The Velocipede. - The San Francisco Examiner, 24 Nov 1868
The velocipede seems destined to come into use in this city, though it will not soon attain here the vogue it has reached in France. Our streets are too narrow and too crowded, and we have few broad, smooth avenues affording the opportunity of employing it extensively as a means of exercise and health. Still, it is so attractive and fascinating, developing so much strength and skill, and affordíng so great amusement to the rider, that its votaries and students must become numerous.
The only artistic velocipedes consists of two wheels, the one directly behind the other, and connected together by a light iron frame work. The fore wheel is usually a little higher of the two. Where great speed is aimed at, its diameter may be made as great as four feet, while that of the hind wheel should hardly exceed two feet and eight or ten inches. In most of those that have been seen in this city the two wheels have been pretty nearly equal, with a diameter of about two feet and four inches.
The propelling force is applied through treadles, which are fixed to the fore wheel. The rider drives himself by the alternate action of his feet upon these treadles. The motion of the feet is not unlike that in rapid walking. The rider sits upon a little saddle just over the fore part of the hind wheel and guides his velocipede by turning the fore wheel to either side. This is done by means of a stiff iron rod which rises from the axle, and has a cross bar at the top that is held by both hands of the rider.
The first art of the velocipede is to keep your balance. This is not unlike the same operation in skating. It can only be acquired by practice. The more rapid the motion, the easier it is to keep the machine upright. In velocipede contests in Paris, prizes have been given to the slowest rider.
With wheels of small diameter, the rider stops himself by putting his foot to the ground. With high wheels, he checks his speed with a brake, and descends to the earth by inclining to one side till the foot touches. In mounting with high wheels, a skilful practitioner starts his velocipede with a push, and springs into the saddle, as we have watched Richard O'Gorman mount a horse at speed.
The most beautiful velocipedes that we have seen have been French, but several carriage makers in this city are engaged in building them. They promise machines much superior to any from Paris. The Halons, [Hanlons] who have given velocipede exhibitions in New England, profess to have made some improvements upon the French structure.
Is there any danger in using this curions apparatus? Experience alone can tell how much danger there is. A skilful rider can guide himself in a crowd of persons without running against them; but all riders cannot be skilful. On a smooth course the speed of twelve miles an hour can easily be made, and with a four-foot driving-wheel twenty miles will not be difficult. But that can only be done upon a hard and even surface. The rough pavements of New York are unfavorable to much speed.
We know a gentleman, who takes exercise with one of these machines every evening, and goes from Thirty-fifth street to the Battery in ten minutes; but be has to wind about a good deal in search of a suitable roadway.
The Commissioners of the Central Park ought at once to open a course for the use of velocipedists, or admit them to the carriage drive, under proper restrictions. - [N. Y. Sun.]