Pivotal Dates in Bicycle
1817: Germany's Baron von Drais
invents the Draisienne, the progenitor of the bicycle.
Made of wood, it had a seat and handle bars, but no
pedals. Riders propelled the hobby horse (as it was also
called) by paddling their feet on the ground.
1839: A Scottish blacksmith named
Kirkpatrick Macmillan creates the first self-propelled
bike. Macmillan's system used swinging cranks on the
front wheel to power a pair of rods that were linked to
levers on the back wheel. The bike was very heavy (about
56 pounds), so riders had to be fit.
1863: Pierre Michaux of Paris develops the Michaux
Velocipede, which features pedals and cranks on the
front wheel. The Velocipede becomes the world's first
mass-produced riding machine. The "boneshaker," as it
was also known, for its rough ride, remained popular
until about 1870.
MACMILLAN BIKE: (1839).
1870: Englishman James Starley
creates the Ordinary bicycle, which has a dramatically
large front wheel and a small rear wheel. This allows
riders to go farther with each revolution of the pedals.
The bike required lots of skill and practice to ride. It
was also known as the penny-farthing, because the wheels
looked like a large English penny and farthing placed
next to each other.
1884: Englishman H.J. Larson
designs the first chain-driven bike, which he named the
Safety. His bike had medium-sized wheels of equal
diameter. It was also more stable and easier to stop
than the Ordinary. But Larson's bike never caught on.
1885-1900: John Kemp Starley, James
Starley's nephew, creates the Rover Safety, the
prototype of the modern-day bike. Starley's bicycle had
a saddle, handlebar grips, and rear placement of the
crank axle, making the bike both easier and safer to
ride. Safety bicycles, as they came to be called,
featured the cross frame so familiar today.
1888: John Boyd Dunlop, a
veterinarian in Belfast, Ireland, develops the pneumatic
(air-filled) tire, which provides a smoother ride. Prior
to this, solid rubber tires were used.
1890s: Mass production of
reasonably-priced bicycles allows working men to use
them for transportation and leisure. Daring young women
see the bicycle as a ticket to freedom. Bloomers allowed
women wearing skirts to ride while maintaining their
modesty. This led suffragist Susan B. Anthony to declare
that the bicycle "has done more to emancipate women than
anything else in the world."
Circa 1900: An English manufacturer
develops a three-speed wheel hub for bikes, allowing
riders to cover hilly terrain with less effort.
Circa 1910: The dawn of the
automobile age in begins to make bicycles passe for
adults in America. Smaller bikes designed for children
are introduced, but the market for kids' bicycles
doesn't really take off until the post-World War II
'baby boom' begins.
1940s: Built-in kickstands are
developed. They appear on postwar bikes. European bike
racers begin using derailleurs that gave them five
speeds, and later 10, for climbing mountains.
ROVER SAFETY: (1890s)
1963: Schwinn introduces the
Sting-Ray, the first bike with a 'banana' seat and
high-rise handlebars. The Sting-Ray is the precursor to
BMX bikes that will become popular in the 1970s.
1960s: The 10-speed gear shift
becomes commonplace, though lots of bikes still have
only one or three speeds.
1970s: Bicycling becomes more
popular because of environmental awareness (the first
Earth Day was in 1970), the oil embargo, and resulting
fuel shortages. In 1978, more bikes than cars are sold
in the US.
1970s: California cyclists begin to
modify 'klunkers' for off-road use. The first mountain
bikes are mass-produced in the early 1980s.
SCHWINN FASTBACK: (1963)
1984: Cogs added to the rear gear
cluster on some bikes allow the number of speeds to
increase from 15 to 18, 21, and 24.
1986: The International Bicycle
Fund cites a survey from the Department of the Interior
and Nielson that shows bicycling is the
third-most-popular participatory sport after swimming
and general exercise.
1996: Mountain bikes first compete
at the Olympic Games.
Source: Tyler Bicycle
Club Tyler, Texas