Monday, March 9, 2009

Penny Farthing Kangaroo Bicycle前轮大后轮小的脚踏车

Mr Mok Kim Weng, the man who love bicycle, opened a bicycle shop in the small town of Simpang Empat, Semanggol, Perak. The shop is dealing in retailing and repairing of bicycles.

Mr Mok has collection of old bicycles, one of the oldest is Penny Farthing Kangroo, make in England in 1884. But Mr Mok said it is much earlier, actually 1881.

There are not many Penny Farthing bicycle available now in the world. It is the only one in Malaysia.

The description of Penny Farthing actually refers to old British penny and Farthing(1/4 penny) coins. Penny is of larger coin size than farthing, the side view resembles the Penny leading the farthing. It is just like the first machine that called bicycle, that have large front wheel and smaller rear wheel. That is the reason for the name of Penny Farthing to the first bicycle. The name is reported only appeared in
print from 1927.

Penny Farthing is also called High Wheel, High Wheeler and Ordinary Bicycle(initially it was the first to be called Bicycle, which meant two wheels). It was the type of bicycle with a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel. The bicycle was popular between Boneshaker(or Velocipede) until the introduction of Safety bicycle.
The Boneshaker was the first to use pedals directly applied to front wheel in 1865 . It was called Velocipede,which meant fast foot.

It was James Starley and others that begin to produce bicycle based on French boneshaker, but with the front wheel of increasing size, as larger front wheel enable faster speed. The rider was sitting on top of the front wheel,and his feet could not reach the ground.
The ordinary bicycle was a direct drive bicycle,
meaning the cranks and pedals are fixed directly to the hub. Instead of using "gears" to multiply the revolutions of the pedals, the driven wheel was enlarged to close to the rider's inseam to increase the maximum speed.

Note the first all metal bicycle only appeared in 1870, prior to that bicycles are wooden bicycles. The bicycle frame was then all make of steel tubing, reducing the overall weight of the bicycle.

Kangaroo gear is not related to Australian in anyway, it refers to kangaroo style gear up chains drive fitted to the larger front driving wheel or kangaroo gear, a early bicycle gearing system comprising independent right and left chain wheels driven by their own chain from the front driving wheel . The idea of kangaroo gear was put into commercial production by Hillman, Herbert, & Cooper of Premier Bicycle Co of Coventry in 1884 with their Kangaroo model. The model was officially introduced by the company in the Stanley Show, at the Floral Hall , Covent Gardein , London in February 1884. The model and this name, Kangaroo give rise to the type of bicycle using the kangaroo gear. Kangaroo become the trademark of the company for the bicycle. Kangaroo bicycle also attempt to make ordinary bicycle more manageable by fitting wheels of nearly equal size, but the most important is the two chain drive on the front wheel. The kangaroo bicycle set a new trend in bicycle history. Most bicycle manufacturers start produce the kangaroo bicycle.

The kangaroo was however replaced by rear chain safety bicycle, devised by Rover in 1885. The manufacturer was reported only produced kangaroo bicycle from 1884 to 1887.
The kangaroo type disappeared from the bicycle catalogues by 1888.

From the history mentioned above, the Penny Farthing Kangaroo bicycle can only be around from 1884, the year of its first commercial production until 1887 where it no longer manufactured by the producer in England. Mr Mok said that the bicycle he owned is manufactured much earlier in 1881 is not possible, as the fist kangaroo bicycle only commercially produced in 1884. It is only between 1884 to 1887. Unless the bicycle is the prototype during R&D stage. The year of 1884 may be correct, and it is the first year of commercial production.

Note in bicycle literature, the Kangaroo bicycle was refer to as both a dwarf ordinary and dwarf safety, as the bicycle type appeared during the transition period between the ordinary or penny farthing and the development of safety bicycle. The kangaroo was promoted in the advertisement in those period as" Safer than tricycle"; "Faster than a bicycle" .

The development history of bicycle is from Hobbyhorse (or Draisienne)- a walking machine; Velocipede (or Boneshaker) a faster due to pedals attached to front wheel; Penny Fathing or Bicycle or ordinary bicycle- two wheels of different size, with front wheel of larger size to enable the bicycle to move faster; kangaroo- adding a gearing system , until Safety bicycle- two wheels of identical sizes and a chain driven rear wheel.

Hillman, Herbert, & Cooper of Premier Bicycle Co, Coventry, England
The firm had been established in 1876 with three partners, William Hillman, William Henry Herbert and George Beverley Cooper. Hillman had previously been a foreman at the Coventry Sewing Machine company and had practical experience.

What is safety bicycle?

The safety bicycle or low safety is a type of bicycle that became very popular beginning in the late 1880s. The first safety, using a diamond frame, was invented by John Kemp Starley in 1885. "Safeties" are characterized by having two wheels of identical - or nearly identical - size, and a chain-driven rear wheel.

The safety bicycle was a big improvement on the previous penny-farthing design which it replaced. The chain drive, coupling a large front cog (the chainring) to a small rear cog (the sprocket) to multiply the revolutions of the pedals, allowed for much smaller wheels, and replaced the need for the large, directly pedaled front wheel of the "penny-farthing" or "high ordinary". The smaller wheel gave a harder ride, thus hastening the replacement of solid tires with pneumatic ones. (source:

The first pnuematic tire was first applied to the safety bicycle by a young animal doctor, who is giving more comfortable ride to the son, his name is Dunlop, sound familiar to Malaysian?

Please also noted that the Rover Safety bicycle was launched by John Kemp Starley(1854-1901),who is the nephew of James Starley(1830-1881). James Starley , who was responsible for making popular the ordinary bicycle or penny farthing, and called the Father of Bicycle Industry. James also builds the original Aerial high-wheeler in 1870,with 50 inch front wheel to make use of suspension principle. John Kemp Starley , who is the inventor of modern bicycle, the safety bicycle,and the founder of name Rover. The Rover begin manufactured of automobile car after the death of John Kemp Starley, who also make electric car but never put into production..

In Vienna, Austria, there is a group of 20 riders, enjoyed riding Penny Farthings(you can visit their web site refer to

The oldest Penny Farthings is ca 1875, wheel size 112cm & black in color, the owner is Bicycle Museum
Vosendorf Castle, Austria.

Another 1875 Penn Farthings is the
ariel high wheel bicycle patented by James Starley on 11-8-1870 under the licence by Haynes & Jefferis, Coventry, England. It was market until 1879. The owner is National Fietsmuseum , Velorama, Netherlands.

The visit to Simpang Empat, Kerian is a history of bicycle well learnt....

1 comment:

  1. Hi allPenny Farthing lovers,
    Want to see how to mount & dismount a Penny Farthing?

    Go Youtube Penny Farthing made in Jitra.

    This Penny Farthing is hand built by Tim resembling a High Wheel of the 1870ties using available local Parts from Bicycles available in Malaysia and fabricated at his workshop..

    Tim full name is Timothy Wooi a Moonshine Specialist/Engineer who develops Tim's Waterfuel, a HHO generator to suppliment Fuel and loves application of Technology as well as Inventing,Machining & restoration of Antiques.

    We will be starting a Penny Farthing Cycling Club using Penny Farthing to all who loves to turn back the clock! Want to join?

    He can be located at 20C,Taman Bahagia,06000,Jitra,Kedah or through Tim 019 4514007.
    God bless,
    John 3:16 Riders