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The history of the bicycle

The bicycle has a good image. There is something idealistic about riding the bike. It can be seen as a rite of passage of childhood as, after a child can learn to walk and then talk, it usually isn’t long before they learn how to ride a bike.

The activity of cycling is seen as great way for families to bond and for individuals to stay healthy. People are encouraged to cycle to school and work as it keeps cars off the road, therefore bringing benefits to the environment. Cities now build cycle lanes for the activity to be encouraged.

The “running machine”, not a pedal in sight

Very few negatives appear when talking about riding a bike. There are obvious safety issues, such as injury of falling off, and being hit by a motorized vehicle can result in a tragic outcome. However, generally, riding a bike has a positive image and this is reflected in the fact that, despite modern technology unearthing many ways to travel around, riding a bicycle in many parts of the world is as popular today as it has ever been.

There have been various claims about the first time a bike was used. They revolved around the simple construction of attaching two wheels to a wooden frame. The most reliable source describes the bike produced by the German Baron Karl von Drais who, in 1817, invented the “running machine”. There were no gears or chains, with the rider sitting on the velocipede and powering themselves with their legs on the floor.

The first pedal-operated bicycle was introduced in France in 1863, but the pedals were actually fixed to the front wheel. The bike continued to evolve through the 19th century with some bikes having three or four wheels, and each inventor appeared to have the same aim in mind. To move the bicycle using as little human effort as possible.

The major problem of attaching the pedals to the front wheel was that it was difficult to pedal and steer at the same time, and the contraptions were not very stable. Soon, the Penny Farthing appeared, with the invention of its large front wheel improving the stability of the bicycle.

The first chain operated bicycle

Eventually, in 1885, the first safety bicycle emerged. First produced by John Kemp Starley, the Rover Safety Bicycle had two equally sized wheels with chain attached to the rear wheels. Now the cyclist could pedal and power the bike from the rear allowing the front wheel to dictate the direction of the journey. The mass production of this bike created a new form of transport for the everyday public. The new bicycle produced a smoother and quicker ride. The basic bike had now been invented and, over time, it evolved into what we find today.

At the start of the twentieth century, the derailleur emerged from France. This enabled the rider to change gears. The gear chosen would depend on two factors: the level of the surface and the speed the rider wanted to travel. As the bikes became more advanced, they became lighter. The older models were heavy and sturdy, but, as time progressed, people saw the value of lighter machines. They also benefited from the introduction of safety measures, such as brakes and front and rear lights.

The bike today is very much of the same design as the one people were riding at the start of the 20th century. Naturally, as time has evolved, the bicycle has become more streamlined and more efficient. There are different designs of bikes for different occasions; there are family bikes, mountain bikes, racing bikes and the list goes on.

The most advanced bikes today can cost an awful lot of money to purchase. They are constructed from materials such as titanium, aluminum and carbon. The modern-day rider would also be wearing the best safety gear available, with the majority of riders wearing a helmet. The bicycle is a simple form of transport and the numbers of people that own a bike reflect the fact that, over time, cycling has not lost its popularity.