Long-distance shot of Velorama in Nijmegen, taken from bike lane on the bridge across Waal river into town. Velorama is a three story building packed with bikes dating back as far as early 1800s. My trip was very unstructured but there were a couple of things I did particularly want to do. Visiting this museum was one of them.
Portal to Fietsmuseum Velorama... should have sign reading 'abandon all hope of doing anything else for the next few hours, ye who enter here!'
Bicycle 1.0: The Dawn of Creation
These bikes date from the early decades of 19th century. Bicycle concept is clear, but it's still the basic Flintstone design... no pedals, feet on the ground. One appears to be a hybrid of bike and horse... the 'missing link' in bicycle evolution?
Early 'trike'. In mid-1800s, much development went into three- and four-wheel human propelled vehicles. Here, an elegant example.
The Ordinary, or "Penny Farthing". Nickname relates to relative dimensions of wheels, evocative of English coinage of the era. This was the design that prevailed in latter half of 1800s. Doing a header over the front wheel was pretty common. Hit a bump...whoops... crash.
Extreme Sports are nothing new. Give a guy a bike, and he's bound to try something stoopid. Here is some loony doing BMX-style tricks on his ride, circa 1890.
The "Safety Bike" emerges. Late 1800s, this new and improved design emerged. Called the "Safety Bike" because riders were much less like to take a header over the front. Still lacked a few features we consider normal in the safety area... for example decent brakes, or a rear brake at all for that matter. Look around urban areas today, you'll see plenty of examples of basically this bike, ridden by the hipper among us... the modern 'fixie'.
High Tech Suspension? Roads were brutal. Most tires were solid rubber. How to cope? Here are two examples of early suspension concepts, designed to smooth out the bumps. Very ingenious, but I'm skeptical about the ride. The true secret of a smooth ride was invention of the modern inflatable (pneumatic) rubber tire, in the very late 1800s.
Natural Carbon Fiber. I always thought of early bicycles as being made of steel. Wrong. The early builders were incredibly inventive in use of materials. Today, there is nothing cooler than a bamboo frame... extremely current. But not new! Turn of the 20th century, they were making bamboo bikes... with wooden wheels. And they were beautiful.
The Other Carbon Fiber. What if you can't get your hands on a good supply of bamboo for building a frame? Go the Art Deco route with bent local hardwood a la Thonet!
More 'Modern' Technology. The late Victorian / early Edwardian era was the height of the Industrial Revolution, and machines had become mechanically very sophisticated. No surprise that some of the sophistication emerged in high-end bicycles. A couple of things that are considered cutting edge in the early 21st century were already robust and patented technologies a hundred years ago. For example... shaft drive systems, internal geared multi-speed systems, even a 2-speed system with a reverse gear. There is very little under the sun that is truly new!
Folding Bike. Of particular interest to me, as I was travelling on one. Here is a lovely folder, pre-1920. The workmanship was exquisite. Note, no chain -- it has a drive shaft.
An array of slightly more modern folders... these are only a few decades old.
A proper saddle. I've tried a number of saddles. Some are better than others, but to be honest, they are all butt biters after enough miles. Now here is something! Combination of hammock and saddle, this looks like it might be the most comfortable ride ever. I don't want to try it because I don't want to be disillusioned... better to keep this Platonic ideal of comfort than to know the truth about whatever particular form of misery this one actually features.
Easy Rider. An early chopper.
My "Best of Show" Award. Out of hundreds of interesting bikes, this is the one that I most wanted to ride away on. A travel bike, but not a folder. Instead, it dis-assembles into portable package.
Is it beautiful, or what? And perfectly named.
I'm at a loss. Propped in a corner of the museum. Took me a minute or two to even realize it was a bicycle, then another few to understand how it works. You (the rider) sit on the assembly in the center and pedal. That assembly rides continuously 'uphill' on a track provided by the inner circle. Your distance and speed are amplified via attachment to the much larger outer circle... a form of virtual gearing. Brilliant? Weird? Highly stable or wobbly deathtrap? Can only say you don't see these often on the road.