Today's bicycles have come through a long way of their humble beginnings as novelty vehicles pushed along with one's feet. Time and technology have produced a series of bicycle models with more and more improvements. Some meet very specific needs, while others are more suited to general riding.
The first bicycles were made from wood, but today's bikes and their components are made from any number of materials like Steel, aluminium, titanium, and carbon fibre all used to create bicycle frames and components.
Todays bicycle consists basically of a frame, two wheels, gearing, handlebars and a saddle. Depending upon the brand and the type, they can vary in their designs, but generally they all are same.
Now let us have an overview how Bicycle was invented and how many changes were made to have the current safe, comfortable and speedy bicycles.
When bicycle was invented, it brought a major leap in technology. People did not have to expend on horses and on carts. New designs got different names in different countries like Draisienne, velocipede, penny farthings, bicycle etc.
Celerifere was the earliest structure of the bicycle that looks like a wooden scooter.
It was invented by Comte Mede De Sivrac of France in 1790.
In 1817, Baron Von Drais invented a device with a steering bar attached to the front wheel. This was known as “Draisienne” or the “Hobby Horse”.
It was completely made up of woods having two wheels of same size, weighted 22kg and no pedal system was there.
It was moved by propelling the feet against the ground to roll it forward just like a gliding walk.
Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith from Scotland invented new structure of bicycle with foot pedals in front wheel in 1830’s but he never patented it.
Pierre and Ernest Michaux, a father and son team of carriage makers developed a new bicycle with pedals applied to the front wheel. Thus Pedalling made it easier to riders to propel the bicycle with speed. This machine was known as “Velocipede” or Fast Foot. We can say, ‘Velocipede’ was the mechanical ancestor of bicycles.
Due to its rigid frame and iron banded wheels, it gives a bone shaking experience to riders, that’s why; Velocipede earned the name “Bone Shaker” in England.
In 1870, Use of metal frames, due to advancement in metallurgy, reduced the weight of frames and now the design was more elegant and sleeker. But still no freewheeling mechanism because of the front wheel pedal attachment.
During 1870’s, it was realized that larger the front wheel, more will be the distance it covers. So High wheel bicycle were invented with a large front wheel and a small rear wheel. This bicycle provide a much smoother ride than its predecessor because of the solid rubber tyres and long spokes of large front wheel.
But the problem of “taking a head” was quite common in high wheel bicycles. Because the rider used to very much above the ground, it leads to imbalance of centre of gravity when bicycle was suddenly stopped by the rider. Rider’s legs caught underneath the handlebars and the whole bicycle rolled on front axle and the rider falls abruptly on his head.
James starley in Coventry added tangent spokes and the mountain step to his famous bicycle called ”Ariel”. Front wheel diameter could be adjusted depending on the rider’s leg length. This type of bicycle was called as “ordinary” and later nick named as “Penny farthing” in England.
A “penny” represents the front wheel and a coin smaller in size and value, the “farthing” represents the rear wheel.
Elderly gentleman did not use the high wheel bicycle due to the problem of imbalancing. They preferred the more stable tricycles or quaderacycles. Queen Victoria owned Staley’s “Royal Salvo” in England.
Although Harry John Lawson invented real chain drive ( a chain with sprockets ) bicycle in 1879 but still had a huge front wheel and small rear wheel , so it again failed in market.
John Kemp Starley, James Starley’s nephew , developed the first successful “Safety bicycle” ,the “Rover” in 1885 with steerable front wheel , almost equal sized wheel and a chain drive to rear wheel but he never patented it. This bicycle have the same speed through gear ratios just like a one wheel circumference for every pedal turn in the huge high wheel bicycle .
But it still had hard rubber tyres so the ride was still uncomfortable. Dunlop , an Irish veterinarian, applied pneumatic tyres to the bicycles for his son to give a comfortable ride. Now in this pneumatic tyred structure, comfort and safety was available in a single package.
In 1898, Yale used a shaft drive to dispense with the chain.
It was the practical investment for working persons as means of transportation.
Bicycling was so popular in the 1880s and 1890s that cyclists formed the league of American Wheelman. The League lobbied for better roads, literally paving the road for the automobile.