Pierre Lallement, inventor of the bicycle, arrives in the U.S.

Pierre Lallement, inventor of the bicycle, arrives in the U.S.

On July 20, 1865, a Frenchman named Pierre Lallement arrives in the United States, carrying the plans and components for the first modern bicycle. Lallement constructed and patented the first bicycle in the United States, but received no significant reward or recognition for introducing the nation to an invention that soon became ubiquitous.

Born near Nancy, France, Lallement trained as a mechanic. He was working as a carriage builder when he first saw a dandy horse—similar to a bike, but powered directly by the rider’s feet pushing it along the ground—and began drawing up plans for a similar machine. Lallement’s major innovation was adding a transmission and pedals, which allowed for a smoother, faster, and somewhat more dignified ride. Along with another carriage builder, Pierre Marchaux, Lallement is credited with building the first working prototype for a bicycle. Due to a dispute between himself, Marchaux and his son, and the Olivier brothers with whom Marchaux went into business, however, Lallement found himself shut out of the first mass-produced bicycle business in France.

Upon arriving in the United States, Lallement settled in Ansonia, Connecticut. He demonstrated his invention for the locals—one of whom reportedly fled in terror at the sight of a “devil on wheels”—and eventually found an investor, James Carroll, to support his efforts. In 1866, he applied for and was granted a patent for the nation’s first pedaled bicycle.

Despite being the first to patent the idea, Lallement was unable to capitalize on his invention. Failing to acquire enough funds to open a factory, he sold the rights to the patent in 1868and moved back to France, where Michaux’s bike had achieved enormous popularity and set off a “bike boom” that soon spread throughout Europe. Albert Pope, who came into possession of the patent in 1876, made a small fortune producing the Columbia bicycle and became one of the foremost proponents of the bike, forming the League of American Wheelmen in 1880. Lallement, however, died in obscurity in Boston in 1881. It would be over a century before cycling historians identified the important role he had played in the invention of the bicycle.


Technological Innovations in Bikes in the 20th Century

Over the years, bicycle design, materials, components and manufacturing processes have improved to create bikes of today, increasingly sophisticated and efficient machines.

And while the basic frame design has stayed the same for over a hundred years, the use of space age material like titanium and carbon fiber have created bikes far lighter and stronger than creators of the early iron and wooden models could ever have imagined.

Other innovations like shifters and derailleurs allow riders to work themselves through a range of gears that allow bikes to go far faster as well as to climb much steeper hills than a single speed bike would ever have allowed.

Bike styles have morphed too, to allow the incorporation of design features that specifically enhance and embrace one particular style of riding to the exclusion of others. This specialization means that you can go into any given bike shop and select from mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, cruisers, tandems, recumbents, and more, all based on where and how you plan to ride.


Bone shakers and penny-farthings

Bicycles made a comeback in the early 1860s with the introduction of a wooden contraption with two steel wheels, pedals and a fixed gear system. Known as a velocipede (fast foot) or a "bone shaker," the brave users of this early contraption were in for a bumpy ride.

The question of who invented the velocipede, with its revolutionary pedals and gear system, is a bit murky. A German named Karl Kech claimed that he was the first to attach pedals to a hobby horse in 1862. But the first patent for such a device was granted not to Kech but to Pierre Lallement, a French carriage maker who obtained a U.S. patent for a two-wheeled vehicle with crank pedals in 1866, according to the NMAH.

In 1864, before obtaining a patent for his vehicle, Lallement exhibited his creation publicly, which may explain how Aime and Rene Olivier — two sons of a wealthy Parisian industrialist — learned of his invention and decided to create a velocipede of their own. Together with a classmate, Georges de la Bouglise, the young men enlisted Pierre Michaux, a blacksmith and carriage maker, to create the parts they needed for their invention.

Michaux and the Olivier brothers began marketing their velocipede with pedals in 1867, and the device was a hit. Because of disagreements over design and financial matters, the company that Michaux and the Oliviers founded together eventually dissolved, but the Olivier-owned Compagnie Parisienne lived on.

By 1870, cyclists were fed up with the lumbering bone-shaker design popularized by Michaux, and manufacturers responded with new designs. Also by 1870, metallurgy had advanced enough that bicycle frames could be made of metal, which was stronger and lighter than wood, according to the IBF.

One popular design was the high wheeler, also known as the penny farthing because of the size of the wheels. (A farthing was a British coin that was worth one-fourth of a penny.) A penny farthing featured a smoother rise than its predecessor, due to its solid rubber tires and long spokes. Front wheels became larger and larger as manufacturers realized that the larger thre wheel, the farther one could travel with one rotation of the pedals. A riding enthusiast could get a wheel as large as their legs were long.

Unfortunately, the large front-wheel design championed by thrill-seeking young men — many of whom took to racing these contraptions at newly founded bicycle clubs across Europe — was not practical for most riders. If the rider needed to stop suddenly, momentum carries the entire contraption over the front wheel and landed the rider on his head. This is where the term "taking a header" came into being, according to the IBF. Enthusiasm for penny-farthings remained tepid until an English inventor named John Kemp Starley came up with a winning idea for a "safety bicycle" in the 1870s. [See also: Explainer: How Do Cyclists Reach Super Fast Speeds?]

Starley began successfully marketing his bicycles in 1871, when he introduced the "Ariel" bicycle in Britain, kicking off that nation's role as the leader in bicycle innovation for many decades to come. Starley is perhaps best known for his invention of the tangent-spoke wheel in 1874.

This tension-absorbing front wheel was a vast improvement over the wheels found on earlier bicycles and helped make bike riding a (somewhat) comfortable, enjoyable activity for the first time in history. Starley's wheels also made for a much lighter bike, another practical improvement over previous iterations.

Then, in 1885, Starley introduced the "Rover." With its nearly equal-sized wheels, center pivot steering and differential gears that operate with a chain drive, Starley's "Rover" was the first highly practical iteration of the bicycle.

The number of bicycles in use boomed from an estimated 200,000 in 1889 to 1 million in 1899, according to the NMAH.

At first, bicycles were a relatively expensive hobby, but mass production made the bicycle a practical investment for the working man, who could then ride to his job and back home. The bicycle introduced thousands to individual and independent transportation, and provided greater flexibility in leisure. As women started riding in great numbers, dramatic changes in ladies' fashion were required. Bustles and corsets were out bloomers were in, as they gave a woman more mobility while allowing her to keep her legs covered with long skirts.

Bicycles were also partly responsible for better road conditions. As more Americans began to ride bicycles, which needed a smoother road surface than a horse-drawn vehicle, organizations of bicyclists started calling for better roads. They were often joined by railroad companies that wanted to improve the connections between farmers and other businesses and the rail station.

The bicycle had a direct influence on the introduction of the automobile, according to the NMAH. Bicycle parts were later incorporated into automobile parts, including ball bearings, differential units, steel tubing and pneumatic tires.

