Cruising on an 1891 Overman Victor

Saturday, 2 March 2019

I had a ride in Melbourne with the Vintage Cycle Club on their annual city cruise. I was riding an 1891 Overman Victor sprung frame ‘safety bicycle’ borrowed from the Farren Collection’s wonderful assortment of old bicycles. ‘Safety’ means it has equal-sized wheels and chain drive, unlike the old Penny Farthings with their giant front wheel. The American Overman bicycles were at the cutting edge of bicycle development at the time and you paid for that high tech design. Even today it’s up-to-the-minute, it’s a ‘fixie.’ No question riding a Penny Farthing would be much more difficult, but even so these early safety bicycles are not straightforward. The saddle and handlebars are too close together to pedal off and swing your leg over like you do on a modern bicycle. Like a Penny Farthing you have to get it moving from behind, put a foot on the footpeg near the rear axle and then step on from behind. It takes a little practice, especially when you’re in period gear as well, right down to the bowler hat.