The Otto bicycle

Edward C.F. Otto, Birmingham Small Arms Company LimitedCirca 1880

Musée des arts et métiers

Musée des arts et métiers
Paris, France

Englishman Edward C.F. Otto patented this bicycle with two front wheels in 1879-1880. The idea is ingenious: to provide transversal rather than longitudinal stability. The wheels are mounted on a load-bearing axle behind the seat, and the gears that transmit the movement to the wheels by two metal belts on pulleys are in the front. There is no handlebar: the rider steered the bicycle with two double handles on either side of the seat. The inner handle was pulled to operate the shoe brake and the upper handle was turned to disengage the belt by means of pinions on a toothed rim. To go around curves, the rider operated the brake on the side of the turn and disengaged the belt on the other side. Behind the seat, a safety bracket with a small wheel kept the bicycle from turning over.


  • Title: The Otto bicycle
  • Creator: Edward C.F. Otto, Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited
  • Date: Circa 1880
  • Date Created: Circa 1880
  • Location: United Kingdom
  • Provenance: Musée des arts et métiers
  • Subject Keywords: Cycles
  • Type: Acier, bois, caoutchouc
  • Contributor: Author : Sandra Delaunay
  • Inventory number: Inv. 14015
  • Credits: © Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam/photo Pascal Faligot

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