Words and photos by Jeff Archer.
While on their way home from the Chicago World’s Fair, the Huyssen brothers, Phillip and Prescott, observed a group of neighborhood kids riding homemade scooters and wondered about the possibility of making an adult-sized version. The brothers tried combinations of various wheel sizes, including wheels with off-center hubs on both front and rear. Since the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, funding to develop the scooter was scarce. Taking advice from their lawyer, the brothers approached Borg-Warner, a company that produced a variety of items including automotive, agricultural and marine products. Borg-Warner was interested in pursuing the idea and transferred development work to their Ingersol subsidiary.
While the brothers worked to refine the design with Ingersol, the working name was the “x-ercycle.” The off-center wheel would allow the rider to use body English to propel the platform up and down, which would translate into forward motion. The up-and-down motion, along with pulling on the handlebars, would give the rider a full body workout. The scooter design was also considered safer than a traditional bike since the rider was just inches off the ground and there weren’t chains or cranks in which to get tangled up. Ingersol sold “Ingo-clad” steel, so the name was changed from x-ercycle to Ingo before hitting the market, although some early literature did use the x-ercyle name.
As the scooters entered production, folks found interesting uses for them. In 1935, Phillip Words and photos by Jeff Archer Vintage Velo: 1937 Ingo Huyssen rode an Ingo from Chicago to Miami in 12 days, garnering publicity along the way. Distance contests were staged using the Ingo scooters and they were popular rentals in tourist areas. The Ingo even made an appearance in the Three Stooges film, Yes, We Have No Bonanza. Despite some success, the Ingo factory was converted to Army shell production in 1937 and continued producing munitions into World War II, effectively killing the Ingo scooter.
The technical details of the scooters are interesting. The rear wheel was a 28” diameter while the front was a 20”, and both used single-tube (glue-on) tires. The rear wheel is laced off-center to give the forward motion. The pictures show the axle in both the highest and lowest positions. The wooden platform, with rubber mat, was placed on top of the flexible steel frame, which provided the spring motion. This was also a weak point where the frame could break when ridden hard. Braking was provided by a plunger-type brake that would rub on the top of the front tire. The rear fender features a handle to help move the scooter around. This particular scooter is missing the standard kickstand.
The bike industry often “re-cycles” ideas from the past, but surprisingly, the Ingo doesn’t seem to have a modern counterpart, even thought period advertising claimed “The Ingo- Bike is for everyone from 8 to 80.”
This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at MOMBAT.org.
This Vintage Velo originally appeared in Bicycle Times #25.Tweet Print