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Cycling was all the rage at the end of the 1800s. But as a sport it was mainly the preserve of wealthy young men such as record-breaking Bristolian Francis Fry.
Cycling clubs had sprung up around the country almost as soon as bicycles started to appear in Britain. In Bristol, several clubs frequently raced on roads around the city, incurring the kind of public wrath that cyclists still frequently attract today.
After many months of training at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, in 1883 Francis Fry, a member of the famous chocolate-making family set the record for 100 miles on a solid-tyred bicycle. It took him 5 hours 50 minutes and 5.6 seconds, riding round and round the course there.
His penny- farthing bicycle was not really practical for day-to-day use but could be ridden very fast. The pedals were connected directly to the front wheel, so that one revolution of the pedals turned the wheel once. If the wheel was made bigger, one revolution took the bicycle further. Bicycles with front wheels of just over 1.5 metres in diameter were not uncommon. There was a special knack to mount and dismount from such high machines, and riders had to keep a close look out for obstacles in the road that could upset them. The machines had no effective brakes but stopping was achieved by stopping the pedals.
The record Francis set on such an awkward machine is believed to stand to this day.