Cycling Trivia

Historical Facts About the Bicycle and Cycling

  • Ninety One
    Team 91
  • 4-minute read
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Every object around us started as an idea, then creation or invention, and then phases of evolution to bring them to their current state. The same has been with the bicycle which started as an idea, created using a couple of different inventions. Between the nineteenth century to the twentieth century, it went through multiple evolutions to become what it is today. Let's take a peek into the history of the bicycle.

Let's start from the very beginning.

Year 1817

Credit has been given to a German baron Karl von Drais. In those days, the transport was by horse or horse carriage. The German baron created a device called a draisine or 'dandy horse' to get around faster. This vehicle, a horseless carriage, was a wooden two-wheeled, pedal-less device. In using this contraption to move ahead or propel forward, the rider would have to use their feet against the ground.

Year 1853

The Draisine evolved into a Velocipede, which was the added pedal-driven transmission. The invention of the first bicycle with pedals was attributed to Philipp Moritz Fischer

Year 1860

A Velocipede called the Boneshakers

A company by the name of Michaeux in France produced a kind velocipede and gave it the name 'Boneshaker'.This name was a fit for this 27 kilograms, which could travel at 13 kilometers per hour at its fastest. It sported solid tyres and apt to its name it surely must have been the most discomforting ride.

Year 1869

The first appearance of the term 'Bicycle.'

The term "bicycle" was coined in France to describe a new kind of two-wheeler with a mechanical drive.

Year 1871

Ariel The First Geared bicycle

Yes, we guess you must be surprised. It is easy to assume that geared bicycles are a recent invention. But surprisingly, they've been around since 1871. They were not practical since one needed to dismount, remove the wheel, flip it around and reattach it just to change the gear. Not very practical, but still, nevertheless it was the first geared bicycle. This invention can be attributed to James Starley.

Year 1885

Rover Safety Bicycle

Still with the Starley family, but this time James Starley's nephew, John Kemp Starley, and William Sutton who was a local cycling enthusiast, designed very similar modern bicycles we are familiar with the Rover Safety Bicycle. It sported 26 inches wheel, chain drive, two equal-sized wheels, and a diamond-shaped frame. The Rover spelt death to the Velocipede.

Year 1887

Pneumatic Tyres

Though not a bicycle upgrade or invention, a very important aspect that requires a mention. Pneumatic tyres were invented by John Boyd Dunlop this year.

The 1970s

The Bike Boom

The 1970s is known as the Bike Boom. Americans, more specifically the Baby Boom generation, started getting more exercise conscious. 10-speed, derailleur geared racing bikes became widely available. With the health consciousness and the availability of the right rear to support that millions of Americans bought their first bike, creating a considerable rise in demand and popularity.

While the Americans were into riding, as a form of activity and exercise, cycling started becoming the mainstream mode of transport in another part of the world around the same time. We're talking about the Netherlands. While in the earlier part of the century cycling was popular but waned for multiple reasons including the introduction of motorized transport. The popularity of bicycles soared once again due to multiple reasons. One of them was the 'Stop de Kindermood movement', meaning 'Stop the Child Murders' protest because of the death of too many children in motor vehicle accidents. Another factor, like the oil shortage in 1973-1974, ensured the restriction of urban motor vehicle use and to choose a safer, people-friendly, and livable mode of transport. And the popularity of the cycle has only grown from there.

Year 2020

The Pandemic and Paris Agreement.

Cycling became more popular during the pandemic as it was a naturally socially distant activity. It was around the same time that governments across the world have been taking measures to encourage cycling as a means of transport. That was a needed step to achieve the target of reducing emissions to net-zero by the mid 21st century to keep the rise in mean global temperature to well below 2C.

Cycling has an interesting history and has a large part of play in the future as well.

Before we sign off, here's an interesting fact, not exactly about the evolution of the bicycle, but the effect of the cycling mania in the 19th century. So, did you know that the bicycle can be indirectly the reason we have aeroplanes?

Stumped, let's explain.

In the 1890s, during the bike craze, two brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright joined in. They participated in races, but more than that, they owned several bike shops in Dayton, Ohio, and profited from them. They also ventured into the manufacturing and design of bicycles. They made and saved thousands of dollars with their ingenuity and ambitions, which was a princely sum in those days. All this extra income of large amounts was wisely spent on one of their more ambitious projects. Well, you guess it right travel through the skies.

So that's about the history of the bicycle. Do you have any interesting facts to share? If yes, please share by adding to the comments box below.

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