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Monday, December 13, 2010

High Wheelers - The First Machines to be called 'Bicycles"

Penny-farthinghigh wheelhigh wheeler, and ordinary are all terms used to describe a type of bicycle with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel that was popular after the boneshaker, until the development of the safety bicycle, in the 1880s.[1] They were the first machines to be called 'bicycles'.[2]
Boneshaker (or "bone-shaker"), a name used from about 1869 was used to refer to this first type of high wheel bicycle with pedals. "Boneshaker" refers to the extremely uncomfortable ride, which was caused by the stiff wrought-iron frame and wooden wheels surrounded by tires made of iron.
High Wheeler                                  Safety Bike

Although they are now most commonly known as 'penny-farthings', this term was probably not used until they were nearly outdated; the first recorded print reference is 1891 in Bicycling News.[3] It comes from the British penny and farthing coins, one much larger than the other, so that the side view resembles a penny leading a farthing.[4] For most of their reign they were simply known as "bicycles". In the late 1890s theretronym 'ordinary' began to be used, to distinguish them from the emerging safety bicycles[5] and this term or Hi-wheel (and variants) is preferred by many modern enthusiasts.[6][7]