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Baylis-Thomas 'ordinary' bicycle, 1879.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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The ordinary bicycle, or penny-farthing, was popular from the early 1870s to the late 1880s but was unstable and difficult to mount and dismount. The front wheels became increasingly large as makers realised that the larger the wheel, the further the cycle could travel with one rotation of the pedals. The lower and more stable safety bicycle of 1885 with two similarly sized wheels, which superseded the ordinary, was much the same in design as modern bicycles. The Baylis-Thomas ordinary was designed to offer higher speeds and a more comfortable ride than previous models. Various technological innovations were used to achieve this, including hollow tubing for the frame and front fork, meaning the bicycle weighed only 22kg.
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