Bicycles - History of Bicycles


Many people made early kinds of bicycles, but the first modern bicycle was created in 1885, by the British inventor John Kemp Starley. His design, the "Rover Safety Bicycle" had all of the basic parts. It had a front wheel steered with handlebars, and pedals that turned a chain connected to the rear wheel. The wheels were nearly equal in size, and it had a seat like a saddle for the rider. Mass production of bicycles began in 1890, which reduced their cost, and made it possible for almost everyone in Britain to buy one. Since then, they have fulfilled a need for inexpensive, individual transportation for people all over the world.

The earliest version of the bicycle was the wooden "running machine", created by the German Baron, Karl Drais von Sauerbronn, in 1818. It had two wheels and could be steered, but it had no pedals. These became known as "velocipedes".

  • Pierre and Ernest Michaux attached pedals to the front wheels in 1861. Their devices were very heavy, and nicknamed "bone shakers" because of the bumpy ride their owners experienced.

  • The "Ordinary" or penny-farthing was first sold in 1871. These "high wheelers" were the first all metal bicycles. The pedals were attached to the front wheel, and so the size had to be customized to the rider's leg length. Falling from a penny-farthing was very painful.

  • "Safety" bicycles were created to bring the rider closer to the ground. The first efficient chain-driven safety bicycle was Henry J. Lawson's "Bicyclette", which he patented in 1879.

  • At the end of the 1800s, bicycles were especially popular with women in Britain. This led to a significant change in women's fashion. They found they could not ride in corsets, bustles, and long skirts, and so separate-legged "bloomers" with shorter skirts became common.

Ernest Michaux in 1863. A simpler and more elegant solution than the Macmillan bicycle; Michaux's design included rotary cranks and pedals mounted to the front wheel hub. In 1868, Ernest Michaux founded Michaux et Cie (Michaux and company), the first company to manufacture velocipedes with pedals commercially.

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