The history of the modern circus is deeply rooted in horsemanship. The first modern circuses, which took place during the 18th century, were primarily demonstrations of tricks performed on a horse, first by former soldiers who learned such skills during military training, and later by talented men and women trained from a young age to accomplish acrobatics and other feats atop a horse *
After the bicycle started competing with the horse as a means of personal transportation, it also became popular as a foil for acrobats and other performers. Riding an ordinary (penny farthing) was an athletic feat much admired by the public, and tricks performed on such machines are very impressive. Circus troupes, theatrical and fairground performers and other entertainers soon started experimenting, both with safety bicycles and ordinaries. Safeties were more versatile, but tricks on ordinaries left a lasting impression on the audience, especially when it involved more than one rider on a machine.
By the twenties, specially-adapted roadster bicycles had become regular mounts and props for circus, fairground and theatrical acrobats and performers. Clowns used them more as a foil than for athletic performance.
Popular adaptations included twin axle mounts at the rear (and sometimes on the front axle too); fixed wheel; reversible front forks with a quick-action lock.
With its chrome finish and American-style ‘camel back’ top tube (dipping downward at the rear to accommodate riders with shorter legs), this BSA appears to have been specially commissioned as a performer’s machine.
1950s BSA All-Chrome Performer’s Bicycle
19″ Camel-back Frame
26″ Wheels with ‘Green’ cushion tyres
Locking Steering Head and Reversible Forks
Twin Axle Extensions
This BSA performer’s machine was professionally built, presumably by the BSA factory. Unfortunately its history is not known. The machine is in original unrestored condition, with tarnished chrome. The reversible forks are facing backwards (you can see the fork lock on the fork crown is on the opposite side). It’s fully functional.
A PAIR OF TRICK RIDERS’ MACHINES:
45″ DETACHABLE & 40″ MONOCYCLE (UNICYCLE)
* Modern circus history with thanks to –