Cyclist pictured with an Otto cycle

Cyclist pictured with an Otto cycle

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Area Mitcham
Copyright 1 London Borough of Merton
Picture Reference Mit_​TomFrancis_​Ln38
Original Format Photo
Photographer / Origin of Photo Tom Francis
Notes / History The Otto was an early form of safety bicycle - its two track format is commonly called a 'Dicycle' to differentiate it from the in-line two wheelers. The machine had the advantages of a tricycle in its low riding position and open front (allowing it to be ridden by women wearing skirts) but with greater efficiency by lacking the friction of a third wheel. Furthermore as balance was achieved by fore and aft, rather than side-to-side motion, novice riders were merely pitched forward on to their feet in learning to ride the machine, a rear jockey wheel preventing a backward fall. So effectively could the machine be controlled that legend has it that it was demonstrated to the Board of BSA (which took on its manufacture) by being ridden from one end of the boardroom table to the other. Some 2000 machines were supposed to have been built, but only a handful are known to survive. Although BSA were famous for component manufacture, the Otto was one of only two machines the company built in the 19th century - the other being an equally rare safety bicycle of 1885-6.

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