The History and Origin of the Bicycle

The bicycle is an incredible simple work of art that is shrouded in a complicated past. This popular invention is surrounded by mystery and many misconceptions, even to this day.

There are many stories available on the web today that conflict with each other on who actually invented the bike. However, one thing that is certain is the foundational concept of a bicycle was completely unlike the elegant bicycles available today.

The first concept of a two wheeled vehicle that was completely reliant on human as a power source, dates back before a bicycle would become a popular way of getting around to this day.

An inventor known as Giovanni de la Fontana built the first human powered device that consisted a complicated system of a rope that was connected to a group of gears.

It would be 400 years later that a Wealthy German inventor by the name of Karl Drais would be inspired and create his own concept of the bicycle.

In 1817, the German engineer introduced his invention to the public throughout Europe. The concept was called many names including the Draisine, the hobby horse, and the running machine.

Drais’ invention was not taken as seriously as it should have been. As a result, very few people at the time considered whether the curious invention would become a valid form of transportation.

The hobby horse was constructed in an effort to deliver a solution to a problem; a lack of the real thing around the time.

A series of droughts and naturally occurring disasters led to the slaughter of millions of equines. Drais’ hobby horse was a solution to a rising problem.

However, Drais’ invention was far from being the elegant and refined vehicles that are popular today. This alternative form of transportation weighed a hefty 50 pounds.

The bicycle was constructed of wood, and the only elegant furnishings were the leather tacked to the wooden saddle. The bicycle had no gears or chains, instead the rider would move the bicycle with their own two feet.

A British coach maker by the name of Denis Johnson later found Drais’ invention and decided to put his very own spin on the concept. His concept was marketed directly to the wealthy aristocrats as pedestrian curricles.

These hobby horses were a success for a short bit before being viewed as a hazard to the public and being banned from the busy sidewalks.

Still, the invention didn’t die entirely. Instead, the bicycle would make a comeback in the early 1860’s. A wooden concept with two metal wheels, a gear system and pedals would later hit the streets.

This invention would later become known as the Velocipede or a bone shaker. Anyone who chose to use this bicycle was in for a very bumpy and uncomfortable ride.

The history of this contraption is a bit foggy, as no one seems to be able to come to an agreement on who exactly built this bicycle.

A German by the name of Karl Kech claimed responsibility for adding pedals to the bicycle in 1862. The first patent for this contraption was awarded to Pierre Lallement, a French coach maker.

Before obtaining the patent for the concept of the vehicle in 1864, he showed his invention off to the public, where two wealthy Parisian men discovered the invention and were intrigued enough to create their own concept.

The young men enlisted the help of Goerges de la Bouglise and Pierre Michaux to manufacture the parts they would need to bring this invention to fruition.

Michaux and Olivier whom were brothers, introduced a velocipede in 1867 that came included with pedals to power the device. This would later hit the market and become a huge hit amongst the city people. Disagreements between the two would later end up with the company splitting up, the ownership was transferred entirely to Olivier.

In 1870, the cyclists revealed their frustration about the uncomfortable design introduced by Michaux. The inventors found success by replacing the front wheel with a larger one that would help encourage a smoother and comfortable ride.

This front wheel design was not acceptable for the majority of the public. Instead, young men who enjoyed speed sports took to the idea of racing these new earlier bicycles.

These new concepts were commonly referred to as Penny Farthings and the public responded to them with a neutral enthusiasm. An English engineer known as known John Kemp designed a device known as the Safety Bicycle in the 1870’s.

His successful marketing coupled with a more elegant design would take the nation by a storm. John Kemp is credited with the best concept known as the tangent spoke wheel that hit the markets in 1874.

The shock absorbing wheels improved the bicycle immensely and would enable the bicyclists to enjoy the comfortable ride. These wheels were much lighter compared to the earlier concepts, and was a huge improvement over the earlier bicycles.

John Kemp produced an improvement over his last invention in 1885. This new bicycle was known as the rover and along with the lighter tires, introduced a series of gears that were powered by a chain.

In the beginning, the bicycles were afforded only by the wealthier and was considered an expensive hobby. The enjoyment obtained from the vehicle led to the mass production of this lighter vehicle making it possible for just about everyone to afford this alternative form of transportation.

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