in La Nature in 1895, but I have been unable to find it there.

No, the idea lives! See the chalk-printing bicycle at Bikes Against Bush .

Thanks to Shannon for alerting me to this modern version.

For a steam-powered tricycle, see the von Sauerbronn-Davis steam velocipede on the Steam Bicycle page.

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