The History of Cycling: Before and Now

This is a guest post by Robert Everett; a freelance writer currently based in Chicago. Solving students career and university problems. Having an interest in marketing and business. Follow him on social media at: Facebook & Google+

The invention of a bicycle was a significant stepping stone. Not only did the bicycle become one of the best ways to stay fit, but it is also a part of a rigorous and highly competitive sport – cycling.

Bikes are the main means of transportation around the world; they are commonly used as a way to commute to work. With all the concerns surrounding greenhouse gasses, all the environmentally-friendly people supported the idea and made the conscious effort to make the switch to biking. Most cities even have a dedicated cycling lane just to support that idea further.

Hobby-horses, Velocipedes, and Bikes
A regular bike seems to us like a very simple and straightforward contraption. However, when the bike was first conceived as a concept, it shared only a few similarities with the current bicycle. It had undergone numerous redesigns and countless improvements before it became “usable” in the traditional sense.

So now, let’s examine the past and present of biking as it is. History of cycling had a couple of distinct periods and bikes themselves lived through numerous incarnations before they became accessible and comfortable enough for everyday use.

In either case, if you are in school or college, bikes can be a great way to get into shape and join a college sports team down the line.

Prototypes and Initial Designs

The story of the bicycle begins in the 19th century; 1817 to be exact. When the German Baron Karl von Drais invented something known as the “Draisienne,” commonly known as the “hobby horse” and what may be considered as the first bike prototype in existence. Well, sort of. It wasn’t actually a bike, apart from it sharing the two-wheel design.

Von Drais referred to his machine as the Laufmaschine (running machine). There were no pedals to propel the “Draisienne” forward, a person riding one was walking along “on” it, rather than riding it. Hence, the designation von Drais gave his creation, the name that perfectly captured the essence of his running machine.

The first pedal design was introduced in 1839, in Scotland. This claim is largely in dispute, but Kirkpatrick MacMillan is believed to be the inventor of the first pedal-driven bicycle. He was also the subject of a traffic offense in 1842, when he hit a pedestrian with his “device.” History doesn’t omit even the most humorous of details.

In early 1860s, Pierre Michaux, Pierre Lallement, and the Olivier Brothers took the velocipede design of their predecessors and slightly improved it, by adding pedals to the enlarged front wheel.

Wheels were wooden, and rims were iron, making the entire contraption shake in a distinct manner. Hence, the term “boneshaker” was born.

The Birthplace of Cycle Sport
In 1868, after the production of “boneshakers” was well underway, Michaux Company inspired the adoption rate of bicycles by organizing a race in Paris.

It took place on the 31st of May, and the starting point was in Saint-Cloud, a commune in the western part of the city.

The race is believed to have been 1200 meters in length (although these facts seem to be a bit fuzzy, some sources cite a 2km race), with James Moore being the winner of the first ever bike race. The legend has it; he rode a wooden bike with iron tires.

Michaux Company was delighted with the reception of this smaller scale Saint-Cloud race and made a move to increase its length.
The following year, in 1869, a much bigger race in scope was planned for bike enthusiasts, a 120 km trek between Paris and Rouen.

“Boneshakers” were mostly used here as well. About 120 participants were in the race, but only 32 were able to finish it within a span of the day. Let that sink in for a second. Either way, James Moore was the winner. Again.

He finished his 120 km journey in 10 hours and 45 minutes. To put this into perspective, it equates to roughly 11 km/h. Not exactly a blistering pace, but at least it’s twice as fast as your regular walking pace. Riding a “boneshaker” for that long couldn’t have been pleasant. Either way, he was able to finish the race through sheer willpower.

That’s right; these people didn’t look for easy ways, like those students in search of the cheapest essay writing service.

1869 is also the first time rubber tires were used. Hence, it was in that time frame when bikes stopped being “boneshakers.”

Another unusual velocipede design is known as the “penny-farthing.” It has a distinct visual design, with the front wheel being disproportionately huge in comparison to the back wheel.

Coincidentally, these are still ridden even today, but mostly for entertainment purposes. What looked refined back in the day honestly seems comical now, but that’s the part of its distinct charm.

The modern bike, in its usual sense, started appearing in 1885.

International Cycling Association was established in 1892 and may be considered the starting point for the concept of amateurism and promotion of cycling as a sport.

The Now of Bike Racing

Let’s fast forward into modern times.

Bike designs are now perfected, and there is not a single piece on them that doesn’t serve a particular purpose.

They are comfortable enough for extended usage and can reach high speeds with relative ease. They are the perfect choice for cardio workouts.

A lot of biking types exist nowadays. There’s road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking and speedway.
These races are highly competitive, and winning one has become a real display of willpower and physical fitness. Like Tour de France, which is known as the most demanding and prestigious of events.

But not only that, biking meta has evolved. There are subtle techniques and tactics used in road races: drafting and breaks. Each having a distinct usage in particular scenarios.

What may have seen as a simple design in the early 19th century, developed into a tool that allows people to reach the upper limits of possible.

There are better things to come, and more developments to follow. That much is certain.

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