History of sports: the bicycle.
As the weather slowly begins to warm up, it’s time for us to bring out our summer activities – one of those being the bikes that many of us have looked forward to riding year after year. Who came up with this machine that is a staple in many people’s lives? Grab your helmets because you are in for a bumpy ride.
The recognized father of the bicycle was a man by the name of Karl von Drais, a German baron who had made the first major development in the creation of the bicycle in 1817. It had all the components of a bicycle: it was steerable and had two wheels. It was operated by kicking against the street. However, it is not what we would consider to be similar to the modern bicycle. This evolution did not come till the 19th century and that was due to the work of several different inventors.
A handful of French inventors, including Pierre Lallement, Pierre Michaux, and Ernest Michaux, were the first to develop prototypes based off of Drais’s initial design. These were the first to have pedals attached to them to allow the riders the chance to control their speed. These were quite a rough ride and they earned the nickname “boneshaker” from those who tried them.
These models were in need of a facelift and a lift is definitely what came next. James Starley and Eugene Meyer introduced new models to the scene that sported an oversized front wheel. This also brought forth the four-foot-high seat which made it slightly dangerous for some to ride. It was believed that these oversized wheels would provide a greater amount of stability to their riders. These were iconic in the 1870’s and 1880’s and what many people associate with the old black-and-white photos that float around of individuals on bicycles from this time period.
The Englishmen decided to alter this design when John Kemp Starley decided that enough was enough with the dangerously high seat that the previous model offered. In 1885, he featured what was known as the “safety bike.” This design featured equal sized wheels, which is the closest template to the modern bicycle that had been developed thus far. Starley’s model was also the first to introduce the use of a chain to connect the pedals and has been used since then as well.
After this point in time, the development begins to get hard to track, as many different inventors from all over the world began to come out with variations of Starley’s model. The developments focused on improving the tires, implementing and then improving brakes, and trying to manufacture ways for the product to either be practical or for speed and racing purposes.
The bicycle is something that has allowed individuals to expand their freedom, provided efficient ways for travelling, and has given people of all ages an activity that they can bond over. Although it has gone through quite the transformation in order to get to its current point, it is important to consider possibilities for future improvement as well. Of course, there are different needs based on the purpose and the terrain being driven over, but no matter the circumstance, manufacturers can continue to look into providing better tires, higher quality breaks, and improving the overall look of the equipment as well.
This spring, as you get ready to take the bikes out for the first time, take a moment to appreciate all the thought that went into developing what looks like such a simple piece of equipment. Imagine what it would be like trying to ride a bike with no pedals or one that is four feet in the air while you try and maneuver your bike around town. As the wind cools your face and you dread the look of helmet hair after you’re done, be thankful for the effort that went into making the bicycle what it is today.