“The Velocipede or Swift Walker” (from Connecticut Mirror [Hartford, Connecticut] 31 May 1819; p. 1, col 4)
This truly original machine was the invention of Baron Charles De Drais, master of the woods and forests of H. R. H. the Grand Duke of Baden. The account given of it by the inventor, of its nature, and properties—is,
1. That on a well-maintained post-road, it will travel up hill as fast as an active man can walk.
2. On a plain, even after a heavy rain, it will go six or seven miles an hour, which is as swift as a courier.
3. When roads are dry and firm, it runs on a plain at the rate of eight or nine miles an hour, which is equal to a horse’s gallop.
. On a descent, it equals a horse at full speed.
Its theory is founded on the application of a wheel to the action of a man in walking.
With respect to the economy of power, this invention may be compared to that very ancient one of carriages. As a horse draws, in a well constructed carriage, both the carriage and its load much easier than he could carry the load alone on his back; so a man conducts, by means of the velocipede, his body easier than if he had its whole weight to support on his feet. It is equally incontestible, that the velocipede as it makes but one impression, or rut, may always be directed on the best part of the road.—On a hard road, the rapidity of the velocipede resembles that of an expert skater; as the principle of the two motions are the same. In truth, it runs a considerable distance while the rider is inactive, and with the same rapidity as when his feet are in motion; and in a descent, it will beat the best horses in a great distance, without being exposed to the risks incidental to them, as it is guided by the mere gradual motion of the fingers, and may be instantly stopped by the feet.
It consists of two wheels one behind the other, connected by a porch, on which a saddle is placed, for the seat of the traveller. The front wheel is made to turn on a pivot, and is guided in the same manner as a bath chair. On a cushion in front, the fore-arm is rested; and by this means the instrument and the traveller are kept in equilibrio.
Its management.—The traveller having seated himself on the saddle, his elbows extended, and his body inclined a little forward, must place his arms on the cushion, and preserve his equilibrium by pressing lightly on that side which appears to be rising. The rudder (if it may be so called) must be held by both hands, which are not to rest on the cushion, that they may be at full liberty, as they are essential to the conduct of the machine, as the arms are to the maintenance of the balance of it (attention will soon produce sufficient dexterity for this purpose;) then placing the feet lightly on the ground, long but very slow steps are to be taken, in a right line, at first; taking care to avoid turning the toes out, lest the heels should come in contact with the hind wheel. It is only after having acquired dexterity in the equilibrium and direction of the Velocipede, that the attempt to increase the motion of the feet, or to keep them elevated while it is in rapid motion, ought to be attempted.
The saddle may be raised or lowered, as well as the cushion, at pleasure; and thus suited to the height of various persons.