The Evolution of Bicycles

man riding a bicycleThe bicycle went through a number of different stages before becoming the machine we all know and love today. For those of you that appreciate history, or for anyone looking to bolster their chances of winning the next round of pub quiz, here is the abridged evolution of bicycles.

  • 1790 – A Frenchman named Comte Mede de Sivrac is credited with inventing the first iteration of what would become the bicycle. It was called the celerifere, and it was basically two same-size wheels connected by a plank. There were no pedals or steering capabilities and it was made entirely from wood.
  • 1817 – The draisine, created by and named after a German Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun, was similar to the celerifere, but with a steering mechanism. It was more commonly referred to as a “hobby horse.”
  • 1858 – Pierre and Ernest Michaux, a father and son inventing team, are often called the true fathers of the bicycle for their contribution, the velocipede. Sometimes called the “boneshaker,” this design was known for its iron frame and iron-wrapped, wooden wheels that made for a rough ride. This was the first model with pedals, which were attached to the front wheel.
  • 1870 – High-wheelers, commonly seen in period films, had a very large front wheel and tiny back wheel. The rider would sit up high on top of the front wheel. The term “breakneck speed” was coined in reference to the fact that these bikes were almost impossible to stop once they got going, and crashes often ended in the rider going over the front wheel and landing on their head.
  • 1890 – The safety bicycle returned to the older form—two similarly sized wheels—in an effort to end the epidemic of head wounds caused by the high-wheelers. The safety bike featured a frame of all metal with solid rubber wheels. It was also the first bike to implement the sprocket and chain system that is still being used today.
  • Today – Soon after the safety bike, there were pneumatic tires. Bicycles have changed relatively little since then and have become one of the most common, economic, environmentally friendly, health conscious and enjoyable ways to get around.

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