Bicycle enthusiasts Paul and Charlie Farren (Charlie's the wife) present their incomparable collection with sharp color photos by Peter Horsley, a fellow enthusiast who is a commercial photographer. Though select, the Farren collection is representative of the history, development, and types of bicycles with concentration on the latter 19th century when the most notable developments took place and bicycling was at the height of its popularity. Paul Farren has collected bicycles from around the world at auctions and antique and specialized shops. Many in his collection come from his homeland of Australia where bicycles were imported mostly from England, France, and the United States or built domestically after models and innovations from these countries. The dry climate of Australia allowed for the exceptional preservation of the antique bicycles, as the clear details of the photographs evidence.
The presentation starts with "Mobility for the Nobility"; though this is only one page to locate the origination of the bicycle with the German aristocrat Baron Karl von Drais in 1917. Von Drais invented the "first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine." This didn't have gears though, and was known as a "hobby horse," a still-familiar child's toy. The contraption many regard as the first bicycle appeared probably in Britain in 1863. Known as the "velocipede," it had pedals at the front tire to rotate it for movement and a brake for the smaller rear tire. Gears did not start appearing on bicycles until the 1880s, and it wasn't long before bicycles resembling those of today with pedals and the main gear rotating a chain attached to other gears at the rear wheel quickly gained popularity over the earlier types with their big front wheels that were relatively strenuous to propel, difficult to maneuver, and uncomfortable for the rider.
The last bicycle shown is a British Army folding bicycle of the Second World War, also known as a "parachute bicycle". Its pedals were designed for use with thick Army boots with large heels while at the same time for folding into the collapsible frame. The authors' text is filled with such knowledgeable historical and technical points through chapters focusing on developments for speed, safety, comfort, and commercial and military uses including innovations which in later years were seen as "ludicrous" yet which had a part in the development of bicycles.