The modern bicycle design—with its diamond frame, chain drive and wire-spoked wheels—has changed very little since its inception in the 1800s.
But there was a period in history when engineers were busily trying to outdo each other by inventing the best, the most comfortable, convenient, sophisticated, lightweight and affordable bicycle.
“I love the engineering of the 1880s because it was such out-of-the-box thinking,” said Gabriel Chrisman, a local bike mechanic and Victorian-era historian. “A lot of these engineers, you’d give them a white piece of paper and tell them to come up with a better bicycle, and they’d come up with something.”
Chrisman has spent his life studying the technology and innovation of the 19th-century, specializing in the creation of the bicycle, which is still a hugely important part of modern life, though relatively unchanged from its original design.
Now, he has been contracted by a TV company to create a handmade replica 1880s “safety bike,” which will be featured in a new period drama on HBO.
Chrisman and his wife Sarah are easily recognizable and well-known around Port Townsend. The couple specializes in late 19th-century history and culture and bring elements of Victorian life into their everyday lives.Their 19th-century home is appropriately decorated with Victorian furniture and art. Sarah Chrisman can often be seen riding around town on a Victorian bicycle in her Victorian-era clothing in between writing fiction and nonfiction books about the Victorian era. Gabriel, who is an archivist and librarian, operates his own hand-built bicycle business called Victorian Cycles. From time to time he rides his 19th-century “ordinary” bicycle—with one large wheel, and one small—on the ferry to his job at the Coupeville Library…