Rudge 'ordinary' bicycle, 1884.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This direct-driven ordinary bicycle, here lightened for racing purposes, was used by Dick Howell in many cycle races in the late 19th century. The frame is tubular and the front wheel is tangent-spoked with a solid rubber tyre. The front wheel is 57.75 inches in diameter and the rear wheel 16.25 inches. 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 The lower and more stable safety bicycle of 1885 which superseded the ordinary, was much the same in design as modern bicycles, with two similarly sized wheels.