Many pioneer automobile builders were first bicycle manufacturers, including Charles Duryea, Alexander Winton and Albert A. Pope. Also, Wilbur and Orville Wright were bicycle makers before turning their attention to aerodynamics. Glenn Curtiss, another aviation pioneer, also started out as a bicycle manufacturer.

As automobiles rose in popularity, though, interest in bicycles waned. Also, electric railways took over the side paths originally constructed for bicycle use, according to the NMAH. The number of manufacturers shrank in the early 1900s, and for more than 50 years, the bicycle was used largely only by children.

A reawakening of adult interest occurred during the late 1960s as many people began to see cycling as a non-polluting, non-congesting means of transportation and recreation. In 1970, nearly 5 million bicycles were manufactured in the United States, and an estimated 75 million riders shared 50 million bicycles, making cycling the nation's leading outdoor recreation, according to the NMAH.


Derby History Quiz

Pierre Lallement was an enterprising young man who arrived in Ansonia (then a borough of Derby!) in 1865 after dabbling in making baby carriages and his own new invention called the velocipede, better known today as the bicycle. According to historical accounts, he saw people using a rather awkward wheeled vehicle known as a dandy horse, and added the basic components of today's bicycles to create a working bicycle.

A French blacksmith by the name of Pierre Michaux took Lallement's design and started to produce sell bicycles by 1867. By that time, Lallement was in the US and working on an improved version. In April, 1866 he demonstrated his new device with a ride from Ansonia to Birmingham (Derby's other borough!) and back. He eventually took a longer trip to New Haven.

On November 20, 1866, he filed for U. S. patent # 59,915 - the first patent issued for a true bicycle. He never really capitalized on his invention as he could not find investors. He returned to Paris for a time, and while there, sold the patent to Calvin Witty of Brooklyn who later became part of a major lawsuit before the company that produced Columbia bikes eventually gained legal possession - and made a fortune.

Lallement did not fare so well. He died in Boston at the age of 47 and for many years his role as the inventor of the bicycle was forgotten while many gave the credit to Michaux. However in recent years, history has been much kinder to Lallement, and his work.

In 1998. Lallement's historic ride was reenacted as part of New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas and the plaque pictured below recognizing him as the inventor of the bicycle was first unveiled. Historians have come to dismiss other claims for the invention of the bike and recognize Lallement's patent as proof of his great accomplishment.


New Haven monument to Pierre Lallement

A Boston bicycle historian named David Herlihy has done much research to establish the Lallement claim to the invention, and there is a bicycle path in Boston named for Lallement.

Correct answers were received from: Randy Ritter, John R. Asp, Ann Searles, Jack Vagnini, Nick from Terryvile, Mary Suess, David Neus, Bob Ahearn, Joe Dedo, Jack O'Callaghan, Millie from Ansonia, Jack Moran, Bonnie Berman, Ken Dupke, Jim Barftlett, Cyndi Poppa, David Petz, Jr., Joe Melewski, Don Sanderson, Stephanie Anne D'Onofrio, Fred Grant, Jack Skelding, Eileen Krugel, Paul Comkowycz, Addam C. Jordan-
Burns, Shannon McCormick, James Allaire, Stan Sroka, Edward Calvert, Ozzie (Neustaedter) Ben Ezra, Renee Mercede, Fred Rak Jr., Eric O'Malley, Ryan Downs, Robert Loftus, Quinn-Conlon, Joe Pinto, and Gene Wajdowicz.

To see our earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.


Pierre Lallement

Pierre Lallement (born October 25, 1843 in Pont-à-Mousson , † August 29, 1891 in Boston ) is regarded by some as the inventor of the bicycle .

According to one version, the wheelwright Lallement saw a trolley in 1862 , inspired by this he built a crank with pedals on the axle of the front wheel . According to another version, Lallement went to Paris in 1863 and worked with Pierre Michaux on the production of the Michauline . It cannot be determined whether Lallement attached the crank to the walking machine before Michaux. What is certain is that both were involved in the basic design of the Michaulinen.

In July 1865, Lallement went to the United States and settled in Ansonia, Connecticut , where he introduced a version of the Michauline. He filed a patent application for the pedal bicycle in April 1866. It was granted on November 20, 1866. His patented construction plans show a vehicle very similar to the first Michauline with its serpentine frame .

Since he did not succeed in starting a promising production of his machine in the USA, Lallement returned to Paris in 1868 shortly after the Michaux bikes had sparked the first bicycle enthusiasm, which spread from France across Europe and America. Lallement then went back to the United States. He lived in Brooklyn and was employed by Albert Pope , who had acquired his patent in 1879 and created a bicycle empire in the United States in the 1890s by purchasing all bicycle patents. Lallement died lonely in Boston in 1891 at the age of 47.


Contents

There are several early, but unverified claims for the invention of the bicycle.

A sketch from around 1500 AD is attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, but it was described by Hans-Erhard Lessing in 1998 as a purposeful fraud. [1] [2] However, the authenticity of the bicycle sketch is still vigorously maintained by followers of Prof. Augusto Marinoni, a lexicographer and philologist, who was entrusted by the Commissione Vinciana of Rome with the transcription of Leonardo's Codex Atlanticus. [3] [4]

Later, and equally unverified, is the contention that a certain "Comte de Sivrac" developed a célérifère in 1792, demonstrating it at the Palais-Royal in France. The célérifère supposedly had two wheels set on a rigid wooden frame and no steering, directional control being limited to that attainable by leaning. [5] A rider was said to have sat astride the machine and pushed it along using alternate feet. It is now thought that the two-wheeled célérifère never existed (though there were four-wheelers) and it was instead a misinterpretation by the well-known French journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier in 1891. [6] [7]

1817 to 1819: The Draisine or Velocipede Edit

The first verifiable claim for a practically used bicycle belongs to German Baron Karl von Drais, a civil servant to the Grand Duke of Baden in Germany. Drais invented his Laufmaschine (German for "running machine") in 1817, that was called Draisine (English) or draisienne (French) by the press. Karl von Drais patented this design in 1818, which was the first commercially successful two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine, commonly called a velocipede, and nicknamed hobby-horse or dandy horse. [8] It was initially manufactured in Germany and France.

