Willard Sawyer Quadricycle

Willard Sawyer1852

Canada Science and Technology Museum

Canada Science and Technology Museum
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Interest in the Hobby Horse faded rapidly after 1820. Over the next few decades, designers explored various mechanisms for making the human energy applied to wheeled vehicles more efficient. However, they weren’t entirely convinced that people would be able to pedal a machine and balance on two wheels at the same time.

Willard Sawyer’s 1852 four-wheeled wooden Quadricycle was one result of such thinking.

To ride the machine, you climbed in between the two wheels, sat on the seat, put your feet in the stirrups of the treadles below and then pushed forwards with one foot and then the other, in a motion similar to cross-country skiing. The treadles turned massive cranks on the front axle, which was connected to the 40-inch (102 cm) wheels.

To steer, you twisted the T-shaped handle in front of the seat. The handle pulled cables attached to the rear axle, so that your direction was controlled by the back wheels, not the front ones. This was thought to be more practical than turning the front wheels and having them bang into your legs.

While treadles and cranks were more efficient than pushing against the ground with the feet, the weight of the Quadricycle limited this riding experience to flat ground and a dignified pace.

So dignified was the ride that Sawyer made a machine very much like this one for the Prince of Wales in 1858.


  • Title: Willard Sawyer Quadricycle
  • Creator: Willard Sawyer
  • Date: 1852
  • Location Created: Dover, England

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps