Coventry Rotary Tandem Tricycle

Coventry Rotary Tandem Tricycle


1886 Coventry Tandem - A high wheel tricycle made by Rudge Company of Coventry England. Also known as the Rudge Rotary. Built to get the ladies involved in cycling in the 1880s.

In 1894 the Rudge Cycle Co or Rudge Company would merge with Whitworth Cycle Co of Birmingham to form the Rudge Whitworth Cycles company. They would go on to make some very nice motorcycles.

Click here for more info on the Rudge Whitworth Cycles company

This one is one of 5 built/rebuilt by famed bicycle collector/restorer M.S. Made with original parts as well as reproduced parts. M.S. built/rebuilt 2 without a serial numbers, a tandem and a single seat. He built 3 with serial numbers. He used an original 1886 single seat bike as a guide. The frame is made from DOM tubing and the wheel hubs were machined from solid bronze.

Although trikes aren't widely used by adults now, they certainly were in the 1880s. They were particularly popular with people who weren't comfortable balancing high atop the penny farthing bicycles of the time, along with women wearing long dresses, who couldn't easily straddle such bikes.

The Coventry Rotary was designed by British cycling pioneer James Starley, and was manufactured in the UK city of Coventry starting in 1877. The original company was called "The Tangent and Coventry Tricycle Co Ltd" of Spon Street, Coventry.

It featured two small inline wheels on the right-hand side, along with a single large wheel on the left. The rider was seated on a saddle mounted on a crossbar between them, where they pedalled a chain drive that delivered power to the big wheel. Instead of handlebars, there were two hand levers – one activated a brake on the drive wheel, while the other provided steering by pivoting the two rod-linked smaller wheels.

It was able to ride relatively smoothly on traditional dual-wheel-rutted dirt roads, unlike normal tricycles, it didn't have a wheel in the middle that would ride up on the hump between the ruts. Additionally, cargo could be mounted on its long straight frame, making it popular with people such as photographers and fishermen.

The company also made a side by side version. See pictures.

Click here for more pictures

Click here for pictures of the delivery version

Click here for pictures of this bike being built/rebuilt


On Display at the Rural Heritage Museum in Maryland
Top 5 Bicycle award and Peoples Choice award @ Simple Transport Show

Featured in June 2019 Motorcycle Monthly Magazine
Oldest British Bike Award at Classic Motorcycle Day

Click here for some pictures of the original owner/builder touring Mackinac Island with 2 of the bikes he built

At about the same time this bike was made in the late 1800s, many manufacturers were experimenting with different designs. One design was a chainless bicycle. Enjoy this video on the history of chainless bicycles.

Equipment Specifications
ModelRotary Tandem Tricycle
Serial Number3
Number of Seats2
Detailed Information
Detailed Description
A Coventry Rotary tricycle by the Tangent & Coventry Tricycle Company Limited
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