Hans-Erhard Lessing (Drais's biographer) found from circumstantial evidence that Drais's interest in finding an alternative to the horse was the starvation and death of horses caused by crop failure in 1816, the Year Without a Summer (following the volcanic eruption of Tambora in 1815). [9]

On his first reported ride from Mannheim on June 12, 1817, he covered 13 km (eight miles) in less than an hour. [10] Constructed almost entirely of wood, the draisine weighed 22 kg (48 pounds), had brass bushings within the wheel bearings, iron shod wheels, a rear-wheel brake and 152 mm (6 inches) of trail of the front-wheel for a self-centering caster effect. This design was welcomed by mechanically minded men daring to balance, and several thousand copies were built and used, primarily in Western Europe and in North America. Its popularity rapidly faded when, partly due to increasing numbers of accidents, some city authorities began to prohibit its use. However, in 1866 Paris a Chinese visitor named Bin Chun could still observe foot-pushed velocipedes. [11]

The concept was picked up by a number of British cartwrights the most notable was Denis Johnson of London announcing in late 1818 that he would sell an improved model. [12] New names were introduced when Johnson patented his machine “pedestrian curricle” or “velocipede,” but the public preferred nicknames like “hobby-horse,” after the children's toy or, worse still, “dandyhorse,” after the foppish men who often rode them. [8] Johnson's machine was an improvement on Drais's, being notably more elegant: his wooden frame had a serpentine shape instead of Drais's straight one, allowing the use of larger wheels without raising the rider's seat, but was still the same design.

During the summer of 1819, the "hobby-horse", thanks in part to Johnson's marketing skills and better patent protection, became the craze and fashion in London society. The dandies, the Corinthians of the Regency, adopted it, and therefore the poet John Keats referred to it as "the nothing" of the day. Riders wore out their boots surprisingly rapidly, and the fashion ended within the year, after riders on pavements (sidewalks) were fined two pounds.

Nevertheless, Drais's velocipede provided the basis for further developments: in fact, it was a draisine which inspired a French metalworker around 1863 to add rotary cranks and pedals to the front-wheel hub, to create the first pedal-operated "bicycle" as we today understand the word.

1820s to 1850s: An Era of 3 and 4-Wheelers Edit

The intervening decades of the 1820s–1850s witnessed many developments concerning human-powered vehicles often using technologies similar to the draisine, even if the idea of a workable two-wheel design, requiring the rider to balance, had been dismissed. These new machines had three wheels (tricycles) or four (quadracycles) and came in a very wide variety of designs, using pedals, treadles, and hand-cranks, but these designs often suffered from high weight and high rolling resistance. However, Willard Sawyer in Dover successfully manufactured a range of treadle-operated 4-wheel vehicles and exported them worldwide in the 1850s. [12]

1830s: The Reported Scottish Inventions Edit

The first mechanically propelled two-wheel vehicle is believed by some to have been built by Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith, in 1839. A nephew later claimed that his uncle developed a rear-wheel drive design using mid-mounted treadles connected by rods to a rear crank, similar to the transmission of a steam locomotive. Proponents associate him with the first recorded instance of a bicycling traffic offence, when a Glasgow newspaper reported in 1842 an accident in which an anonymous "gentleman from Dumfries-shire. bestride a velocipede. of ingenious design" knocked over a pedestrian in the Gorbals and was fined five shillings. However, the evidence connecting this with Macmillan is weak, since it is unlikely that the artisan Macmillan would have been termed a gentleman, nor is the report clear on how many wheels the vehicle had. The evidence is unclear, and may have been faked by his son.

A similar machine was said to have been produced by Gavin Dalzell of Lesmahagow, circa 1845. There is no record of Dalzell ever having laid claim to inventing the machine. It is believed that he copied the idea having recognised the potential to help him with his local drapery business and there is some evidence that he used the contraption to take his wares into the rural community around his home. A replica still exists today in the Glasgow Museum of Transport. The exhibit holds the honour of being the oldest bike in existence today. [12] The first documented producer of rod-driven two-wheelers, treadle bicycles, was Thomas McCall, of Kilmarnock in 1869. The design was inspired by the French front-crank velocipede of the Lallement/Michaux type. [12]

1853 and the invention of the first bicycle with pedals "Tretkurbelfahrrad" by Philipp Moritz Fischer Edit

Once again Germany was the center of innovation, when Philipp Moritz Fischer, who had used the Draisine since he was 9 years old for going to school, invented the very first bicycle with pedals. in 1853. After years of living all over Europe, he left London to go back to his native town of Schweinfurt , Bavaria, when his first son died at a young age. He built the very first bicycle with pedals in 1853. The Tretkurbelfahrrad from 1853 is still sustained and is on public display in the municipality museum in Schweinfurt. [13] [14]

1860s and the Michaux "Velocipede", aka "Boneshaker" Edit

The first widespread and commercially successful design was French. An example is at the Museum of Science and Technology, Ottawa. [15] Initially developed around 1863, it sparked a fashionable craze briefly during 1868–70. Its design was simpler than the Macmillan bicycle it used rotary cranks and pedals mounted to the front wheel hub. Pedaling made it easier for riders to propel the machine at speed, but the rotational speed limitation of this design created stability and comfort concerns which would lead to the large front wheel of the "penny farthing". It was difficult to pedal the wheel that was used for steering. The use of metal frames reduced the weight and provided sleeker, more elegant designs, and also allowed mass-production. Different braking mechanisms were used depending on the manufacturer. In England, the velocipede earned the name of "bone-shaker" because of its rigid frame and iron-banded wheels that resulted in a "bone-shaking experience for riders."

The velocipede's renaissance began in Paris during the late 1860s. Its early history is complex and has been shrouded in some mystery, not least because of conflicting patent claims: all that has been stated for sure is that a French metalworker attached pedals to the front wheel at present, the earliest year bicycle historians agree on is 1864. The identity of the person who attached cranks is still an open question at International Cycling History Conferences (ICHC). The claims of Ernest Michaux and of Pierre Lallement, and the lesser claims of rear-pedaling Alexandre Lefebvre, have their supporters within the ICHC community.

Bicycle historian David V. Herlihy documents that Lallement claimed to have created the pedal bicycle in Paris in 1863. He had seen someone riding a draisine in 1862 then originally came up with the idea to add pedals to it. It is a fact that he filed the earliest and only patent for a pedal-driven bicycle, in the US in 1866. Lallement's patent drawing shows a machine which looks exactly like Johnson's draisine, but with the pedals and rotary cranks attached to the front wheel hub, and a thin piece of iron over the top of the frame to act as a spring supporting the seat, for a slightly more comfortable ride.

By the early 1860s, the blacksmith Pierre Michaux, besides producing parts for the carriage trade, was producing "vélocipède à pédales" on a small scale. The wealthy Olivier brothers Aimé and René were students in Paris at this time, and these shrewd young entrepreneurs adopted the new machine. In 1865 they travelled from Paris to Avignon on a velocipede in only eight days. They recognized the potential profitability of producing and selling the new machine. Together with their friend Georges de la Bouglise, they formed a partnership with Pierre Michaux, Michaux et Cie ("Michaux and company"), in 1868, avoiding use of the Olivier family name and staying behind the scenes, lest the venture prove to be a failure. This was the first company which mass-produced bicycles, replacing the early wooden frame with one made of two pieces of cast iron bolted together—otherwise, the early Michaux machines look exactly like Lallement's patent drawing. Together with a mechanic named Gabert in his hometown of Lyon, Aimé Olivier created a diagonal single-piece frame made of wrought iron which was much stronger, and as the first bicycle craze took hold, many other blacksmiths began forming companies to make bicycles using the new design. Velocipedes were expensive, and when customers soon began to complain about the Michaux serpentine cast-iron frames breaking, the Oliviers realized by 1868 that they needed to replace that design with the diagonal one which their competitors were already using, and the Michaux company continued to dominate the industry in its first years.

On the new macadam paved boulevards of Paris it was easy riding, although initially still using what was essentially horse coach technology. It was still called "velocipede" in France, but in the United States, the machine was commonly called the "bone-shaker". Later improvements included solid rubber tires and ball bearings. Lallement had left Paris in July 1865, crossed the Atlantic, settled in Connecticut and patented the velocipede, and the number of associated inventions and patents soared in the US. The popularity of the machine grew on both sides of the Atlantic and by 1868–69 the velocipede craze was strong in rural areas as well. Even in a relatively small city such as Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, there were five velocipede rinks, and riding schools began opening in many major urban centers. Essentially, the velocipede was a stepping stone that created a market for bicycles that led to the development of more advanced and efficient machines.

However, the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 destroyed the velocipede market in France, and the "bone-shaker" enjoyed only a brief period of popularity in the United States, which ended by 1870. There is debate among bicycle historians about why it failed in the United States, but one explanation is that American road surfaces were much worse than European ones, and riding the machine on these roads was simply too difficult. Certainly another factor was that Calvin Witty had purchased Lallement's patent, and his royalty demands soon crippled the industry. The UK was the only place where the bicycle never fell completely out of favour.

In 1869, William Van Anden of Poughkeepsie, New York, USA, invented the freewheel for the bicycle. [18] His design placed a ratchet device in the hub of the front wheel (the driven wheel on the 'velocipede' designs of the time), which allowed the rider to propel himself forward without pedaling constantly. [19] Initially, bicycle enthusiasts rejected the idea of a freewheel because they believed it would complicate the mechanical functions of the bicycle. [20] Bicycle enthusiasts believed that the bicycle was supposed to remain as simple as possible without any additional mechanisms, such as the freewheel. [21]

1870s: the high-wheel bicycle Edit

The high-bicycle was the logical extension of the boneshaker, the front wheel enlarging to enable higher speeds (limited by the inside leg measurement of the rider), [22] [23] [24] [25] the rear wheel shrinking and the frame being made lighter. Frenchman Eugène Meyer is now regarded as the father of the high bicycle [26] by the ICHC in place of James Starley. Meyer invented the wire-spoke tension wheel in 1869 and produced a classic high bicycle design until the 1880s.

James Starley in Coventry added the tangent spokes and the mounting step to his famous bicycle named "Ariel." He is regarded as the father of the British cycling industry. Ball bearings, solid rubber tires and hollow-section steel frames became standard, reducing weight and making the ride much smoother. Depending on the rider's leg length, the front wheel could now have a diameter up to 60 in (1.5 m).

Much later, when this type of bicycle was beginning to be replaced by a later design, it came to be referred to as the "ordinary bicycle". (While it was in common use no such distinguishing adjective was used, since there was then no other kind.) [27] and was later nicknamed "penny-farthing" in England (a penny representing the front wheel, and a coin smaller in size and value, the farthing, representing the rear). They were fast, but unsafe. The rider was high up in the air and traveling at a great speed. If he hit a bad spot in the road he could easily be thrown over the front wheel and be seriously injured (two broken wrists were common, in attempts to break a fall) [28] or even killed. "Taking a header" (also known as "coming a cropper"), was not at all uncommon.

The rider's legs were often caught underneath the handlebars, so falling free of the machine was often not possible. The dangerous nature of these bicycles (as well as Victorian mores) made cycling the preserve of adventurous young men. The risk averse, such as elderly gentlemen, preferred the more stable tricycles or quadracycles. In addition, women's fashion of the day made the "ordinary" bicycle inaccessible. Queen Victoria owned Starley's "Royal Salvo" tricycle, though there is no evidence she actually rode it.

Although French and English inventors modified the velocipede into the high-wheel bicycle, the French were still recovering from the Franco-Prussian war, so English entrepreneurs put the high-wheeler on the English market, and the machine became very popular there, Coventry, Oxford, Birmingham and Manchester being the centers of the English bicycle industry (and of the arms or sewing machine industries, which had the necessary metalworking and engineering skills for bicycle manufacturing, as in Paris and St. Etienne, and in New England). [29] Soon bicycles found their way across the English Channel. By 1875, high-wheel bicycles were becoming popular in France, though ridership expanded slowly.

In the United States, Bostonians such as Frank Weston started importing bicycles in 1877 and 1878, and Albert Augustus Pope started production of his "Columbia" high-wheelers in 1878, and gained control of nearly all applicable patents, starting with Lallement's 1866 patent. Pope lowered the royalty (licensing fee) previous patent owners charged, and took his competitors to court over the patents. The courts supported him, and competitors either paid royalties ($10 per bicycle), or he forced them out of business. There seems to have been no patent issue in France, where English bicycles still dominated the market. In 1880, G.W. Pressey invented the high-wheeler American Star Bicycle, whose smaller front wheel was designed to decrease the frequency of "headers". By 1884 high-wheelers and tricycles were relatively popular among a small group of upper-middle-class people in all three countries, the largest group being in England. Their use also spread to the rest of the world, chiefly because of the extent of the British Empire.

Pope also introduced mechanization and mass production (later copied and adopted by Ford and General Motors), [30] vertically integrated, [31] (also later copied and adopted by Ford), advertised aggressively [32] (as much as ten percent of all advertising in U.S. periodicals in 1898 was by bicycle makers), [33] promoted the Good Roads Movement (which had the side benefit of acting as advertising, and of improving sales by providing more places to ride), [34] and litigated on behalf of cyclists [34] (It would, however, be Western Wheel Company of Chicago which would drastically reduce production costs by introducing stamping to the production process in place of machining, significantly reducing costs, and thus prices.) [35] In addition, bicycle makers adopted the annual model change [36] (later derided as planned obsolescence, and usually credited to General Motors), which proved very successful. [37]

Even so, bicycling remained the province of the urban well-to-do, and mainly men, until the 1890s, [38] and was an example of conspicuous consumption. [39]

The safety bicycle: 1880s and 1890s Edit

The development of the safety bicycle was arguably the most important change in the history of the bicycle. It shifted their use and public perception from being a dangerous toy for sporting young men to being an everyday transport tool for men and women of all ages.

Aside from the obvious safety problems, the high-wheeler's direct front wheel drive limited its top speed. One attempt to solve both problems with a chain-driven front wheel was the dwarf bicycle, exemplified by the Kangaroo. Inventors also tried a rear wheel chain drive. Although Harry John Lawson invented a rear-chain-drive bicycle in 1879 with his "bicyclette", it still had a huge front wheel and a small rear wheel. Detractors called it "The Crocodile", and it failed in the market.

John Kemp Starley, James's nephew, produced the first successful "safety bicycle" (again a retronymic name), the "Rover," in 1885, which he never patented. It featured a steerable front wheel that had significant caster, equally sized wheels and a chain drive to the rear wheel. [42]

Widely imitated, the safety bicycle completely replaced the high-wheeler in North America and Western Europe by 1890. Meanwhile, John Dunlop's reinvention of the pneumatic bicycle tire in 1888 had made for a much smoother ride on paved streets the previous type were quite smooth-riding, when used on the dirt roads common at the time. [43] As with the original velocipede, safety bicycles had been much less comfortable than high-wheelers precisely because of the smaller wheel size, and frames were often buttressed with complicated bicycle suspension spring assemblies. The pneumatic tire made all of these obsolete, and frame designers found a diamond pattern to be the strongest and most efficient design.

On 10 October 1889, Isaac R Johnson, an African-American inventor, lodged his patent for a folding bicycle – the first with a recognisably modern diamond frame, the pattern still used in 21st-century bicycles.

The chain drive improved comfort and speed, as the drive was transferred to the non-steering rear wheel and allowed for smooth, relaxed and injury free pedaling (earlier designs that required pedalling the steering front wheel were difficult to pedal while turning, due to the misalignment of rotational planes of leg and pedal). With easier pedaling, the rider more easily turned corners.

The pneumatic tire and the diamond frame improved rider comfort but do not form a crucial design or safety feature. A hard rubber tire on a bicycle is just as rideable but is bone jarring. The frame design allows for a lighter weight, and more simple construction and maintenance, hence lower price.

Most likely the first electric bicycle was built in 1897 by Hosea W. Libbey. [44]

The roadster Edit

The ladies' version of the roadster's design was very much in place by the 1890s. It had a step-through frame rather than the diamond frame of the gentlemen's model so that ladies, with their dresses and skirts, could easily mount and ride their bicycles, and commonly came with a skirt guard to prevent skirts and dresses becoming entangled in the rear wheel and spokes. As with the gents' roadster, the frame was of steel construction and the positioning of the frame and handlebars gave the rider a very upright riding position. Though they originally came with front spoon-brakes, technological advancements meant that later models were equipped with the much-improved coaster brakes or rod-actuated rim or drum-brakes.

The Dutch cycle industry grew rapidly from the 1890s onwards. Since by then it was the British who had the strongest and best-developed market in bike design, Dutch framemakers either copied them or imported them from England. In 1895, 85 percent of all bikes bought in the Netherlands were from Britain the vestiges of that influence can still be seen in the solid, gentlemanly shape of a traditional Dutch bike even now.

Though the ladies' version of the roadster largely fell out of fashion in England and many other Western nations as the 20th century progressed, it remains popular in the Netherlands this is why some people refer to bicycles of this design as Dutch bikes. In Dutch the name of these bicycles is Omafiets ("grandma's bike").

Popularity in Europe, decline in US Edit

Cycling steadily became more important in Europe over the first half of the twentieth century, but it dropped off dramatically in the United States between 1900 and 1910. Automobiles became the preferred means of transportation. Over the 1920s, bicycles gradually became considered children's toys, and by 1940 most bicycles in the United States were made for children. In Europe cycling remained an adult activity, and bicycle racing, commuting, and "cyclotouring" were all popular activities. In addition, specialist bicycles for children appeared before 1916. [46]

From the early 20th century until after World War II, the roadster constituted most adult bicycles sold in the United Kingdom and in many parts of the British Empire. For many years after the advent of the motorcycle and automobile, they remained a primary means of adult transport. Major manufacturers in England were Raleigh and BSA, though Carlton, Phillips, Triumph, Rudge-Whitworth, Hercules, and Elswick Hopper also made them.

Technical innovations Edit

Bicycles continued to evolve to suit the varied needs of riders. The derailleur developed in France between 1900 and 1910 among cyclotourists, and was improved over time. Only in the 1930s did European racing organizations allow racers to use gearing until then they were forced to use a two-speed bicycle. The rear wheel had a sprocket on either side of the hub. To change gears, the rider had to stop, remove the wheel, flip it around, and remount the wheel. When racers were allowed to use derailleurs, racing times immediately dropped.

World War II Edit

Although multiple-speed bicycles were widely known by this time, most or all military bicycles used in the Second World War were single-speed. Bicycles were used by paratroopers during the war to help them with transportation, creating the term "bomber bikes" to refer to US planes dropping bikes for troops to use. [47] The German Volksgrenadier units each had a battalion of bicycle infantry attached. The Invasion of Poland saw many bicycle-riding scouts in use, with each bicycle company using 196 bicycles and 1 motorcycle. By September 1939, there were 41 bicycle companies mobilized. [48]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japan used around 50,000 bicycle troops. The Malayan Campaign saw many bicycles used. The Japanese confiscated bicycles from civilians due to the abundance of bicycles among the civilian population. [49] Japanese bicycle troops were efficient in both speed and carrying capacity, as they could carry 36 kilograms of equipment compared to a normal British soldier, which could carry 18 kilograms. [50]

China and the Flying Pigeon Edit

The Flying Pigeon was at the forefront of the bicycle phenomenon in the People's Republic of China. The vehicle was the government approved form of transport, and the nation became known as zixingche wang guo (自行车王国) — the 'Kingdom of Bicycles'. A bicycle was regarded as one of the three "must-haves" of every citizen, alongside a sewing machine and watch – essential items in life that also offered a hint of wealth. The Flying Pigeon bicycle became a symbol of an egalitarian social system that promised little comfort but a reliable ride through life.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the logo became synonymous with almost all bicycles in the country. The Flying Pigeon became the single most popular mechanized vehicle on the planet, becoming so ubiquitous that Deng Xiaoping — the post-Mao leader who launched China's economic reforms in the 1970s — defined prosperity as "a Flying Pigeon in every household".

In the early 1980s, Flying Pigeon was the country's biggest bike manufacturer, selling 3 million cycles in 1986. Its 20-kilo black single-speed models were popular with workers, and there was a waiting list of several years to get one, and even then buyers needed good guanxi (relationship) in addition to the purchase cost, which was about four months' wages for most workers.

North America: Cruiser VS Racer Edit

At mid-century there were two predominant bicycle styles for recreational cyclists in North America. Heavyweight cruiser bicycles, preferred by the typical (hobby) cyclist, [51] featuring balloon tires, pedal-driven "coaster" brakes and only one gear, were popular for their durability, comfort, streamlined appearance, and a significant array of accessories (lights, bells, springer forks, speedometers, etc..). Lighter cycles, with hand brakes, narrower tires, and a three-speed hub gearing system, often imported from England, first became popular in the United States in the late 1950s. These comfortable, practical bicycles usually offered generator-powered headlamps, safety reflectors, kickstands, and frame-mounted tire pumps. In the United Kingdom, like the rest of Europe, cycling was seen as less of a hobby, and lightweight but durable bikes had been preferred for decades. [51]

In the United States, the sports roadster was imported after World War II, and was known as the "English racer". It quickly became popular with adult cyclists seeking an alternative to the traditional youth-oriented cruiser bicycle. While the English racer was no racing bike, it was faster and better for climbing hills than the cruiser, thanks to its lighter weight, tall wheels, narrow tires, and internally geared rear hubs. In the late 1950s, U.S. manufacturers such as Schwinn began producing their own "lightweight" version of the English racer.

