James Starley is considered the father of the cycle industry. The Starley and Hillman patent was the first penny farthing, and his Ariel bicycle led to the founding of three of the most important British vehicle manufacturers:
1. William Hillman subsequently founded ‘Hillman, Herbert & Cooper’ who made ‘The Premier’, the first successful safety bicycle. Hillman later made cars.
2. James Starley’s company went through various transformations, eventually evolving into D Rudge & Co, which became Rudge-Whitworth.
3. Starley’s nephew J.K Starley, who worked for him, founded Rover.
The Ariel name resurfaced in the 1890s as the Ariel Cycle Co.
RIDING THE ARIEL
1871 Starley Ariel
with Tangent spoked wheels
Replica of the first penny farthing
40″ front wheel
Limited Production: frame no 4
I have the remains of an 1873 Ariel, but it’s too rusty for a practical restoration. As a result I was interested in a replica version. This copy of the first (1871) penny farthing was built by a friend who is a master craftsman. He has only made four, using the original patent (below) as his design guide.
The wheel design on this first model of ‘ordinary’ (penny farthing) is particularly interesting: if you examine the photos in detail you can see how these first wire spokes were fitted. This first pattern of Ariel also has a chain tensioner fitted to the centre of the pedal axles for spoke adjustment.
These machines were originally built along the lines of a wooden wheel velocipede. The front wheel is 40″ and the rear wheel is larger than later penny farthings. It could be considered a ‘transitional’ velocipede, but with metal wheels and spokes. The 40″ front wheel makes it easier for learning to ride.
STARLEY ARIEL & TANGENT PATENT
8) The Tangent and Special Tangent were made up to 1880 but dropped by Rudge in 1881 although I think the wheel continued for a while on their Coventry tricycle.
9) Jan 1877, Voluntary liquidation of Smith and Starley
ORIGINAL (RUSTY) 1873 STARLEY ARIEL
Thanks to Nick Clayton for sending me the text at the top of the page