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Pedaling Through the Past


One of Leonardo Da Vinci's students in the 1490's made rough drafts of a bicycle. They were found among Da Vinci's writings for the Italian government in 1966 by a group of monks. What is realized with these findings is that in the 1490's all the parts of a bicycle were available to inventors and the public. Inventors were thinking about how to use the parts as well, but didn't think about putting them together.

There weren't many human powered vehicles before the 19th century because they weren't considered to be a sensible way of getting around.



In 1649 a compass maker in Northern Europe by the name of Johann Hautsch made a carriage that went 2000 paces per hour stopping when you wanted to. He created his carriage to work like a clock since he was a compass maker. It was a little more like a motorcar than a bicycle.

In 1680 Stephan Farffler created a tricycle to drive himself to church each Sunday. His tricycle was hand -cranked and was later turned into a quadricycle, a bicycle with four wheels.



In 1817 among the forests near central Germany a new kind of bike was created by Baron Karl von Drais. The bicycle was wooden with two wheels, a seat and handle bars. It was the fastest thing of its time with speeds of 10 miles per hour. The hard part about the bicycle was that it was without pedals. One would use their feet and push while the wheels rolled on the ground. Drais' machine was patented on the 12th of January 1818 in Baden.

The new vehicle was called the "Draisiennes". The first demonstration of the Draisiennes was April 5, 1818. It went very poorly as a result of the shabby presentation made by the hired presenter.

The Draisiennes were used for enjoyment just like the roller coster and ferris wheel. Also the bicycles were not ridden by the aristocrats. The machine was copied many times because it wasn't patented throughout all of Germany and France.



In the 1820's there was a new more improved bicycle made nicknamed the Dandy Horse. One of the reasons this bicycle succeeded was that Denis Johnson, the maker of this bicycle, had much better marketing skills than Baron Karl von Drais. That made the Dandy Horse easier to introduce to the public. The bicycle had bigger wheels which made for a more comfortable ride.

The first modern day bicycle was made in 1839 by Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith living in a village near Dumfries, Scotland. It was made to go 140 miles per hour in 1842.



The bicycle that was made by Kirkpatrick Macmillan was copied by Thomas McCall in 1860. They were used in many Glasgow races.

Bikes with pedals and cranks were introduced in 1868-1869.

In 1866 the first patent in the United States was taken out by James Carroll.

Pierre Michaux and his son Ernest is credited with the creation of the bicycle pedal in 1861.

In the late 1860's, the first rubber tires were used.

On May 31, 1868 the first bicycle race was raced. It was over 2 kilometers, at the Pare de St. Cloud.The winner was James Moore. He rode a bicycle with solid rubber tires and ball bearings that made the bicycle go faster.



In 1870 James Starley made a bicycle with a large front wheel and a small back wheel. It was called the "penny-farthing" bicycle.

The gear made the wheel turn two times per each revolution of the pedals.

The front wheel was as high as the rider's leg length.

The advantage was that there was more of a distance for each revolution which caused a more comfortable ride.

The average bicycle weighed 45 pounds and a bicycle used for competition weighed 20 pounds. The problem with the penny-farthing (high bicycle) was that it was very dangerous because if the rider were to stop the rider could fall backwards. Also it was dangerous going down a hill. There was a lever that was operated by a spoon brake which could cause a fall and a special gear that made the wheel turn twice for each revolution.

In 1882 having high front wheels was popular.

The first bicycle with a chain was made in 1874 by H.J. Lawson. The bicycle was made up of two wheels the same size driven by a chain on the back wheel. It was called the safety bicycle.

In 1878 the first bicycles in America were manufactured by A.A. Pope.



In 1893 the Wright brothers decided to open up a bicycle shop. They sold bicycles and fixed old ones. When they decided to make the airplane, they used most of their knowledge from their bicycle career.

Joining a bicycle club protected riders from the insults and stones thrown at bicyclists.

In 1893 the design of the bicycle was changed to the modern diamond-pattern frame with a roller chain and pneumatic tired wheels.



In 1909 the first six day bicycle race was held in Berlin.

In the 1930's Bicycles became more streamlined and more efficient.

From 1900 through the 1950's there wasn't much enhancement on the bicycle because of the invention of the car. Bikes looked the same for almost 50 years with thick rubber tires, one gear, and metal frames.

All throughout the 1970's and 1980's the Mountain bikes and BMX became popular.





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