Nick Kaufmann

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Nick Kaufmann

Nicholas "Nick" Edward Kaufmann (born November 10, 1861 , Rochester , New York ; † January 10, 1943 , Berlin-Wilmersdorf ) was an American art cyclist .

Childhood and youth

Nick Kaufmann was born as the fourth of five children to an immigrant, a basket maker from Triengen in Switzerland. At the age of three he became a half-orphan because his father had died in a camp as a prisoner of war in the American Civil War . At a young age, Kaufmann worked as a stable boy and coachman for a rich family. Kaufmann first tried swimming, then gymnastics and roller skating. He came into contact with cycling in July 1881 when a neighbor of his employer lent him a penny- farthing bike. Then he bought a used "Ordinary" and practiced acrobatic tricks on the bike from the start.

Just a year later, Kaufmann made his first public appearance in his hometown. A member of the "Rochester Bicycle Club", Reuben Punnett, noticed him, supported and trained him from then on. Punnett was one of the first to own a bike in Rochester and had won awards in both trick cycling and slow cycling .

Inventor of Radball

Kaufmann played his first bike ball game on one of these star high bikes.

Kaufmann is considered to be the inventor of Radball . The first cycle ball game - Nick Kaufmann versus John Featherley - took place on September 14, 1883 on high wheels in Rochester. According to Kaufmann himself, the idea for Radball came to him after a pug ran in front of his bike on a drive . He carefully pushed the dog out of the way with the front wheel. This gave rise to the idea of ​​taking a ball instead of the dog.

Success as an artificial cyclist

Kaufmann on his Eifel bike from Brennabor at the Cyclists' Bundestag in
Halle in 1896

In September 1885, Kaufmann took part in a three-day cycling event in Springfield , to which many cyclists from England and the rest of Europe had traveled. Kaufmann was the only one to contest the unicycle race over a mile. The Springfield Republican was headlined: "On One Wheel Against Time". Kaufmann achieved a record as well as the attention of the newspapers and the cycling scene.

In 1886 Nick Kaufmann made his debut at the "Stanley Cycle Show" (a bicycle fair) in London . He then toured Europe and Turkey for ten years. So he appeared at the Bundestag of the German Cyclists Association in 1886 and accompanied the celebratory parade on the unicycle. In 1888, an artificial cycling world championship took place in London, which Kaufmann won, and he received a medal with the inscription: "Professional Cycle Trick-Riding Championship of the World". In 1893 he took part in the first cycling world championship in Chicago, for which he returned to the USA for the first time after 1886 and successfully defended his title (albeit still unofficially). When he returned to his hometown Rochester, he was enthusiastically celebrated. He also won the European Championship in 1893 and the Bavarian Championship in March 1894.

Kaufmann was extremely enterprising. He had numerous company sponsors and had professional postcards printed in various poses. He was married to a German woman with whom he had two children. His son, the doctor Dr. Nicholas Kaufmann , later became a well-known German director and producer of cultural films .

Merchant as impresario

"Kaufmann's Cycling Beauties"

In 1895 Kaufmann took part in a tour through the USA with the German power man Eugen Sandow , then toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus . During this time he formed the "Kaufmann Family Troupe" of nephews and nieces; the troop was later increased to twelve members with additional drivers. This troupe toured all over Europe. Kaufmann himself gave up his active career, called himself " Impresario " and managed the troupe, which in the meantime consisted of several groups, from Berlin. The First World War ended these tours.

Kaufmann stayed in Berlin during and after the First World War. He ran a roller-skating rink and trained roller-skaters for the variety show. In 1926 he stopped all these activities and opened a stamp business. Nick Kaufmann died in Berlin in 1943.


Kaufmann's high bikes can be seen in the two-wheel and technology museum in Werder an der Havel. Among them is a star bicycle from HB Smith Machine Company, ( Smithville , New Jersey ). Its peculiarity is that the small wheel is attached to the front as a steering wheel (it is the other way around with all other high wheel types). Another star bicycle, which is said to have been used for the first bike ball game, was bequeathed by Kaufmann's son in 1943 to the Swiss Sports Museum in Basel, where it is on display.


  • Sandra Markham: "Nick Kaufmann - On a Wheel Against Time", in: Cycle History. Proceedings of the 7th International Cycling History Conference 1996 , San Francisco 1997, pp. 65-73.
  • Hans-Dieter Gerber: Nick Kaufmann , contribution to the Historical Lexicon of Switzerland, 2005.
  • Renate Franz / Michael Mertins: "Nick Kaufmann - Master Driver of the World", in: Der Knochenschüttler , No. 50, 3/2010, pp. 4–11.

Web links

Notes and individual references

  1. a b RC Charlottenburg (Ed.): RC Charlottenburg. 125 years of cycling in Charlottenburg . Berlin 2008, p. 42 .
  3. Eifel-Rad is the name for high wheels in artistic cycling, named after the Eiffel Tower because of their height
  4. Official UCI World Championships in artificial cycling (indoor cycling) have only existed since 1956.
  5. ↑ In 1925, Dr. Nicholas Kaufmann wrote the classic of the cultural film "Ways to Strength and Beauty", in which his father Nick Kaufmann can also be seen briefly: [1] (Nick Kaufmann is the cigarette-smoking cyclist.)
  6. ^ The German cyclist , June 16, 1943
  7. ^ Sports Museum Switzerland ( Memento from May 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive )