1876 Lawson ‘Lever’ Safety Bicycle


Early Bicycles 1791-1907

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In 1876 Harry John Lawson of Brighton introduced the ‘Lever’ bicycle. The main features included a large treadle-driven rear wheel 50 inches (127cm) in diameter, and a small front steering wheel about half that size. Both wheels have wire spokes in tension and are fitted with solid rubber tyres. The bicycle is heavy, weighing approximately 60lb (27 Kg). It is strange that for his ‘Lever’ bicycle Lawson adopted a method of propulsion which was as a retrograde design in the evolution of cycle transmission systems. The drive to the back wheel was obtained by the up­ and-down movement of two foot-treadles operating connecting rods and cranks directly coupled to the rear wheel. This method of propulsion is primitive when compared with Lawson’s earlier, but more technically advanced design of 1873. It was early in this year that Lawson invented and constructed the first safety bicycle to incorporate a chain-driven rear wheel transmission system, a method of driving a bicycle which was to be adopted for the following century as the most practical and logical way of propelling a bicycle by manumotive power. Lawson’s historic 1873 bicycle has a simple main cross frame from which a short-forked metal bar projects downwards. The fork accommodates in plain bearings a two-pedal crank which drives the rear wheel by means of a contemporary ‘lawn mower’ type chain and sprockets.

Additional information

Weight 0.013 kg
Dimensions 38.1 × 25.3 cm