Sunday, January 21, 2018

Britain's 'oldest bike' is found: Cycle collector finds 199-year-old 'Holy Grail' in disused barn

Mr Stockdale is a former interior designer and opened his museum in 1989 after having a lifelong obsession with bicycles.

The previous owners had no clue the the bike was of such historic significance, and contacted Mr Stockdale when the building was being demolished to make way for a new development.

It is not known how long the bike has been hidden, but it was discovered during a building demolition in Beaconsfield.

The bike, which dates back to 1819, was originally made by Denis Johnson.

Mr Johnson made 320 bikes in 1819, after registering to patent them in 1818, but it is thought there are only 12 in existence today.

This bike is believed to be the oldest as the bikes were numbered chronologically.

Although Johnson referred to his machine as a ‘pedestrian curricle’, it was formally referred to as a ‘velocipede’, and popularly as a ‘Hobby-horse’, ‘Dandy-horse’, ‘Pedestrian's accelerator’, ‘Swift walker’ and by a variety of other names.

In the dying days of 1818, London carriage maker Denis Johnson released an improved version of the draisine, which he termed the “pedestrian curricle.” It had larger wheels, a simpler steering mechanism, a lighter overall weight of 40 to 50 pounds, and an adjustable seat.

Convinced of the mass appeal of this modified German Laufmaschine, Johnson opened a riding school in Covent Garden, the Strand and Soho.. There he taught fashionable young men how to cruise along on his curricles, and custom made the contraptions for each buyer, taking their weight and inseam into account to create the most comfortable ride possible.

In May 1819 he introduced a dropped-frame version for ladies to accommodate their long skirts.

For about six months the machine had a high profile in London and elsewhere, its principal riders being the Regency dandies. About eighty prints were produced in London, depicting the 'hobby-horse' and its users, not always in a flattering light. Johnson's son undertook a tour of England in the spring of 1819 to exhibit and publicize the item.

 Nevertheless, by the summer of the same year the craze was dying out, and a health warning against the continued use of the velocipede was issued by the London Surgeons.

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