1890s Tandem Quadricycle

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Olympia Tandem Tricycle copy

From the earliest days of the bicycle – the velocipedes of 1868/1869 – men used their machines to go as fast as possible or as far as possible to beat previous records.

The London to Brighton road provided a popular feat of endurance, mainly because its 60-70 mile length was feasible in daylight hours – bear in mind that brigands still occasionally lurked after dark in 1869. But also because the Royal Mail stagecoach (which had armed guards) published their timings so there was an established record against which you could compete.

While sweaty and grimy blokes raced their boneshakers as fast or as far as possible – followed by a few pints of beer down the pub – aristocratic ladies gently steered their tricycles around Hyde Park, afterwards stopping for tea with fellow tricyclists. Even in the early days, cycling was a sociable affair.

An interesting point is that the culture of boneshaker riding led to that of postwar adolescent motorcycling: the rockers of the fifties were no different from their grandfathers.

Meanwhile, the evolution of the tricycle, with its differential to aid cornering, led to the development of the car. Compare the above illustration of the 1880s Olympia Tandem Tricycle with Henry Ford’s 1896 motorised quadricycle, below. Once the fourth wheel was added, a larger engine could be fitted directly in front of the differential while maintaining the equilibrium of the chassis. Thus the automobile was born …the child of the tandem tricycle and quadricycle.

1896 henry ford

1890s Tandem Quadricycle

24″ Wheels with solid tyres

(Now sold)

This tandem quadricycle is a very interesting contraption, though nothing is known about. It’s similar in design to the Rudge illustrated below, and also the Olympia built by Humber. The passenger is seated in front, which was the configuration of the tandem tricycles of the 1880s. It is a lightweight machine, with narrow 24″ wheels with solid tyres.

The steering and brake are operated by the driver from the rear seat. The brake operates on the differential. There are steps on the rear axle for mounting to the rear seat.

The front rider’s only function is to pedal, while supporting himself on the handlebars to his sides, which act as a brace against the pedals. The machine is missing the footrest which should protrude forward for the front rider when coasting down hills. (That is assuming he hasn’t already jumped off at the prospect of coasting downhill and being the first to encounter any obstacles).

Before I bought it in 2013, it was on display for many years in a museum in Somerset, and it was also used for local parades. I sold it in 2014, and it was subsequently painted black. My friend purchased it last year and I’m now advertising it for him.

It’s in good all round condition, and rides well with two on board. The only thing I would do to improve it is to make a footrest for the front passenger.














BICYCLE_HISTORY_quadricycle 1766