In the late 1960s, Americans' increasing consciousness of the value of exercise and later the advantage of energy efficient transportation led to the American bike boom of the 1970s. Annual U.S. sales of adult bicycles doubled between 1960 and 1970, and doubled again between 1971 and 1975, the peak years of the adult cycling boom in the United States, eventually reaching nearly 17 million units. [52]

Most of these sales were to new cyclists, who overwhelmingly preferred models imitating popular European derailleur-equipped racing bikes — variously called sports models, sport/tourers, or simply ten-speeds — to the older roadsters with hub gears which remained much the same as they had been since the 1930s. [52] [53] These lighter bicycles, long used by serious cyclists and by racers, featured dropped handlebars, narrow tires, derailleur gears, five to fifteen speeds, and a narrow 'racing' type saddle. By 1980, racing and sport/touring derailleur bikes dominated the market in North America. [52] [54] Fatbike was invented for off-road usage in 1980.

Europe Edit

In Britain, the utility roadster declined noticeably in popularity during the early 1970s, as a boom in recreational cycling caused manufacturers to concentrate on lightweight (10.4–13.6 kg or 23–30 lb), affordable derailleur sport bikes, actually slightly-modified versions of the racing bicycle of the era. [55]

In the early 1980s, Swedish company Itera invented a new type of bicycle, made entirely of plastic. It was a commercial failure.

In the 1980s, U.K. cyclists began to shift from road-only bicycles to all-terrain models such as the mountain bike. The mountain bike's sturdy frame and load-carrying ability gave it additional versatility as a utility bike, usurping the role previously filled by the roadster. By 1990, the roadster was almost dead while annual U.K. bicycle sales reached an all-time record of 2.8 million, almost all of them were mountain and road/sport models.

BMX bikes Edit

BMX bikes are specially designed bicycles that usually have 16 to 24-inch wheels (the norm being the 20-inch wheel), which originated in the state of California in the early 1970s when teenagers imitated their motocross heroes on their bicycles. [56] Children were racing standard road bikes off-road, around purpose-built tracks in the Netherlands. [57] The 1971 motorcycle racing documentary On Any Sunday is generally credited with inspiring the movement nationally in the US. In the opening scene, kids are shown riding their Schwinn Sting-Rays off-road. It was not until the middle of the decade the sport achieved critical mass, and manufacturers began creating bicycles designed specially for the sport.

It has grown into an international sport with several different disciplines such as Freestyle, Racing, Street, and Flatland.

Mountain bikes Edit

In 1981, the first mass-produced mountain bike appeared, intended for use off-pavement over a variety of surfaces. It was an immediate success, and examples flew off retailers' shelves during the 1980s, their popularity spurred by the novelty of all-terrain cycling and the increasing desire of urban dwellers to escape their surroundings via mountain biking and other extreme sports. These cycles featured sturdier frames, wider tires with large knobs for increased traction, a more upright seating position (to allow better visibility and shifting of body weight), and increasingly, various front and rear suspension designs. [58] By 2000, mountain bike sales had far outstripped that of racing, sport/racer, and touring bicycles. [ citation needed ]

The 21st century has seen a continued application of technology to bicycles (which started in the 20th century): in designing them, building them, and using them. Bicycle frames and components continue to get lighter and more aerodynamic without sacrificing strength largely through the use of computer aided design, finite element analysis, and computational fluid dynamics. Recent discoveries about bicycle stability have been facilitated by computer simulations. [59] Once designed, new technology is applied to manufacturing such as hydroforming and automated carbon fiber layup. Finally, electronic gadgetry has expanded from just cyclocomputers to now include cycling power meters and electronic gear-shifting systems.

Hybrid and commuter bicycles Edit

In recent years, bicycle designs have trended towards increased specialization, as the number of casual, recreational and commuter cyclists has grown. For these groups, the industry responded with the hybrid bicycle, sometimes marketed as a city bike, cross bike, or commuter bike. [58] Hybrid bicycles combine elements of road racing and mountain bikes, though the term is applied to a wide variety of bicycle types.

Hybrid bicycles and commuter bicycles can range from fast and light racing-type bicycles with flat bars and other minimal concessions to casual use, to wider-tired bikes designed for primarily for comfort, load-carrying, and increased versatility over a range of different road surfaces. [58] Enclosed hub gears have become popular again – now with up to 8, 11 or 14 gears – for such bicycles due to ease of maintenance and improved technology.

Recumbent bicycle Edit

The recumbent bicycle was invented in 1893. In 1934, the Union Cycliste Internationale banned recumbent bicycles from all forms of officially sanctioned racing, at the behest of the conventional bicycle industry, after relatively little-known Francis Faure beat world champion Henri Lemoine and broke Oscar Egg's hour record by half a mile while riding Mochet's Velocar. [12] [60] [61] [62] Some authors assert that this resulted in the stagnation of the upright racing bike's frame geometry which has remained essentially unchanged for 70 years. [12] [60] [61] This stagnation finally started to reverse with the formation of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association which holds races for "banned" classes of bicycle. [60] Sam Whittingham set a human powered speed record of 132 km/h (82 mph) on level ground in a faired recumbent streamliner in 2009 at Battle Mountain. [63]

While historically most bike frames have been steel, recent designs, particularly of high-end racing bikes, have made extensive use of carbon and aluminum frames.

Recent years have also seen a resurgence of interest in balloon tire cruiser bicycles for their low-tech comfort, reliability, and style. [ citation needed ]

In addition to influences derived from the evolution of American bicycling trends, European, Asian and African cyclists have also continued to use traditional roadster bicycles, as their rugged design, enclosed chainguards, and dependable hub gearing make them ideal for commuting and utility cycling duty. [58]

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How I Saved The British Empire. Reminiscences of a Bicycling Tour of Great Britain in the Year 1901 A novel released by Ailemo Books in July 2015. Author Michael Waldock. 978-0-9819224-3-0. Library of Congress: 2015909543.


Cycling down memory lane: The History of the Bicycle

Two wheels, some slabs of metal, a chain and an uncomfortable chair. What could be more simple to make then the common bicycle? Well motivated in part by a decision to begin cycling to work, I decided to delve into the history books to discover who invented the world’s first bicycle.

What should have been a simple google search descended into a merry-go-round of contradictory facts and misinformation. Nothing’s ever simple is it? Luckily a few interesting tidbits did emerge during my meandering searches…

So how old is the bicycle and where did it come from?

