The Online Library of Knowledge

Road transport


The draisienneThe draisienne A bicycle is a human-powered vehicle with two wheels. The first bicycle, described by its inventor, Baron von Drais as a "running machine", appeared in 1817. The draisienne, sometimes called a "dandy horse" or “hobby horse”, had no pedals; instead, riders pushed along the ground with their feet. It was the fastest land vehicle of its time. Later in the 19th century pedal-powered bicycles were introduced. The first recognizably modern bicycle, with a lightweight frame, rubber tyres and a chain to drive the wheels, appeared in the 1880s.

The Penny-farthingThe Penny-farthing

History of bicycles

The first pedal-powered bicycle was made by Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan in 1839. It had pedals connected with rods to the back wheel. In 1861 in Paris, Pierre Michaux built a bicycle made of iron and wood in which the pedals turned the front wheels. The vélocipède, as it was known, was the first popular bicycle. A later type of vélocipède had a steel, hollow-tube frame, wire-spoked wheels and solid rubber tyres. This was called an "ordinary bicycle", but popularly became known as the Penny-farthing because of its vastly different-sized wheels (the huge front wheel was designed to improve the machine's speed). 
From the left: Macmillan’s bicycle, vélocipède, Rover From the left: Macmillan’s bicycle, vélocipède, Rover Rover Safety bicycleRover Safety bicycleEarly bicycles, with their solid wheels, were called “boneshakers”, because they gave people a bumpy ride. Having to pedal and steer the front wheel also made cycling hard work. English inventor John Starley (1854–1901) solved the problem in 1885 with the Rover safety bicycle, which had equal-sized wheels and a chain-driven back wheel. A double-triangle diamond-shaped frame was added shortly afterwards. John Boyd Dunlop, a Belfast vet, introduced air-filled tyres in 1888, giving the new bicycle a much smoother ride.

Parts of a bicycle

The are more than one billion bicycles in the world—twice as many as cars.

© 2019 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile