3 Day Series of
Bird Cages - Birds and Bicycles
This Weeks Top Stories About Bicycles
The Earliest Bicycle - 1790
The first contraption that can realistically be said resembles a bicycle was constructed around 1790 by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France. Called a celerifere, it was a wooden scooter-like device with no pedals or steering. A similar model, improved with a steering mechanism attached to the front wheel, was created in 1816 by German Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun. He called it a Draisienne, after himself, though popular parlance also dubbed it the hobby horse.
When using either of these devices, the rider perched on a seat between two wheels similarly sized wheels, and using the feet, propelled the bicycle a bit like a the "balance bikes" kids ride today, Drais exhibited his bicycle in Paris in 1818, and while popularly received, its design limited its use to really just flat, well-groomed paths through gardens and parks, which were off-limits to a good portion of the population in those days.
When Pedals Where Added
Some historians credit the invention of the pedal bicycle to Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith who lived from 1812-1878. One day back in 1839, MacMillan was out watching people riding bikes, which at that time were driven by kicking the ground with your feet. Thrilling, eh? Seemed to him that there must be a better way. . .
According to later research done by family members, after musing on the matter a bit MacMillan came up with an idea for the first pedal set-up that could more effectively drive the bike. Using his blacksmith tools, he put his idea into place, and voila! bicycling suddenly took a giant leap forward.
Macmillan's contraption had a wood frame and iron-rimmed wooden wheels. The front wheel, which provided limited steering measured 30 inches (760 mm) in diameter, while the back had a 40 inch (1016 mm) wheel and was attached to pedals via connecting rods. In total, Macmillan's bike weighed 57 lb (26 kg). His creation gathered a lot of attention, and Macmillan helped generate additional publicity when he rode the bike 68 miles to visit his brothers in Glasgow. Copies of his invention produced by other firms soon appeared on the market, and Macmillan saw little profit from his innovation.
The Boneshaker - Invented by Michaux and Lallement
Many historians credit Pierre and Ernest Michaux as being the true inventors of the modern bicycle. This father and son duo operated a company that made carriages in Paris when they first assembled a two-wheeled vélocipède around 1867. This bike was was propelled like a tricycle, with its cranks and pedals connected to the front wheel.
The design soon came to the U.S. when a Michaux employee named Pierre Lallement who also claimed credit for the idea, saying he developed the prototype in 1863, set out for America. He filed for the first bicycle patent with the U.S. patent office in 1866.
The vélocipède ("fast foot") was also known as the "boneshaker" thanks to its rough ride, caused by its stiff iron frame and wooden wheels wrapped in an iron rim.
The High Wheeler Bike - Penny Farthing
By 1870, metalworking had improved to the point that bicycle frames began to be constructed entirely of metal, an improvement in both performance and material strength over the earlier wood frames, and bike design began to change accordingly. The pedals were still attached directly to the front wheel but solid rubber tires and long spokes on a much large front wheel provided a greatly improved ride. Also, the bigger the wheels, the faster you could go, and the Penny
Farthing as they were called enjoyed a great popularity in the Europe and the United States in the 1870s and 1880s.
The main hazard to this design was its (un)safety factor, as the riders (usually young men) sat so high up that they were very vulnerable to road hazards. The braking mechanism was almost more symbolic than functional, and there was really no way to slow the bike. And, if something were to stop the front wheel suddenly, such as a rut or object stuck in the spokes, the rider was immediately bucked forward as he rotated up over the front wheel to land squarely on his head. Hence the origin of the term “breakneck speed,” since a crash often produced truly devastating results.
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