March 4, 2022
The first forms of bicycles were created in the early 19th century. They were commonly called “velocipedes“. They were pedal-less, wooden constructions with hard wheels. The rider sat on a chair and used his legs to propel himself.
It was not until the last years of the 1830s that pedal-powered bicycles were established. Then came those big bicycles on wheels that we’ve seen in old photos. They were called “High Wheelers” and were the style of the time for men.
The ride on one of these big-wheel bicycles through the cities of the time was dangerous. They were not very well placed to drive and a little difficult to hold upright. If the ride didn’t get you a little rough, the fall certainly would. They earned the nickname “bone shakers” for a very good reason.
This changed with the invention of the safety bicycle. A gentleman named John Kemp Starley is said to have made the first successful example in 1885. He called it the “Rover,” but he never patented it.
Starley’s innovative plans included some of the elements we know today. It had two wheels of the same size: a chain drive to the rear wheel and a steerable front wheel.
In earlier cycles, the frame was heavy and mostly made of wood. The introduction of lighter metals and the diamond frame design made them lighter. This single change allowed for the addition of the respective other innovations.
Previously, the rider’s pedalling activity was applied to the front wheel. This made it difficult to power the bike and it was more prone to accidents. A chain drive at the rear wheel made it easier for the rider to pedal. Turning street corners and other manoeuvres became easier, and the bike was considered safer.
With the improvement of pneumatic tires, the riders of the time found it more comfortable. The days of hard rubber or wooden wheels are long gone. These modern wheels were lighter and offered a significantly improved, cushioned ride.
The cycling frenzy hit Europe and North America in the mid-to late 1800s. Middle-class and elite people alike were eager to get involved in this wild mode of travel. Cycling clubs sprang up all over Europe and in the United States. Cycling was not only a sporting leisure activity, but it also became a vital form of personal transportation. Women,
in particular, brought the ranks of cyclists together in great numbers. Before these changes to the bicycle, women were not allowed to ride. There was a question about the dangers and possible moral implications of a woman on a bicycle. For a time, young single women, even with the safety features, could ride alone in the company of an older, respected woman.
European countries used the bicycle for transport and leisure well into the early 20th century. In some areas in Europe, there are many more bicycles than cars today. They are preferred in larger metropolitan areas where parking is limited and traffic is unmanageable. And, perhaps best of all, they are extremely efficient and cause no pollution.
Americans, on the other hand, did not follow in the footsteps of the Europeans.By the 1910s, adult bicycles were replaced by automobiles. While still used by some, they aren’t nearly as popular as they once were. In the 1940s, the attitude towards cycling was that it was a child’s toy. Most of the time, it was manufactured for children.
Cycles are making a comeback in these times of high fuel prices. Bicycles are very efficient modes of transport. The added benefit of a healthier body encourages more people to drive. People who have not ridden their bicycles for more than twenty years cycle to work or shop.
Some of these industrious people even build their own bicycles. From a standard safety bike to tandem bikes and trikes, it’s something almost anyone can build. When you build your own bike, you select the design and tailor it to your own needs. It’s also a fun way to spend time with the kids. And after you’ve built a few bikes, it’s great to try them out!
The bike has come a long way since the first attempts. Now, bicycles are made of lighter, stronger materials. Manufacturers offer a wide range of designs based on specific uses. They are designed for safety and comfort and are faster than ever before. Accessories such as children’s carts make it easy to take the kids on a bike ride or stop for some errands.
In my next cycling article, I’ll talk about the different bike designs out there and how to build your own. In the meantime, go cycling!
“Vin” KLVin Hayes leads a team of independent writers and researchers. They have collaborated for the past ten years to create high-quality digital reprints of vintage books and documents, as well as original works. Vin has a lot of experience with information about a wide range of things, like fishing and hunting, crafts and hobbies, construction, self-improvement, and more.
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