The Ordinary and the Safety

Oct 31, 2015

RAY: This comes to us from Carrie Brown in Windsor, Vermont, who writes:

In the 1800s, the high-wheeled bicycle was called the Ordinary. It was almost exclusively a toy for wealthy young men.

It was expensive. It cost a half a year's wages, and it was dangerous, the most common accident being the header, when the rider would fly over the handlebars. The Ordinary was difficult to mount, with its tall front wheel, and difficult to ride. But, it had certain advantages.

In an attempt to make cycling more universally accessible, bicycle engineers and manufacturers eventually developed what was called the Safety bicycle, which had two wheels of the same size, and chain drive and gearing -- not unlike bikes that we have today.

For various reasons, however, the Safety bike did not catch on immediately. It was considered ugly, inelegant, inefficient, and uncomfortable.

Then, in 1889, a veterinary surgeon in Belfast, Ireland patented an accessory that revolutionized the bicycle, and, from that point on, Safeties began winning races, and the Ordinary quickly fell out of fashion.

What was the name of this veterinary surgeon, or, what did he patent?

Here's a hint: if I gave you his name you'd know the answer.


RAY:The reason I couldn't give you his name is that his name is John Boyd Dunlop. And Dunlop invited the pneumatic tire. See, the big wheel of the Ordinary smoothed out the ride over those cobblestone streets and rutted back roads. Dunlop’s tire made the Safety bike the bike of choice, because now it was no longer uncomfortable. So who’s our winner?

TOM: Our winner this week is John Robertson from Chillicothe, Ohio. Congratulations!

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