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Victorian Couple Cycle Back to the Future

By Christopher Ashley

If I was writing this in 1890, I’d describe the Chrismans as a very modern couple.  You would see them cycling towards you on their high-wheel bicycles – Mr Chrisman in his woollen trouser suit, and Mrs Chrisman in a long dress and jacket.  The replica of DeLorean time machine suggests they’ve travelled to the future.

In keeping with their surroundings

The Chrismans live in Port Townsend, Washington, and their bicycles don’t look out of place in a city known for its Victorian buildings.  A National Historic Landmark District probably needs a few more high-wheel enthusiasts.


Mr Chrisman’s historical expertise

Modern bicycles still work on much the same principles as their Victorian ancestors, so Gabriel Chrisman’s job at a bike shop fits in perfectly with their lifestyle.  The range of bikes they have accurately reflect the trends of the day, be they direct drive or something a little more archaic.

Cycling like a lady

Sarah Chrisman likes to keep her clothing practical and authentically Victorian, so no trousers!  As Victorian ladies preferred long, elegant skirts, cycle makers of the era innovated with high-wheel tricycles.  A big wheel on one side of the seat and two smaller wheels on the other result in a surprisingly comfortable ride – Sarah notes in her blog that one Victorian lady rode 250 miles a month on her trike.

Tailored adjustments

Gabriel’s high-wheel bike is custom-made to his leg length – if the wheel was too large, he couldn’t reach the pedals.  Too short and he’d bang his knees on the handle bars.  But as much as the bicycles were adjusted to the shape of the owner, Victorians had to develop their clothes to the machine.  Sarah has heavy leather sewn into her skirt hems to prevent gusts of wind causing her embarrassment.

Sustainable living

Victorian living has its advantages – the clothes were designed to keep you comfortable in an era where indoor heating was limited.  Cycling is low-cost transport, but also keeps you healthier and happier.  But this time-travelling couple like the best from both eras – if they could travel back to 1890, I’m sure they’d want to take their car, and the Internet with them!