History of the Bicycle – A Journey Through Time

The name “Bicycle” was devised in the 1860s in France. A bicycle is a human-powered two-wheeled vehicle. The wheels are held in a frame, while it is steered by handlebars, propelled by pedals and it requires balancing by the cyclist.

Before the invention of bicycles, animals were the main mode of transport on public roads.

Bicycles have many uses. It is used as a means of transport. Bicycles are also used for recreation by adults and children alike, with children using them as toys while adults using them for bicycle stunts and bicycle racing.

History of the Bicycle

The First Bicycle

Bicycle invention started in the 16th Century which was propagated by the discovery of Leonardo da Vinci’s bicycle sketches dating back to 1493, this was 400 years later.

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It is not clear whether it is Leonardo da Vinci’s himself or his student Gian Giacomo Caprotti who made the sketches. The first bicycle design was based on Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches.

The first bicycle to be invented was not commercialized and it was not practical. It was invented by Comte de Several. The bike was designed like a scooter, and it didn’t have pedals or a steering.

German Baron Karl von Drais’s Bicycle

Baron Karl von Draise de Sauerbrun a German inventor is credited with the design of the first practical bicycle made in 1816 because it had a steering. German Baron Karl von Drais was a civil servant working for the Grand Duke of Baden, Germany.

German Baron Karl von Drais’s invented a velocipede in the 19th Century called Laufmaschine. The velocipede had two wheels secured together with a bar. Steering the velocipede involved running and walking to gain the momentum needed to cruise the velocipede at a high speed.He kept improving on his bicycle designs.

His design was improved by the invention of the Dandy Horse which was also made commercial. The Dandy Horse remained without many further improvements for about 40 years.

The Bone Shaker

A Scottish blacksmith is credited with inventing bicycle pedals in 1839. Two French Carriage makers are also recognized in history for revolutionizing the bicycle. They are said to have added a driving seat and also attached pedals on the bicycle’s front wheels.

The two inventors kept improving on the bicycle features. In 1864 they made their first prototype of an efficient and easy to produce bicycle. Then in 1870, they started mass producing the bicycles then known as Boneshaker. The bicycle frame was iron, and later they had rubber tires and ball bearings.

The High Wheeler Bicycle 

In 1869, Frenchman Eugene Meyer produced a different design of the bicycle. The front wheels were larger than the rear wheels. The bicycles were mass produced by an Englishman. The bicycle was more comfortable that the boneshaker.

It also had a lighter framer and higher speeds. However,it was difficult to cycle it uphill and downhill. In England, the high wheeler was made commercially available in the 1870s.

The Safety Bicycle by John Kemp Starley

The modern design is greatly attributable to an English industrialist and inventor called John Kemp Starley. Starley pioneered the “Golden Age of Bicycles.” His bicycles were steerable, comfortable, fast and safe.

He also came up with the name Rover.His design of bicycles was safer and user-friendly than previous inventions. He started with tricycles before moving to invent the Rovers in 1883.

In 1885, Starley produced the Rover Safety Bicycle. The bicycle had two similar-sized wheels and was more stable than high wheelers. John Kemp Starley’s bicycles had a front wheel that was steerable and a chain to connect the pedals to the rear wheel.

It is called the Golden Age of Bicycles because bicycles became the main means of transport, and their manufacturing costs were low making them affordable and popular in many parts of the world. His bicycle designs lasted until the 1950s.

After his death in 1901, his organization became among the pioneers in motorcycle and car manufacture.

Bicycle Technological Innovations

Bicycle technology or the modern age bicycles followed the Golden Age of Bicycles with the introduction of different types of bicycles in the 1960s and 1970s. It saw the invention of mountain bikes, racing bikes, BMX bikes, commuter bike, ladies bikes and other types of bicycles to meet the needs of different market niches.

The ladies bike was designed in the 1890s, it had a step-through frame and a skirt guard to make it easier for ladies to mount and ride bikes without their dresses and skirts getting entangled.

Cycling in the 21st

Bicycles have become a very common vehicle of the 21st century because cycling has become a major leisure activity and transport means. In fact, developed countries have put in place bike infrastructure to make it convenient and safe for cyclists.

Biking is popular because it is healthy, convenient,  cost-effective and environment-friendly. Environmental groups and governments are encouraging citizens to use bikes instead of driving cars. The use of bicycles can reduce global warming because bicycles don’t use fuels and therefore they don’t emit carbon dioxide into the environment.

There is also continued innovations in the design of bicycles. Bicycle manufacturers continue to make components that are lighter and more functional. The other feature being improved onis bicycle stability.In addition, bicycle inventors now use computer-aided designs in their bicycle innovations which havegiven rise to even newer designs like the E-Bike.

Global Bicycle Statistics

Bicycle statistics show that the number of cyclists keeps increasing in major countries in the world. In the USA alone, from 2014 to 2017, the number of cyclists increased from 43 Million to 47.5 Million.In the UK, in 2017, statistics indicated that about 4.2 Million cycled at least three times per week.

In many cities in the world, Bike Commuting is increasing annually. Canadians also use bikes as a significant means of transport. In the Netherlands, about 27 % of all trips are done using bicycles.

There are various bike events in the world, the most popular is the Tour de France which attracts many riders and spectators globally.

This makes the bicycle a big industry.In the USA alone, bicycle annual sales are estimated at being about$6 Billion. Therefore cycling is expected to continue soaring globally in the future.

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