Rival / New Otto Special, c. 1887

This 48 inch Rival is suited for boys or smaller men. The maker is the Western Toy Company from Chicago, who already made boneshakers in 1869. They grew famous making the Otto boy's size highwheel. The factory made New Otto highwheelers between 1881 and 1891. They used a patent owned by Pope, maker of the Columbia bicycles. The New Otto bikes were oldfashioned the moment they started making them. In 1887 they started to build a very similar bike, named the Rival. There are not many differences between Rival and New Otto Special:  if it has ball bearings, it’s a Rival.

In the 1889 catalogue I see that the Rival was a bit more luxurious (like the bike in the pictures) and it was made in the sizes 46-54 inch. The New Otto was made in sizes 44-52 inch. I would love to see pictures of an original New Otto. Please contact me if you own one.

So we think the bike you see in the pictures is a Rival, probably from the years 1887-1891. It is a bit more sophisticated than the older New Otto models, with it’s cowhorn handlebars, which even seem to have had spade grips – very popular at the time in America. It also has the Stanley head, when the older New Otto must have had an open head.

These relatively cheap bikes did not have serial numbers, but the wheel size is stamped on the left side of the neck. 

So, the Western Toy Company built lower market bikes in the 1880’s. But in 1891 they changed their name to Western Wheel Works and became one of the serious bicycle makes with their Crescent safeties.

Thanks to Francesca DeRanzo from Kansas USA, for the pictures of his bike.