The History of Bicycles

You know what we do, we promote your brand by placing your logo and design on a bicycle while making it fun! Two-wheeled human transport has been around since the 19th Century. The first two-wheeled transport to make use of two wheels arranged consecutively was the German draisine which dates back to 1817. The term bicycle was coined in France in the 1860′s. There are actually multiple unverified reports claiming the invention of the bicycle, the earliest fo which comes from a sketch said to be from 1534 and attributed Gian Giacomo Gaprotti, a pupil of the world famous Leonardo da Vinci. In 1998, Hans-Erhard Lessing described this as a purposeful fraud. Later and equally unverified, was the contention that Comte the Sivrac developed a célérifère in 1792, demonstrating it at the Palais-Royal in France. It supposedly had two wheels set on a rigid wooden frame and no steering, directional control being limited to that attained by leaning. A rider was said to have sat astride the machine and pushed it along using their feet. It is now thought that the machine never actually existed and it was instead a misinterpretation by the well-known French journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier in 1891.


Wooden Draisine (around 1820), the earliest two-wheeler.


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”) of 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.


Wooden Draisine (Around 1820), the earliest two-wheeler.


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. New names were introduced when Johnson patented his machine “pedestrian curricle” or “velocipede”, but the public nicknamed it “hobby-horse” after the children’s toy or “dandyhorse”, after the foppish men that often rode them.Johnson’s machine was an improvement on Drais’s, being more elegant: his wooden frame had a serpentine shape instead of a straight one like Drais’s. This meant he could use bigger wheels without having to raise the height of the riders seat. The machine became one of the big trends of London but eventually died out later in the year. It wasn’t until a French design that the bicycle became what we know today. Initially developed in/around 1863, this new machine sparked a huge craze. The design was simpler than both of the machines before, it used rotary cranks and pedals mounted to the front wheel hub, this enabled the rider to pedal rather than having to push the bike along using their feet. Eventually, the frame of the bike became metal this reduced the weight of the bike and provided a much sleeker design. Bicycle historian David V. Herlihy documented that Pierre Lallement claimed to have created the pedal bicycle in Paris 1863. He had seen someone riding a draisine in 1862 then came up with the idea to add pedals.He actually filed the one and only patent for a pedal-driven bicycle, in the US in 1866.


New York company Pickering and Davis invented this pedal-dicycle for ladies in 1869.


Next came the high-wheel bicycle, the front wheel was enlarged to allow higher speeds (limited by the inside leg measurement of the rider), the rear wheel shrunk and the frame was made a lot lighter. The bike was nicknamed ‘the 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 also extremely unsafe, the rider could hit a kerb or a hole in the road and find themselves being thrown over the handlebars, often their legs would become stuck under the handlebars and cause worse injuries and sometimes even death. Broken wrists were a common occurrence. The twenty-first century has seen the bicycle come along way from when it was first invented, from building them, to using them. Bicycles continue to be changed and adapted much like they used to be, but now with technology, they’re slowly getting lighter with a huge array of materials being used from aluminium to carbon fiber and they’re even becoming  more advanced, with front and rear suspension to cushion bumps and rough terrain, various tyre options and even more.


Scott Mountain Bike


Of course, like everything we have ever invented, it’ll continue to be developed and worked on, just look how far cars have come. We can only wait and see what the future brings us cyclists.