Vélocipède circa 1870 64-3406



Vélocipède circa 1870

At the 1867 Paris Exhibition, the French firm of Michaux got a lot of publicity for developing the first commercially-viable version of a two-wheeled, human-powered bicycle: the Velocipede. While they were not the first to do this, Michaux was the first to tinker and perfect the design. When it was demonstrated at the Paris Exhibition, the Velocipede brought worldwide attention to the concept of cycling and sparked a craze of experimentation that would last until the early 1870s.

This specimen has been restored in the past and is quite complete.

The brake is a steel lever with a wooden block that is pushed against the steel rim of the rear wheel. The braking lever is connected by a leather strap to the handlebar and is activated by twisting the handlebar to shorten the strap.

The machine has square-section solid frame and forks and the saddle is mounted on leaf springs. The 32-inch wooden rear wheel has 16 spokes, the ca. 35-inch front wheel has eighteen. Sticking out over the front wheel are the “hock rests”, meant to carry the rider’s lower legs and get them out of the way of the fast-turning pedals when going quickly downhill.