Geared Facile

Ellis & Co.1887

Canada Science and Technology Museum

Canada Science and Technology Museum

The Geared Facile introduced in 1885 combined three design concepts in an attempt to provide a bicycle that was just as fast as the original Ordinary, but safer.

First, raked forks were used to move the riding position and therefore the center of gravity behind the front hub and between the wheels. This seating position made it difficult to reach regular pedals; instead, you pedalled levers behind and below the hub. The new position, along with the pedals, helped to eliminate headers at the same time as it reduced steering wobble.

Second, the Facile used a much smaller driving wheel than the original Ordinary: it was only 40 inches (102 cm). If you took a header, or went over sideways, you didn’t have as far to fall.

Third, the Facile employed a relatively large 25-inch (64 cm) rear wheel. Its size meant it could roll over stones or other obstructions, rather than skipping to the side, causing you to crash.

Finally, the Facile used “sun and planet” gearing to make up for its small driving wheel. With this arrangement, as one gear circled the other, the rim turned more than once. By “gearing up” you could get the equivalent drive that was possible with a wheel as large as 57 inches (145 cm).

Overall, you had a safer ride on the Facile than on an Ordinary but you weren’t forced to sacrifice speed.

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  • Title: Geared Facile
  • Creator: Ellis & Co.
  • Date: 1887
  • Location Created: London, England