Bicycles are one of the most popular forms of transportation in modern cities today. Particularly in some parts of China and in Dutch countries, bicycles are used as a primary form of transportation. Aside from being an economic and environment-friendly form of transportation for adults and adolescent students, the bicycle is also popular among children as toys. In the United States, school children ride their bikes to school. Kids and toddlers learn their first attempt at independence and autonomy in bike riding. Nowadays, bicycling activities and health fitness activities that involve bicycling are also coming up and are being recognized as new forms of sports, attesting to the fact that indeed, the bicycle has not lost its functional appeal to human activities.
What most people do not know is that the modern bicycle has developed over some period of time. Humans are now enjoying the transportation, recreational and health benefits of the bicycle due to some very relevant inventions and innovations thereafter which resulted to the modern bicycle – most commonly called now as the bike – that we have today.
Documented history of the modern bicycle goes back to the early 19th century with the invention of the “velocipedes” or human-powered vehicles. These velocipedes are used and moved using the rider’s legs and feet. One of the foremost examples of the velocipede is the pushbike or the “draisines” which was introduced in France by German Baron Karl von Drais in 1818. The draisines, much like the modern bike, had two aligned tires that were connected by a wooden seat where the rider sits on as he or she pushes along with his or her feet.
Innovation on the draisines came around 1839 with Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick MacMillan. MacMillan added a mechanical handle to the end wheel. This addition in design and structure brought the velocipede much closer to the modern bicycle that we have today. Between 1950s-1960s, further innovations were made on the bicycle. Two frenchmen, Ernest Michaux and Pierre Lallement added a new dimension to the bicycle design by increasing the diameter of the front wheel and attaching pedals to it. Aside from the front pedals features, this bike was now made of a steel frame that was mounted on wooden wheels wrapped with metal or iron tires. But because the tires were not proportionate to the frame and to its hind wheels, this design was made to fail; and albeit the metal and iron tires the wheels sturdier, its heavy and unequal weight made it harder to move around. No wonder this new bicycle was named the “boneshaker”.
The 1885 innovation on the new bicycle remedied some of the problems in design and function of the “Boneshaker”. J.K. Starley, Shergold and Lawson reduced the diameter of the front wheel. They also moved the seat farther back from the front wheels and attached the chain drive so that the rider need not pedal on the front wheels. This made the “Dwarf” safer for the rider, not to mention more balanced and easier to ride on.
Further relevant innovations came around the 1880 and the 1890s, adding new features of design to the bicycle making it more comfortable to use and with applied physics, this ultimately made the bicycle one of the best loved form of transportation, sports and recreation that we have today.