Pederson Bicycle – The Ride for You

What bicycle has 14 steel tubes, connected at 57 places and forming 21 triangles? Kiss goodbye to saddle sores, backaches, and bone-shaking rides over Capital Region pot-holed streets.

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The hammock-like saddle cushions the Pedersen cyclist from all such discomfort.

A Contemporary Pedersen

That saddle sways with peddling motion to give almost complete suspension. The cycle’s designer, Danish inventor Mikael Pedersen wrote of the saddle: “It `gives’ in every direction, the weight is evenly distributed … you may take my word for it that all cyclists and especially ladies after once trying this seat will refuse to ride on any other.”

The Cantilever Bicycle – A Lasting Technology 125 Years Later – This 1897 article from the Scientific Topics section of the Evening Gazette Burlington, Iowa 8/17/97 tells the whole story. (The article, or variations, was also published in 1897 and 1899 in 16 other newspapers covered by the “Newspaper Archive”):

Evening Gazette Burlington, Iowa 8/17/97

“The accompanying illustration is from a photograph of the Cantilever bicycle, cycle construction, and its inventor, Mr. Nickall Pendersen (sic.). One of the features wherein this machine differs materially from the ordinary safety bicycle is the weight (ED: A “safety bicycle” is the grandparent of the standard bicycle frame design in use today). Cantilevers range in weight from the nine-pound racer to a wheel for rough use, which weighs 14 pounds. The construction is the outcome of the inventor’s desire to secure a perfect seat. Mr. Nickall Pendersen (sic.) is a Dane, residing in England, and he has been a wheelman for twenty years. His idea was to enjoy the comfort of a hammock on a bicycle, which he accomplished by the use of silk strings on which the saddle rests. The front forks are attached to the rest of the frame by a pivot connection at the top and by a strong pivot hinge at the point shown in the cut just where the lower part of the frame joining with the crank hanger goes up to a point near the top of the front wheel. This connection gives the machine a sensitive steering device.”

Dursley Pedersen Bicycle ca. 1910

Mikael Pedersen, the Inventor – Danish inventor Mikael Pedersen

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Mikael Pedersen

developed the Pedersen bicycle, also called the Dursley Pedersen. He produced the bicycle in Dursley, England. Though never hugely popular, Pedersens enjoy a devoted following and are still produced today. Your author spotted one in Albany several years ago. On 3/30/20, E-Bay featured a used 8-speed for $2,500. The unusual frame is a pure cross, marketed as cantilever, and features a distinctive hammock-style saddle. Variations include lightweight racing, tandem, and folding designs. Other Pedersen innovations include two and three-speed internally geared rear hubs. The latter were troublesome and not up to the quality of the other all-time-great (and only?) English invention, the Strumey-Archer hub gearbox.

The Move to the UK – Pedersen received a patent in the United Kingdom for his bicycle in the early 1890s and constructed the first model out of wood. He formed the Pedersen Cycle Frame Co. Ltd., and when that fell into financial difficulty, production continued at the Dursley Pedersen Cycle Co. The Pedersen Cycle Frame Co. also licensed the design was to other manufacturers, and, while approximately 30,000 units resulted by the early 1920s, the design never really caught on.

A Contemporary Pedersen

In 1978, Jesper Sølling resumed production in Copenhagen and has been followed by others.

A Contemporary Pedersen – Count the Tubes!

The Hammock Saddle – Pedersen wrote that he developed the hammock style seat first. It provides suspension from road imperfections with much less weight, 4 ounces (110 g) instead of 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of traditional leather and steel spring saddles of the day. Pedersen then developed a frame, a truss assembled from several thin tubes, around his new seat design.

He attributed his inspiration to the Whipple-Murphy bridge truss. (Albany resident Squire Whipple was the first bridge builder to apply scientific principles to the field with his Whipple Truss bridge.*

Evolution of the Hammock Saddle – The frame design initially did not support seat height adjustment, and even after some adjustability was added, eight different sizes required manufacture. The non-standard frame design would not accommodate a traditional front fork. Instead, Pedersen developed a fork that also consisted of thin tubes assembled into a truss, which was attached to the frame with bearings at two distinct points, instead of through a traditional head tube. Pedersen also received patents for a chain wheel and bottom bracket combination and lightweight pedals.

Maybe another COVID-19 give-away will come through to finance your a “new” bicycle …

A Contemporary Pedersen

Selected videos to enhance your appreciation of the Pederesen foloow::

SOURCES:

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*  There are three Whipple Bridge samples in the Capital area – one leading to the residence of the Albany Police Department horses at Normanskill Farm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whipple_Cast_and_Wrought_Iron_Bowstring_Truss_Bridge), one at the Visher Ferry Historic site, and a rare doublewide bridge in Town Of Claverack, Columbia County.

A Whipple truss has diagonal members working in tension. The main characteristic of a Whipple truss is that the tension members are elongated, usually thin, and at a shallow angle, and cross two or more bays (rectangular sections defined by the vertical members). The bridges are like a life-size “Gilbert Erector Set” that could have been assembled by a small work crew out of modernly light-weight components using basic hand tools – and, hopefully, some detailed instructions on how all the parts fit together. Whipple bridges were easy to transport and assemble and were common on the Erie Canal to connect parts of farms that canal digging divided and as “change bridges” where the mule team could cross to the other side of the canal. A notable side product of these and other Erie Canal bridges was the ever-popular “Low Bridge! – Everybody Down” also known as “Fifteen Years on the Erie Canal” or incorrectly as “Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal.” Thomas S. Allen wrote the lyrics and music in 1913 possibly as a nostalgia song when the New York State Barge Canal with its tugs and self-powered canal boats drove the hoagies and their mules (and their way of life) out of business.

I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal

 Fifteen years on the Erie Canal

 She’s a good old worker and a good old pal

 Fifteen years on the Erie Canal

We’ve hauled some barges in our day

 Filled with lumber, coal, and hay

 And every inch of the way I (we) know

 From Albany to Buffalo

Chorus:

 Low bridge, everybody down

 Low bridge cause we’re coming to a town

 And you’ll always know your neighbor

 And you’ll always know your pal

 If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal

Get up there Sal, we’ve passed that lock,

 Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal

 And we’ll make Rome before six o’clock

 Fifteen years on the Erie Canal

One more trip and back we’ll go

 Through the rain and sleet and snow

 And every inch of the way I (we) know

 From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge, everybody down

 Low bridge for we’re coming to a town

 And you’ll always know your neighbor

 And you’ll always know your pal

 If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

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Filed under Bike Tech, Product Review

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