Courses
Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
More

Diving Deeper into the History of Bicycle

By RiddhiMay 30, 2023
share icon

Who Invented Bicycles and When?

A bicycle, also known as a bike cycle, wheel cycle, or just simply cycle, is a pedal-driven, one-track vehicle that consists of two wheels, one at the back of the other affixed to a single frame. It has a saddle attached to a metal rod for the rider to sit and two handlebars to steer the bike while riding. The pedals are used to propel the bike to move ahead.


This two-wheeled vehicle was introduced in the 19th century for the first time in Europe. The word bicycle originated from the prefix ‘bi,’ which means two, and the Greek word ‘kyklos,’ which means wheel. A person who rides a bicycle is called a cyclist, or even sometimes a bicyclist.


A bicycle is either powered by a human or a motor. Human-powered bike cycles or bicycles are quite a dependable mode of transportation and are environmentally friendly. In this blog, we will discuss the history of bicycles, which will help you gain knowledge on who invented the cycle and also about bicycle evolution.


History of Bicycle

The bicycle has a very bumpy history with so many unknown facts and confusion that even today, each year, a Bicycle History conference is conducted to clarify all the details related to its origin. Many historians show contradictions about the invention of this wheel cycle, while many dates are still being questioned. In addition, there have been various unverified claims about the bicycle's invention.


A sketch of a bicycle by Leonardo da Vinci from around 1500 AD earned him credit for creating the first sketch of a bicycle in his Codex Atlanticus. But unfortunately, Hans-Erhard Lessing declared a purposeful forgery in the 1960s.


Another unverified bicycle ancestor was ‘the velocifere’ or ‘the celerifere’ developed by some ‘Comte de Sivrac’ in 1972. It presumably contained two wheels attached to a hard wooden frame and had no steering. There was minimal control of direction, which could be attained by leaning forward. The person riding this machine would be required to push it using alternate feet while sitting athwart the device.


However, today it is believed that this celerifere was just a misinterpretation by a then-famous French journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier in 1891, and it never actually existed.


Who Invented the First Bicycle?

Baron Karl von Drais invented the first verifiable evidence of the two-wheeled rider-driven machine in Germany. Known as a civil servant to the Grand Duke of Baden in Germany, Karl invented this running machine in the year 1817. It was named by the press the draisienne in French or the Draisine in English.


In 1818, he was granted a patent for this design, and it became the first commercially successful two-wheeled human-propelled steerable machine. It was built of wood and consisted of no pedals. Instead, the rider had to push it by paddling his feet against the ground while steering the wheel in front. This incredible invention was called velocipede and was locally known as a hobby horse or dandy horse.


People from countries like the United States, Austria, Great Britain, etc., soon started manufacturing copies of his Draisine.


Draisienne

Draisienne


The most renowned among the various British cartwrights who started copying Karl’s concept was Denis Johnson from London. He purchased a draisienne and soon patented an improved model in 1818 with the new name ‘pedestrian curricle’.


However, the public favoured the name hobby horse more. Denis’s machine was an enhanced and elegant version of Karl’s draisienne. He gave the wooden frame a serpentine look instead of the straight one, which allowed the use of larger-sized wheels without lifting the rider’s seat, keeping the rest of the design the same.


Denis manufactured over 300 of these, and it was extremely pricey. This machine soon started concerning people’s health, and it became almost impossible to ride except on smooth roads. This led to the end of Johnson’s production only after six months.


What Led to Bicycle Evolution?

Bicycles started evolving from a simple bicycle to pedal-powered ones in the 1860s. Nearly 40 years after the end of draisienne production, the first cycle in the world, people focussed on inventing human-driven three-wheelers and four-wheelers instead of two-wheeled processes.


In mid-1863, a French mechanic named Pierre Lallement created and illustrated a two-wheeled velocipede powered by pedals on its front wheel. This was perhaps the second bicycle designed after the hobby horse. He visited the United States in 1865 and completed his new concept in Ansonia, Connecticut. Unfortunately, in the absence of a manufacturer, he had to return to France in 1868 with his design patent.


Evolution of bicycle

Evolution of Bicycle

This same year, a French carriage locks manufacturing company Michaux et Cie., started producing pedal-driven velocipedes, which crazed the Americans. Michaux was noted as the pioneer manufacturer of pedal-driven bicycles. In early 1864, Pierre Michaux and his son Ernest Michaux introduced their version of velocipedes to the market. These contained cat-iron frames that were soft and malleable, with the expectation that they would enhance large-scale production.


In addition, the front wheel had levers and pedals attached, and the rare one was a bit smaller. In 1868, this version patented numerous refinements in bicycle production.


Safety Bicycles

In 1885, John Kemp Starley designed the first bicycle named Rover Safety bicycle with all the safety features. It included direct front steering, nearly a low centre of gravity, spoked wheels, and a rear wheel driven by a chain where the front chain wheel was double the size of the rear sprocket approximately. These bicycles provided stability, proper braking and ease of mounting.


Modern Day Bicycle

Although the fundamental structure of the bicycle remained the same, numerous refinements were made in its frame design, materials and components used after 1900. In these bikes, multi-speed gearing was the most effective technical advancement.


After William Reilly was granted the patent in 1896 for a two-speed internal hub gear, Deluxe bicycles in Britain included this feature. After experimenting with multi-speed mechanisms, France developed derailleur gears in the 1920s, which helped move the chain from one sprocket to the other.


Today bicycle designs have reached their peak in providing comfort to the riders and are still evolving. There are six categories of present-day bikes: utility, racing, mountain, touring, hybrid and BMX. Of these, the utility ones serve as the primary mode of transportation in most developed countries. One of the most popular forms of sports, road bicycle run or racing, is performed worldwide. These modern-day bicycles are the perfect ones to support this category of sports.


Summary

A bicycle or bike cycle is a two-wheeled pedal-driven steerable vehicle that is used by most people all over the globe. It uses the least amount of fossil fuels and is a pollution-free mode of transport, making it an environmentally friendly ride. Karl von Drais was the inventor of the bicycle in early 1800. Till then, it has evolved through significant developments.