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Photo: Irishtimes.com

The first bicycle or ‘velocipede’ was invented in the early 1800s and looked very different to the ones we know today. However, you might be surprised to learn how many ‘modern’ bicycles design features aren’t so modern after all, Blog Bricsys indicated.

When was the first bicycle invented?

The bicycle as we know it evolved in the 19th century thanks to the work of several different inventors. A German baron named Karl von Drais made the first major development when he created a steerable, two-wheeled contraption in 1817. This clunky wooden prototype didn’t include a chain, brakes or pedals.

Instead, riders propelled the 50-pound frame forward by pushing off from the ground with their feet. Known by many names, including the “velocipede,” “hobby-horse,” “draisine” and “running machine,” it is this early edition that has made Drais widely acknowledged as the father of the bicycle, History said.

Who invented the first bicycle?

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Photo: Monnem-bike.de

Karl Freiherr von Drais (born on 29 April 1785 in Karlsruhe – died on 10 December 1851 in Karlsruhe as well) was a German forest official and significant inventor in the Biedermeier period.

Drais was a prolific inventor, who invented the Laufmaschine (“running machine”), also later called the Velocipede, Draisine (English) or draisienne (French), also nicknamed “the hobby horse” or “dandy horse”. This was his most popular and widely recognized invention. It incorporated the two-wheeler principle that is basic to the bicycle and motorcycle and was the beginning of mechanized personal transport, Germanculture reported.

Structure and design

The first bicycles were made from wood, with steel “tires”. The frame shapes were also rather wild and typically curved. Manufacturers moved towards a diamond-shaped body, made from steel tubing as it was much stronger and lighter.

The device earned the name “boneshaker” due to the combination of lack of suspension, steel-rimmed tires, and the poor road surface quality of the time.

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Photo: Onetz.com

How did it work?

Bicycles nearly looked very different. Before rotating pedals were added, there was the treadle bicycle, invented in 1860. (A treadle is another way of converting a pedal motion into a rotational one. It more closely resembles a cross-trainer.) Fortunately, the crank mechanism proved more popular otherwise bicycle culture might be very different today.

The bicycles, with pedals and cranks, first appeared in France around 1863. These pedals were attached to the front wheel of the bicycle. This design meant that bicycles were difficult to steer.

The modern bicycle

In the late 1800s, the bicycle, nearly as we know it today, the ‘safety bicycle’, was introduced. The design featured a chain-driven, rear wheel. However, the wheels were often differently sized and the frames were frequently somewhat bizarrely shaped.

Incredibly, they were manufactured using technologies from the sewing industry. This new design introduced the bicycle to a wider market, including women. Shortly after this the introduction of pneumatic tires and ball bearing hubs made for a smoother ride.

The upright bicycle became the standard as recumbent bicycles were banned from competitions, due to the increased speed possible with such designs. However, the International Human Powered Vehicle Association seek to promote ‘banned class” bicycles.

Being the foundation for next generations

Modern age of bicycles started in the 1960s and 70s with the increase of North American consciousness of the benefits of exercise and energy efficient transport. In 1975, over 17 million riders started driving a new sort of much lighter and cheaper bikes.

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Photo: Trendhunter.com

Since then racing bikes, mountain bikes and BMX became the standard for the bicycle drivers all around the world, with recent addition of hybrid commuter bikes (specialized for city use with wide range of equipment taken from mountain and speed bicycles). Standard materials from witch modern bicycle frames are made is aluminum and carbon fiber.

In 2010, worldwide production of bicycles is in the range of 125 to 130 billion, Bicyclehistory reported.

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