According to some, this is the first ever sketch of a bicycle, created in the 1400s.

If only this were a simple question to answer!

Nowadays most people would argue that the bicycle was invented in the 1800s but others maintain that its roots can be traced back centuries earlier.

Such people argue that the world’s first bicycle came from 1490s Italy, when Gian Giacomo Caprotti sketched out a rudimentary bicycle design. Captrotti was an Italian artist and pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could have created such a sketch. Not everyone argees.

Since 1998, Hans-Erhard Lessing, a former Physics lecturer at the University of Ulm and a self-confessed bike fanatic, has argued that Caprotti’s sketch is in fact, a fraud. An opinion that hasn’t always proven popular, especially amongst Italian academics.

Instead Lessing leans towards the more popular opinion that the bicycle stems from 1800s Germany.

Necessity is the mother of invention

How did an eruption inadvertently create the bicycle?

In 1815 Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora erupted. This was no small event. Nay this was an eruption that resulted in far flung places in Europe being affected (think the Icelandic Volcano incident but bigger).

Indeed it was one of the worst ecological disasters the European continent has faced in modern history. So severe were the climatic aftereffects of the eruption that the year 1816 is commonly referred to in European history as the year without a summer.

For people in Germany, the effects from the climate change were particularly bad. Harvests failed, people starved and horses, the main means of transportation at the time, began to die en masse. It was the disruption caused by the volcano that many believe motivated Baron Karl von Drais, a German civil servant from Baden, to invent the world’s first bicycle. Witnessing the distress and destruction around him, Baron von Drais got to work on finding some form of a solution.

Luckily for bike enthusiasts around the world, he soon found something.

Within a year of the crop failure, Drais had invented what he dubbed a Laufmaschine (‘running machine’ in German). A Laufmaschine was, in common parlance, a bicycle.

The Laufmaschine in all its glory

Weighing over 20 kilograms, the Laufmaschine was heavy. Very heavy. It was difficult to manoeuvre, what’s more it was difficult to ride. The Laufmaschine was a pedal-less bicycle, meaning that users were required to push themselves forward using their feet (Flintstones style!).

What the Laufmaschine lacked in practicality, it made up for with speed. On its maiden voyage, the bicycle covered 13 kilometres in less than an hour. Unsurprisingly, the following year, 1818 saw the Baron obtain a patent for his Laufmaschine. The world’s first two-wheeled, steerable, human-propelled machine had been recorded.

And while initially Drais’s invention was seen as more of a curiosity rather than a practical mode of transport, it wasn’t long before others began to copy and build upon the Baron’s work.

The British are coming…The British and coming!

The English Style Bicycle

By the early 1820s, the bicycle had made it’s way to England thanks in part to London based coach maker, Denis Johnson.

Replacing the metal frame used by Drais in favour of a sleek wooden design, Johnson began to produce lighter weight (although not light!) bicycles with larger wheels at a cheaper cost. The new design, combined with a rather impressive advertising campaign by Johnson, briefly made bicycles the talk of London. The bike proved particularly popular with the higher echelons of English society, including the dandies. Sadly the bike’s popularity was not to last as cyclists began to notice that the bicycle wore out their boots and the police began to crack down on cyclists riding on sidewalks.

Putting the pedal to the metal!

The Bone-Shaking, Gear Changing, Pedal Having, Bicycle

Gone but not forgotten, the bicycle remained within the human conscious and at the fringes of society. All it needed was some tweaking and in the 1860s, the answer came in the form of gears and pedals (finally!).

Once again we encounter the touchy nature of this subject as there is no one general consensus as to who actually invented the first bicycle with a fixed gear system. Some argue that German Karl Kech was the first to attach pedals and a fixed gear system to the bicycle in 1862. Others point to the 1866 US patent obtained by Frenchman Pierre Lallement as the birth of such a device. A third group point to Scotland were such devices were said to have been invented as early as the 1830s.

Semantics aside, it was the 1860s that marked the birth or at least the increase in the popularity of the bicycle as we would know it.

Whilst pedalling made cycling a much easier endeavour speed wise, it made cycling a far less comfortable experience. The ability to travel at much greater speeds had not been met with the creation of suspensions, comfortable seats or durable gears. It’s no wonder that bicycles in the 1870s were commonly referred to as ‘bone shakers’.

And while the next forty years would see a series of innovations (some good, some not so good), it wasn’t until the outbreak of the First World War that the bicycle’s influence began to grow. Big wheels, brakes, better tires…cyclists were beginning to enjoy some relative comfort!

Biking Across the 20th Century

The Popularity of Bikes Grew Greatly in the 20th Century

From 1900 onwards the popularity of the bicycle began to increase even more. In Europe it became a viable means of transport, connecting people in ways that previously never seemed popular. Indeed, it is often said the rural Ireland became a much more accessible place in the early 1900s thanks to the bicycle.

The roadster and its various iterations were the most popular models across Europe and elsewhere. That is what makes the history of the bicycle so interesting. The bicycle wasn’t just a Western good…it was found throughout the globe. Remarkably in places like the People’s Republic of China, the bicycle became a government approved form of commuting. It became seen as a ‘must have’ for each citizen alongside a sewing machine and oddly a watch.

It was only in the United States did the popularity of the bicycle begin to wane during this time period as the rise of the automobile impacted the number of people willing to cycle. A problem that still plagues Western society today.

It wasn’t until the jogging boom in the 1960s that the United States began to look at cycling once more. Incredibly annual U.S. sales of adult bicycles doubled between 1960 and 1970, and doubled again between 1971 and 1975, the peak years of the adult cycling boom in the United States, eventually reaching nearly 17 million units. This interest helped contribute to the creation of other forms of bicycles such as BMX’s, Mountain Bikes, Hybrid Bikes and any other type of bike you can think of.

It may be a recent invention but the bicycle has had a colourful and controversial past to say the least…and we haven’t even touched upon the world of competitive racing! That’s a story for another day.


Bicycle Heroes

No inventor or country can single-handedly claim to have invented the bicycle it was invented and reinvented in many places over a period of many years.

In 1817, Germany's Baron von Drais de Saverbrun invented the Draisienne, (also "draisine" or "hobby horse") a steerable bicycle. It was almost completely made of wood, and had no pedals. Riders propelled it by pushing their feet against the ground. In 1860, a model called the Michaux Velocipede became the world's first mass-produced riding machine. Designed by France's Pierre Michaux, he came up with his design when a customer brought a Draisienne in for repairs. After his son tried riding it and had difficulties with his feet on downhill roads, Michaux came up with the idea of connecting crank arms and pedals directly to the front wheel as a means of propelling the bike. In 1865 in Connecticut, Pierre Lallement rode a distance of several miles and performed the very first "header" (flipping over the handlebars) on his bicycle. He was granted the first bicycle-related U.S. patent in 1866.

