In 1933, Ernesto Pettazzoni, an engineer from Bologna, Italy, applied for a British patent for his ultra=short-wheelbase semi-recumbent machine, the Velocino. It represented a wheelchair chopped in half, with the seat over the normal-sized rear wheel. The tiny front wheel was about 10 inches in diameter. The handlebar was reversible, giving the option of under-seat steering. Mussolini is said to have commissioned the Velocino as a compact, easily stored urban vehicle. The project attracted a lot of attention but was canceled after Italy entered Word War II.
– Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History, by Tony Hadland, Hans-Erhard Lessing, Nick Clayton, Gary W. Sanderson
Since Ernesto Pettazzoni’s original Velocino was launched and, unfortunately, canceled soon after, several other companies launched bicycles inspired by his design. Union of Holland introduced the ‘Strano’ in 1964 – designed by Bernard Overing of Deventer – and, a year later, inventor Emil Friedman of Germany exhibited a similar machine he called the ‘Donkey.’
In the 1980s, this interesting junior variation on the Velocino was built in limited numbers, though it was not successful.
A modern version was launched by Italian company Abici recently as a budget bicycle priced around £500, and it has had a favourable reception. After a delay of over 70 years, Pettazzoni’s unique bicycle design is at last being ridden and enjoyed and receiving the acclaim it deserves.
1980s Youth Size Velocino ‘Bye Bike Boy’
Bye Bye Sports’
Front Wheel: 10″
Rear Wheel: 22″ (tyre 37-489)
WIDTH: 24″ (handlebar)
This youth size Bye Bike Boy is in good original unrestored condition. The rear mudguard is slightly mis-shapen (like many bikes it has been lifted incorrectly by grabbing the rear mudguard). It’s not difficult to unfold out the creases by hand. I also noticed that the presta valve needs replacing on the inner tube of the front tyre.
It takes a little while to get used to the strange riding position of a velocino: once the technique is mastered, it provides hours of fun for a youngster to show off their riding skills. You can set the handlebar and fork to either a forward or backward-facing position.
This one is set to forward – I just reversed it for the photos. It can be ridden like that, but if you want the front brake to be in the correct position you need to loosen the head set and turn the handlebar around rather than the front fork.
This is a large Bye Bike Boy model and could be ridden by an adult. Its wheel size is 22″ compared with 26″ on an adult size Dutch Union Strano.
Here’s the 1980s version next to the Duth Union Strano, which was the most successful of all the versions of the Velocino.
1935 PATENT ERNESTO PETTAZZONI
1936 VELOCINO CATALOGUE
1939 JOHN PLAYER CIGARETTE CARDS: No 30 VELOCINO
The way many of my friends and I learned about bicycles as youngsters was through cigarette cards. No 30 of Players ‘Cycling’ series introduced us to the ‘Italian Velocino Bicycle.’
1 – Pedestrian Hobby-Horse
2 – Lady’s Pedestrian Hobby-Horse
3 – MacMillan’s Lever-Driven Bicycle
4 – Sawyer’s Velocipede
5 – Michaux Velocipede
6 – Coventry Rotary Tricycle
7 – Singer Tricycle
8 – “Salvo” Tricycle
9 – Lawson’s “Bicyclette”
10 – Sociable Tricycle
11 – Post Office Centre-Cycles
12 – “Invincible” Bicycle
13 – Rucker Tandem Bicycle
14 – “Rover” Safety Bicycle
15 – “Invincible” Tandem Tricycle
16 – Olympia Tandem Tricycle
17 – The First Pneumatic-Tyred Bicycle
18 – A Notable Tricyclist – F. T. Bidlake
19 – Simpson Lever Chain
20 – Companion Safety Bicycle
21 – Bicycle of the Late ’90s
22 – Tandem of the ’90s
23 – Pacing Triplet
24 – Novel Tandem of the ’90s
25 – Lady Cyclist, 1896
26 – Dursley Pedersen Cantilever Bicycle
27 – Lady Cyclist Wearing Divided Skirt
28 – Lady Cyclist, 1939
29 – Lady’s Bicycle (3 Speed Gear and Dynamo Lighting)
30 – Italian Velocino Bicycle
31 – Touring Tandem
32 – Racing Tandem
33 – Racing Tricycle
34 – Path Racing Bicycle
35 – Light Roadster Bicycle
36 – Horizontal Bicycle
37 – Road Time Trial Bicycle
38 – American Bicycle
39 – Saddles
40 – Family Tandem With Side-Car
41 – Cyclists & the Y. H. A.
42 – International Cycle Touring
43 – Six-Day Racing
44 – Massed-Start Racing Position
45 – Track Tandem Position
46 – Touring Position
47 – Road Time Trial Position
48 – Track Racing Position
49 – Road Records: S. H. Ferris
50 – Bicycle Polo