What is your street’s cycling secret

penny farthing bicycle

How well do you know the cycling history of your local area?

Over the course of the last 18 months and as part of our helping Kingston to deliver its Go Cycle project, we have discovered the borough has a rich history of cycling, cyclists and bike manufacturing.

For example, John ‘Happy Jack’ Keen attended a local school, developed a love of cycling went on to be described by Wheeling World in 1885 as ‘in the first rank of cycling celebrities’.

He won his first at the age of 20 setting a British record on half a mile in two minutes forty-five seconds – that’s an equivalent of 11 mph, which may not seem like a particularly quick average speed unless you consider that he was riding a boneshaker similar the one below.

boneshaker bicycle

11 mph is quick on one of these

The desire to improve on these speeds led to the development of the Ordinary bicycle – a design more commonly referred to as a Penny Farthing. Keen started to build his own Ordinary bicycles in Kingston – designs that were considered some of the finest available.

So effective was Keen’s ‘Eclipse’ model of penny farthing that he used it race against horses at the local Surbiton race track. He almost always triumphed against the horses, the pedigree of which is unknown.

history of cycling

The arrival of the Penny Farthing doubled race speeds

If your local area has an interesting cycling history, please share what you know in the comments section below.

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