It seems that people have always held a special place in their hearts for sports stars of the day history has seen an ongoing cycle of esteemed athletes.

In a time long before the names Jordan, Gretsky, or McGuire were associated with greatness, people began to idolize a group of athletes who were fun to watch and enjoyable to cheer for. These athletes were bicycle racers, and they became some of America's earliest sports heroes.

Since the automobile didn't catch on until the beginning of the 20th century, it is easy to understand how and why the bicycle became so popular. Throughout the late 1800s, new models and materials were constantly being designed and tested. Bicycles provided people with a means of travel, recreation, sport, and newfound freedom. The League of American Wheelmen, or L.A.W., was established in 1880 as a national chapter of bicyclists. Known then as "wheelmen," cyclists were challenged by gravel and dirt roads, and sometimes given problems by horsemen, wagon drivers, and pedestrians. In order to improve conditions for themselves, the early leaders of bicycling came together and lobbied the government for more paved roads and assistance in ending the antagonistic acts of other road-users. Formally united in 1880, the League's mission has continued for more than a century. Today, the L.A.W. is called the League of American Bicyclists.

A cyclist with his High Wheel.

Bike racing quickly became a spectator sport.

On a tandem bike, racing required teamwork.

The race track at Tioga Country Club.

Cornelius C. Mershon and Alvin Irwin on a Rucker Tandem in 1884.

Tioga Country Club Meet.

Henry Crowther and two children wave to the camera on June 3, 1931.

Racers on Tioga's dirt track.

Competitors in a High Wheel Speed Race.

L.A.W. Pennsylvania Division Meet in Fairmount Park on June 28, 1890.

Bicycle clubs sprang up everywhere, and gave cyclists a chance to gather and socialize, share their interest in the sport, and even race competitively. Members proudly wore the badges, buttons, and pins of their clubs at meets and races. Before baseball cards came about, racing cards were sold in cigarette packs and featured the latest popular wheelman. Here are just a few of those heroes:

Charlie Miller was a German immigrant who lived in Chicago. Miller was considered the king of the "single six," a race in which a single rider sometimes pedaled as much as twenty hours in one day. Many people considered this a grueling test of racing ability, but he excelled at it. The single six was eventually outlawed.

Englishman Thomas Stevens took a bike trip around the world in the 1880s. The feat took two years and eight months to accomplish, and Stevens published installments of his colorful adventures along the way, gaining fame and the nickname, "The King of the Cycling World" for his incredible journey.

Two more "stars" of bicycle racing were George M. Hendee and W.A. Rowe. Hendee was graceful and handsome, and quickly became very popular. He was well known both in the society of cyclists and among racing fans. When W.A. Rowe, another rising star, upstaged him in a Massachusetts race in 1887, it was said that the people in the grandstands wept to see Hendee's champion status taken from him.

In the 1890s, A.A. "Zimmy" Zimmerman was America's first international athletic star. He was a fun-loving, agreeable character from New Jersey who could get three hours of sleep the night before a race and then go out and break a time record. Zimmerman changed amateur racing from a sport for the wealthy to a sport with universal appeal. He appeared in advertisements for bicycle companies, and people were fascinated with his effortless victories. Zimmy was known for his short bursts of incredible speed, holding back until the last lap when he would surge forward to defeat his competitors.

Marshall "Major" Taylor was an African-American who became one of America's first world champion athletes. Taylor was discovered at age 13 in Indiana, and won a racing medal at the same age. He faced extensive racial prejudice, and was even banned from racing in various American cities because of his color. In 1901, Taylor began a European tour of fifty-seven races, of which he won forty-two. Marshall Taylor was the first African-American world champion in any major sport.*

*[From The American Bicycle. Pridmore and Hurd, 1995.]

Note: The objects pictured above are part of The Franklin Institute's protected collection of objects. The images are © The Franklin Institute. All rights are reserved.


American Made Bicycles

In 1863, a pivotal moment in transportation history took place in the workshop of Pierre Michaux in Paris. Either he or Pierre Lallement, one of his employees, added pedals to the front wheel of a velocipede and thus was born the earliest form of what was to become the modern pedal-driven bicycle.

Lallement moved to the U.S. not long after and settled in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1868, the Hanlon brothers of New York made further improvements to the velocipede and Americans, especially university students at Harvard and Yale caught the cycling bug. By the end of 1869, however, the novelty of riding velocipedes had died out. They were heavy, slow, and uncomfortable to ride. Then, the first high-wheelers or ordinary bicycles started to arrive from Europe. They were fast, light, and dangerous to ride. The joy of riding a regular far outweighed the dangers and American men took to riding them in droves.

Columbia Becomes the First American Bike Manufacturer

In 1878, Albert Pope established the first bike manufacturing company in the United States and started to build Columbia branded ordinaries in Connecticut. He also bought the patent for the bicycle from Pierre Lallement, and before long, no one else could build a bicycle in the U.S. without paying Pope a royalty.

The Safety Sparks an Boom

The safety bicycle with pneumatic tires and front and rear wheels that were the same size came along during the 1880s and cycling boomed in Europe and America. A bike-building industry sprang up in New England around the centers of sewing machine production. Sewing machine manufacturing provided the metalworking and engineering knowledge needed to build American made bicycles, and initially, the two industries went hand in hand. The League of American Wheelmen was formed in Newport Rhode Island in 1880, and by 1900 had 150,000 members.

From Bikes to Automobiles

Bike building proved the value of and refined many materials, designs, and components that proved to be indispensable to the American automotive industry that began to develop at the turn of the century. Ball bearings, welded steel tube frames, freewheels, sprockets, and differentials all became essential components in car making. Many bicycle manufacturers began to build cars as well. Ironically, in the U.S., the cars that bicycle innovations helped to make possible began to replace the bicycle as the preferred mode of transportation among adults.

Decline, Rebirth, and the Rise of the Cruiser

Between 1900 and 1910, bicycle use in the U.S. dropped dramatically, and the number of American bicycle makers fell from over 300 to just over 100. For the next 50 years, the American bicycle industry focused on bicycles for kids, which in turn spawned one of the most beautiful and hotly collectible types of bicycles in the world – the American balloon tire cruiser. Cruiser bikes, of which the Schwinn Black Phantom and Sears Elgin Bluebird are prime examples, combined motorcycle, automobile, and spacecraft styling into rolling, human-powered works of art. Every kid wanted one more than anything else in the world. They were a uniquely American phenomenon, and couldn’t have happened anywhere else in the world.

The Return of Bikes for Grown-ups

Bikes for adults finally came back into vogue in the U.S. during the bike boom of the 󈨀s and 󈨊s, driven by a desire to be more active, and by an energy crisis that made cars too expensive to operate for many Americans. In 1970 alone, nearly 5 million American made bicycles hit the streets, and there were 75 million riders. It had taken 70 years, but bicycling had once again become the most popular form of outdoor recreation in the US.


Watch the video: History of the Bicycle