I have always wondered why people never seem to mention who invented the bicycle. Though I am always surrounded by bicycle enthusiasts, no one ever seems to know how the history of bicycles has progressed over the years, or how it even started.
Getting to the bottom of things would eventually satisfy my yearning for knowledge regarding the history of mountain biking, as it has now become my favorite hobby. I always pose the question regarding what circumstances could have started the invention of the bicycle, did it turn out to be the bike that we now know of today, or did it start quite differently.
During my search for information regarding bicycle history and about the bicycle invention, I have found out that the answer to the question that was posed earlier “who invented the bicycle” could not be pinpointed to one man only. Thus, the credit will have to be distributed to a few good men since the invention of the bicycle was not an overnight success but an evolution.
Little Lecture on History
The Celerifere was invented by Comte Mede de Sivrac of France in 1790. Was he the one who invented the bicycle? This antique bicycle was described as a scooter-like device that was simply made of wood with no means of steering or propelling the device but with your feet.
Did you know…?
Did you know that the very first patent for a pedal driven-bicycle was filed by Pierre Lallament in 1862?
In fact, it was the only patent ever filed for a pedal-driven bicycle. Lallement conceived the idea after realizing that pedals would make a draisine faster and easier to control.
In 1896, Baron Karl Von Drais de Sauerbrun of Germany improved the original design of Comte Mede de Sivrac, and attached a steering mechanism to the front wheel of the Celerifere, and later called it the Draisienne, Velocipede, or Hobby Horse. The term “velocipede” was coined because it literally meant “fast foot” – the only way to propel the early invention.
Next on the list, is the first ever pedal driven bike that was invented in 1839, by Kirkpatrick Macmillan.
Though this bicycle gained popularity, it was not as easy to handle as compared to bicycles made today because this was approximately 50 pounds in weight.
The next design made by Pierre Lallement in 1866, was the early Boneshaker or Velocipede Design.
Though Pierre Lallement had an early design of the Boneshaker, credit was given to the father and son duo, Pierre and Ernest Michaux, who designed the improved Boneshaker in 1867. This bicycle was propelled like a tricycle in the way that it was also made with bicycle pedals and cranks that were connected to the bicycle’s front wheel.
The bicycle was made with a stiff iron frame and the bicycle wheels were wooden wrapped in an iron rim. The term “boneshaker” was coined because riders of this bicycle usually had an uncomfortable ride because of the pairing of cobblestone streets and the bicycle’s steel frame.
Breaking the Neck
The next design that comes close to the modern bicycle and to the answer to who was the bicycle inventor was called the Penny Farthing, which was created in 1870. The name was derived from British currencies – namely the Penny and the Farthing.
If you put a penny and a farthing side by side, this will show an image of this early bicycle. Though it was a work of art, it was also a very dangerous machine! An accident because of a stone, crossing dog, or some other mishap will shoot the rider face first to the ground – causing a severe crash (at that era they did not have any bicycle helmets). The source of the problem is the location of the bicycle’s center of gravity, thus the terms “breakneck speeds” and “taking a header.”
Improvements to the design from the Penny Farthing became the High Wheel Safety bike or “Ordinaries”, as they were called. A design almost close to modern bicycles and may be, at last, the answer to who was the inventor of the bicycles. The design simply made the smaller wheel the front wheel thus improving safety and showing a true sign of ingenuity regarding who invented the bicycle.
The next design that may answer as to who invented the bicycle and who might show a glimmer of hope in finding more about mountain biking history would be found within the pages of John Kemp Starley on 1885.
The Rover Safety Bicycle was a bicycle designed much like our bicycles today. It had features like sprockets, bicycle chain systems, two equally – sized wheels, and the basic diamond frame of the bicycles of today. The design also showed rubber tires.
To my amazement, this bicycle had the same features as today’s cruisers bicycles.
So, there we have it. In my view, the answer to the question as to who invented the bicycle should have been replaced with.