Cycle racing was the world’s premier spectator sport in the 1890s, and cycle makers invested heavily in their sponsored teams. Racing successes were a surefire way of propelling a manufacturer to success, as everyone wanted to buy a road-going version of a champion’s mount. Pacers were powered by three, four or more riders in order to ride faster than the cyclists and, by the end of the decade, engines were added to two-seat tandems for the same purpose. You can see an original quadruplet pacing tandem below, on display at the National Museum of Scotland.
1940s Colson Quadruplet Tandem
Multi-seat tandems were not only used as pacers, they were also sold for the public to enjoy, and were particularly popular with cycling clubs. As the sight of four or more riders cycling in unsion had comic potential, they were also used by performers and circus acts. Probably the best known in Britain is the triplet tandem used in the TV show ‘The Goodies’. There were several versions of these, built by the BBC, who also created a ‘Vigintipede’, claiming it to be the longest tandem in the world. It made its debut on Blue Peter in 1972.
The example presented here was built postwar by the Colson Cycle Mfg Co. this leading American company started out by making tiller & treadle tricycles and Fairy tricycles for children. It’s a heavyweight machine built for the leisure market, and though it would be suitable for road touring it has most likely spent its life being used for shows and displays, for which it is ideal.