With the plethora of unusual tricycle designs we've seen lately, it's easy to forget that some of the weirdest trikes came out over a century ago, when the technology was much younger. The asymmetrical Coventry Rotary tricycle was one such beast, and you may soon be able to buy an original example on auction – if your pockets are deep enough.
Although trikes aren't widely used by adults now, they certainly were in the 1880s. They were particularly popular with people who weren't comfortable balancing high atop the penny farthing bicycles of the time, along with women wearing long dresses, who couldn't easily straddle such bikes.
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The Coventry Rotary was designed by British cycling pioneer James Starley, and was manufactured in the UK city of Coventry starting in 1877.
It featured two small inline wheels on the right-hand side, along with a single large wheel on the left. The rider was seated on a saddle mounted on a crossbar between them, where they pedalled a chain drive that delivered power to the big wheel. Instead of handlebars, there were two hand levers – one activated a brake on the drive wheel, while the other provided steering by pivoting the two rod-linked smaller wheels.
So, what was the point? For one thing, it was able to ride relatively smoothly on traditional dual-wheel-rutted dirt roads – unlike normal tricycles, it didn't have a wheel in the middle that would ride up on the hump between the ruts. Additionally, cargo could be mounted on its long straight frame, making it popular with people such as photographers and fishermen.
The example that's about to come to auction dates from approximately 1879, and will be part of Bonhams' Beaulieu Sale taking place on Sept. 3rd. It is expected to fetch between £6,000 and £8,000, or about US$7,864 to $10,485.