10 Interesting Bicycle History Facts
You ride your bicycle or your electric bike almost every single day, but you have no idea when and how it was invented.
These 10 bicycle history facts will tell you more about the origins and the evolution of your favourite vehicle.
1. The bicycle was not invented by Leonardo da Vinci
Many people disagree on who truly invented the bicycle. A sketch resembling a modern bicycle was attributed to a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, but it was eventually exposed as a fraud.
There are, however, some people who think the sketch made around 1500 is authentic, and that Leonardo da Vinci and his pupil were the first to invent a two-wheeled vehicle.
2. The first bicycle was invented in 1817 in Germany
The verified inventor of the first bicycle was Baron Karl Von Drais. He invented his laufmaschine, which means “running machine”, in 1817. It was steerable and had two wheels, but riders had to propel it forward with their feet.
The laufmaschine was named Draisine in English, and after earning the nicknames hobby-horse and dandy horse, it was eventually renamed the velocipede and gained some popularity.
3. Tricycles and quadracycles were considered more convenient than bicycles
Since velocipedes required the riders to balance, other vehicles that had three or four wheels were invented, and they were considered more stable and more convenient.
Tricycles and quadracycles were propelled by either pedals, treadles, or hand-cranks, and different designs were invented between 1820 and 1850. Even though they were considered safer than velocipedes, their weight made them a bit difficult to operate.
4. Scottish inventors came up with the first mechanically propelled bicycles
Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith, is believed to have been the first to add treadles to a two-wheeled vehicle, in 1839. Some people also claim that he was the first to have committed a bicycling traffic offense.
In 1869, Thomas McCall, a Scottish cartwright, was credited with the invention of a two-wheeled vehicle propelled by pedals and a crank attached to the front wheel.
5. The velocipede was the first commercially available bicycle
A velocipede with pedals was created in France around 1863, and it was the first commercially available bicycle to gain some popularity. The use of light metal frames made mass production of velocipedes with pedals possible. They were nicknamed bone-shakers.
Even though it’s not perfectly clear who patented the first velocipede with pedals, Pierre Lallement and Ernest Michaux are often associated with this invention.
6. The high-wheel bicycle could achieve highest speeds than the velocipede
Eventually, the front wheel of the pedal-propelled velocipede was enlarged, which allowed the rider to achieve more speed. Eugène Meyer, from France, is credited with the invention of the high-wheel bicycle, which was nicknamed penny-farthing in England.
High-wheel bicycles were very fast, but riding them was dangerous. It was common for riders to be thrown over the front wheel, and to get severely injured.
7. The safety bicycle quickly became the most common type of bicycle
During the 1880s, riding a bicycle was seen as a sport for young men who loved taking risks. Fortunately, the invention of the safety bicycle changed this, and made riding a bicycle more accessible for everyone.
John Kemp Starley is considered the inventor of the safety bicycle, which had equally sized wheels and was similar to the bicycles we still ride today. Many other inventors came up with their own ideas to improve the safety bicycle.
8. The derailleur gears were invented in France
Bicycle innovations did not stop with the invention of the safety bicycle. The derailleur was developed in France between 1900 and 1910. Different systems were invented, and kept improving over time.
Before the invention of derailleur gears, riders who wanted to change gear had to remove the wheel of their bicycle, to flip it over, and to put it back in place.
9. The first mountain bikes were produced in 1981
Riders eventually started riding their bicycles off-road, on all types of terrain. As mountain biking was rising in popularity, the first mountain bikes were produced in 1981 and were immediately successful.
Mountain bikes have a sturdier frame, wider tires that have more traction, and different suspension designs that allow for a much smoother riding experience when the rider decides to go on an adventure.
10. Electric bicycles were first invented during the 1890s
If you thought electric bicycles were a recent invention, you were wrong. A battery-powered bicycle was patented in 1895, and a bike propelled by a double electric motor was patented in 1897.
Many inventors patented their own version of the electric bike, finding new ways to make them more efficient, lighter, and faster. We can only predict that better models will keep being invented in the future, to the delight of e-bike enthusiasts.