By Rod Ward
Early primitive machines led to large scale production of safe and speedy bicycles in the Victorian era. At the height of the late 19th century cycling craze many minds were turning towards ways of motorising these popular machines. Some inventors went on to develop motor cars, but others stayed with the two-wheeler. In the Auto Review series we have previously covered scooters (motorised two-wheelers with a footboard and step-through frame) and British motorcycles (motorised two-wheelers which the rider straddles, but which do not have pedals) so in this publication we tackle machines which have both pedals and a motor. In order to give the context, we first tell the story of the pedal cycle. Early attempts to motorise bicycles retained the pedals for two main reasons: firstly the engine was ‘bump-started’ by pedalling the machine along until it was going fast enough for the motor to spin up and start. Secondly, early engines were not reliable, and had limited range, so the rider could well need the pedals to get him home. The bump-start principle was retained on the ‘moped’, or motorised pedal cycle, though more sophisticated machines in later years could have a kick-start or electric self-starter.
Another avenue for the enterprising inventor was to market a ‘clip-on’ or auxiliary motor which could be fitted by an owner to his bicycle. These took various forms, including a motor integral with the wheel, or a motor which powered a roller in contact with the front or rear bicycle tyre.
Although it is often thought that the heyday of the clip-on was in the post-1945 austerity period, these devices date back to the earliest pioneering days. When a pedal bicycle was sold with a small auxiliary motor already fitted it was called an autocycle, but these were superseded by mopeds in the 1950s. The modern pedelecs and eBikes are also described here, so that the whole story of Pedals and Motors is told in this publication.