High-wheelin’ tandem style

by on Jan.13, 2012, under Bicycles, History

Bikes made before 1900 are rare enough; many still hidden away in barns. Most people probably think of me and think how taking it a next step away from reality is just how I live. Ashamed to say, that might be the case. Post-RAGBRAI 2011, I decided a high wheel tandem would be fun to ride (what is wrong with me?!). So I started researching a bit, and came up with very little information and pictures. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, though.

1 High wheelin tandem style

2 High wheelin tandem style

The Ruckter tandem was imported in 1884 or 1885 and was ridden state side. One is hanging in the Ben Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. I laughed out loud when I first saw it. Reading the papers of the times about a 4 inch difference in wheel size could accommodated. The two wheels could be ridden parallel with a couple foot wide track; this was not for the weak of heart. There is at least one in the CZ that has been ridden in modern times. One was made for the Glenn Stockdale collection which defyied ridding at least by the vetrans that tried to master it. Later sold at auction about 7 years ago. If Jimmie Spillane can build a monocycle – this should be a walk in the park for him to turn out one. Amaze your friends and family wear a helmet along with your partner take out a hefty insurance policy and give it a go, we’ll be waiting to see the youtube videos.


3 High wheelin tandem style

The Benjamin Franklin Institute labels this as a photo from 1884.

Cornelius C. Mershon and Alvin Irwin on a Rucker Tandem in 1884

4 High wheelin tandem style

Additionally, this one from 1931.

Henry Crowther and two children wave to the camera on June 3, 1931.

Most typically, back in those days, a tandem bicycle (high wheel) was called a courting bike; also known as dual track or two track. They had a total of 3 or 4 wheels; any combination of big and small – 2 big, 1 little; 1 big, 2 little; 4 big. The true high-wheel tandem is clearly difficult to ride, and quite something to master – both physically and mentally!

court3 High wheelin tandem style

5 High wheelin tandem style

Tandem boneshaker!

6 High wheelin tandem style

Another strange tandem of the old days.

7 High wheelin tandem style

Comic book ad which mentions high-tandems.

1 Comment for this entry

Leave a Reply