a Coker ancestor in 1881

please have a look at
this document from the french unicycling organisation (many thanks to Hervé Henaff)

there are two drawings and the second one is about
a unicycle that was ridden in Marseilles (France) by an italian gymnast in 1881.
this is undoubtly an ancestor of the Coker:p

I am wondering about two things:

  • the conventional wisdom is that unicycle evolved from
    penny-farthings. Might the reverse be true?
    that is the penny-farthing (“Grand Bi” in french) might have evolved to add a stabiliser to an unicycle?

  • I like the idea of having the axle of the frame that does not
    coincide with the axle of the seat. This has been discussed before (about another old unicycle) : could a modern unicycle be designed with the handle of the seat over the axle of the frame?

Re: a Coker ancestor in 1881

an english translation of the article would be nice
i can’t use online translators here at work

this is an interesting thought and if u look at the names of the different machines, it would seem to indicate that u may be onto something

we’d have to make sure what the unicycles we’re called at the time

it would make (only a) little sense for something to be called [‘bi’-anything] unless a pre-existing [‘uni’-something] allready existed and established the format of the word that would later be used to refer to the two-wheeled machine
if that Coker-ancestor was known as a Grand Uni, and that term was in use before the first recorded description of the Penny Farthing, or Grand Bi, u may be onto something

does anyone know when the Penny Farthing first appeared?
{here’s an article about the history of the Penny Farthing }

can we possibly believe that the human race had the uni b4 the b*cycle?

if we can establish this, will the MTB-fora ever live it down?

Re: Re: a Coker ancestor in 1881

certainly not: the first bicycle, as we know it, was built in 1865.

It was an instant hit and derived designs popped out: one was in 1875 the strange design english-speaking people call “monocycle”. The document is about this “monocycle” (please note that in french “unicycle” is called a “monocycle” so the language does not make a difference between the 2 designs)

This said this evolution of design from bicycle to unicycle and back to penny-farthing is, I think, possible (this strange twist you can witness with “natural” evolution of species!)


well Gild according to your reference I may be wrong:

  • first bicycle appeared earlier: 1861
  • first penny-farthing 1871
  • first uni ?

so … parrallel evolution?

The Translation According to Google:

You will find Ci after a text that I had put side for a certain time but which it was necessary to seize again in data-processing form to place it at the disposal. Here are which is made.

Herve Hénaff

Correspondence of Mr. Rousseau on the vélocipède unicycle

Marseilles, October 27, 1881

Reproduced with the pleasant authorization of the national Academy of arts and trades, numerical Academy http://cnum.cnam.fr titular of the royalties.

Mister the Writer,

In the n° 437 of Nature you give the description of the monocycle, and in the n°438, Mr. S.R. of Saint-Chamond, speaks to you about that which it saw in 1875 in Besancon, but here its history:

In 1868 everyone dealt with the vélocipède: my father, engineer manufacturer of road engines, was involved in the current; but its inventive spirit pushed it with the monocycle, and after a rather great number of tests, it was able to make me mount a machine exactly similar to that of which you give the drawing in your n°437.

We were very surprised little of time after having tried out the thing to see the same machine in Paris invented at the same time by Mr. Jackson, manufacturer of monocycles and tricycles.

The same idea had spouted out in several brains; but what astonishes me much, it is to see, thirteen years after, of the engineers believing to make a similar invention condemned for a long time, because here what I studied in the monocycle that I have gone up for thirteen years, but with which I never could travel. If I showed in Besancon, twice in Lyon in 1875, in Toulon, in Nimes, in Cannes, in Marseilles, etc, it is while returning to me in these various cities to take share with the velocipedic races, because I am large amateur of this sport, that I place, as make the English today, with the first rank.

The more the height of the double rim increases, the more resistance is large. At the beginning, my monocycle was with two circles like your drawing, the rays had 0m70, the total height of the instrument was of 2m80, it did not go although to the slopes. I then removed the double rim and his rays, then, louse to have all safety at the beginning, I added cranks actuated by the hands while I give the first impulse by beating the ground with the feet. Then, I have remakes the too heavy instrument, and I managed to have a monocycle possible of 30 kilog., but nevertheless impossible at the rise, and here why: It is which a slope of 0m has, 01 per meter and even with horizontal, the monocycle is always with the rise since one walks in a circle. While leaving, one skids hard, with a rise equal to the interior circumference of the circle; the dash given, resistance only decreases by half; it results from that that a monocycle of 3 or 4 meters diameter, built like mine

would be better; exceeded this size, we would have the resistance of the large wheel on the ground which would start to be felt. With the double rim, I examined a resistance three times harder at the beginning with the single one

rim of 0m, 10 thickness. My drawing gives you the exact demonstration that the practice provided me (fig.1).

Better a monocycle would be that which I managed to assemble and which I believed impossible. You will probably see it in Paris. It is an Italian acrobat who is here in this moment with the Crystal Palate and which makes run any Marseilles to see it going. I give you the drawing of it (fig.2).

Please accept, etc,


Re: a Coker ancestor in 1881

“wobbling bear” <wobbling.bear@NoEmail.Message.Poster.at.Unicyclist.com> writes:

> there are two drawings and the second one is about
> a unicycle that was ridden in Marseilles (France) by an italian gymnast
> in 1881.
> this is undoubtly an ancestor of the Coker:p
> I am wondering … the penny-farthing (“Grand Bi” in french)
> might have evolved to add a stabiliser to an unicycle?

Two wheeled, pedalled predecessors of the bicycle appeared in the
1850s [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle#History], apparently
predating these “monocycles” by several decades. In 1867, a
blacksmith named Michaux produced a model with brakes and from there
bicycle development geared up, and popularity soared as models with
rubber tires and other comfort and efficiency features proliferated.


I heard that the unicycle evolved out of people riding Penny Farthing doing weird little 1 wheel tricks. They would go real fast then brake (with their feet like on a kids bike) this would make their bottome wheel ride up and they would see how long/far they could ride on the one wheel.

Sebastian Hoehers book “Unicycling From Beginner to Expert” has some nice photos from the late 18xx’s with some guys with ~50" handlebar unicycles (without saddle), ready for racing.

And one photo shows an ~50" ultimate.

All radially laced rubber wheels, ouch.

The last picture of the book is from 1910, and shows a man named Guenter who rode 200km around the Bodensee in southern Germany. His unicycle had a saddle and handlebar; its wheel was 28"-36" (hard to guess from the drawing…)

Its a german book; I’ve heard that someone made an english translation.


unicycle with handlebars only!
boy these were strong people