Page:The Cycle Industry (1921).djvu/22

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he had over men of lesser stature who could only straddle a 52 in. wheel, which was the average size of high bicycle used in the late eighties. Tall men were almost always successful on the race track, although lightning pedallers sometimes made up in activity for what they lost in stature. In other words, those of a well-known “bookie” of the period, “I’d back a good big’ un against a good little ’un on a hordinary.”

The objections to the high bicycle were many, and among its chief drawbacks were that owing to the disparity in wheel diameters and the small weight of the backbone and trailing wheel, also to the rider’s position practically over the centre of the wheel, if the large front wheel hit a brick or large stone on the road, and the rider was unprepared, the sudden check to the wheel usually threw him over the handlebar. For this reason the machine was regarded as dangerous, and however enthusiastic one may have been about the ordinary—and I was an enthusiastic rider of it once—there is no denying that it was only possible for comparatively young and athletic men, and if it had remained the only bicycle obtainable, the pastime and the utility of cycling would never have reached its present state of popularity.

Introduction of the Ball Bearing. Among the improvements made to the ordinary high bicycle the most important was the patenting of the ball bearing. The actual patent was the subject of litigation at a later date, but I believe the credit for the screw-adjusting type should be given either to William Bown, of Birmingham, or to an engineer named Green of the same city. Previously to the ball bearing a bicycle had either plain bearings or roller bearings. The former required constant oiling, the latter were not easily adjustable for wear and entailed a heavier construction