Origin and Brief History of Bicycle

Wooden draisine (around 1820), the first two-wheeler and as such the archetype of the bicycle

A bicycle, also called a bike or cycle, is a human-powered or motor-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels connected to a frame, one behind the other. A bicycle rider is called a cyclist, or bicyclist.

Bicycles are one of the most prevalent forms of transportation in modern cities today. Especially in some parts of India, Japan, and in Dutch countries, bicycles are used as a fundamental form of transportation. Aside from being a financial and environment-friendly form of transportation for adults and adolescent students, the bicycle is also widespread among children as toys. In the United States, school children ride their bikes to school. Kids and toddlers learn their first attempt at independence and autonomy in bike riding. Nowadays, bicycling exercises and health fitness activities that include bicycling are also coming up and are being recognized as new forms of sports, attesting to the fact that indeed, the bicycle has not lost its practical appeal to human activities.

What most people do not know is that modern bicycle has evolved over some period of time. Humans are now experiencing the transportation, recreational, and health perks of the bicycle due to some very relevant inventions and discoveries thereafter which resulted in the modern bicycle – most commonly called now as the bike – that we have today.

The documented history of the modern bicycle goes back to the early 19th century with the invention of the “velocipedes” or human-powered vehicles. These velocipedes are used and moved using the rider’s legs and feet. One of the first examples of the velocipede is the pushbike or the “draisine” which was introduced in France by German Baron Karl von Drais in 1818. The draisine, much like the present-day bike, had two aligned tires that were attached by a wooden seat where the rider sits on as he or she pushes along with his or her feet.

Innovation on the draisine came around 1839 with Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick MacMillan. MacMillan added a standardised handle to the end wheel. This enhancement in design and structure brought the velocipede much closer to the modern bicycle that we have today. Between the 1950s-1960s, further innovations were made on the bicycle. Two Frenchmen, Ernest Michaux, and Pierre Lallement added a new dimension to the bicycle design by enlarging the diameter of the front wheel and attaching pedals to it. Aside from the front pedals characteristics, this bike was now made of a steel frame that was mounted on wooden wheels wrapped with metal or iron tires. But because the tires were not proportionate to the frame and to its hind wheels, this device was made to fail; and albeit the metal and iron tires the wheels sturdier, its heavy and unequal weight made it harder to move around. No wonder this new bicycle was named the “boneshaker”.

The 1885 innovation on the new bicycle answered some of the problems in the design and purpose of the “Boneshaker”. J.K. Starley, Shergold, and Lawson reduced the diameter of the front wheel. They also moved the seat farther back from the front wheels and attached the chain drive so that the rider need not pedal on the front wheels. This made the “Dwarf” safer for the rider, not to consider more symmetrical and easier to ride on.

Further relevant innovations came around the 1880 and the 1890s, adding new features of the design to the bicycle making it more comfortable to use and with applied physics, this sequentially made the bicycle one of the best-loved forms of transportation, sports, and entertainment that we have today.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.