Invention of the Bicycle


The first concept of what we may call a bicycle was invented in 1817 by Karl von Drais, a German forest official and inventor. Karl von Drais also invented the earliest typewriter, stenograph, meat grinder, a device to record piano music on paper, and possibly more. The two wheeled muscle powered vehicle he invented did not have petals and was called the velocipede or dandy horse. It was more than 50 years later before bicycles had petals directly attached to the wheel. 

These wooden bicycles were known as boneshakers. Many of these had an enlarged front wheel for stability, with a seat 1.2 meters off the ground, these were specifically and laughably called "ordinaries". The first bicycle races in the 1870's were done on just such a bike, including the first round the world bike tour! 

Continuing the bicycle history lesson; in 1885 an Englishman, John Kemp Starley, designed the "safety bicycle". Although this bike did not have brakes it had two same sized wheels, a chain, and petals. Bicycle popularity flourished after mass production of rubber tires started in the 1890s, and by 1896 they were so popular that the New York Times wrote, "The bicycle promises a splendid extension of personal power and freedom, scarcely inferior to what wings would give." Lastly, In 1930 Schwinn added a spring fork to the front wheel which remains a staple on mountain bikes today.