Rover Safety Bicycle
Coventry Transport Museum
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This bicycle is a very important bicycle and it may be called the 'production prototype of the present safety bicycle'.
The Rover safety bicycle was created in Coventry by John Kemp (J.K.) Starley in 1885. It is called a ‘Safety Cycle’ because it was safer to ride than the High Ordinary or Penny Farthing cycles that were used by most cyclists at the time.
During the 1880s, many bicycle makers experimented with different designs for safer bicycles. When the Rover safety bicycle was first built it was very different from the previously built cycles. This bicycle is important because of its shape and some of the improvements J.K. Starley added to it. J.K. Starley had been developing safety cycles during the 1880s and there were three major designs of this bicycle patented. By the end of the decade he had designed a bicycle that was better than all the other bicycles around at the time. This bicycle is the third version design introduced by J.K. Starley.
The Rover safety bicycle embodies the main principles which we still have on bicycles today--a diamond shaped frame, such as wheels of nearly equal size, a saddle that is in the best riding position, handle bars steering the front wheel through forks either side of the wheel, pedals placed near the bottom centre of the bicycle for safety and a chain to drive the back wheel. With the drive no longer on the front wheel, but through a chain and gears to the back wheel. This gearing system meant the 'Safety Cycle' could travel the same distance, in one turn of the pedals, as a Penny Farthing cycle.
From this point onwards, all cycle makers made bicycles based on this design as it became so popular with riders. The success of the bicycle led Starley to name his company 'Rover'. This company later became the Rover car company.
So this bicycle became the pattern for most modern bicycles, even mountain and road bikes ridden today.