Who Invented The Bicycle?
The Inventors Of The Bicycle
The bicycle was greatly aided in its development by four major inventors from medieval Italy to 19th-century France. Some of these men created new concepts, while others improved upon pre-existing models, but only one is acknowledged as the true inventor of the bicycle today: the Frenchman Pierre Michaux, along with his son Ernest and partner Pierre Lallement, invented the first pedal-based bicycle in the early 1860s, starting a long and fruitful history that eventually led to the bicycle that we are all familiar with today.
The history of the bicycle began in 1493 when a student of Leonardo da Vinci drew crude designs in one of his documents. Many scientists suspected in the 1970s that the drawings were either based on an earlier Da Vinci invention or that the picture was not authentic. Regardless of what actually happened, we now know that the bicycle designs were never produced into a working model. For more than 300 years, horses and carriages were the only practical and reasonably priced mode of public transportation.
The first bicycle archetype appeared in Germany in 1817 when Baron Karl von Drais created a simple wooden Velocipede known as a “draisine” without pedals or any other mechanical drive. That model was soon refined to a more usable design, most notably on Denis Johnson’s popular wooden “dandy horse” design in London.
The use of dandy horses was not widespread for a number of reasons, including the fact that other road commuters did not tolerate velocipede users and that each bike had to be manufactured specifically for the individual user’s needs.The true bicycle revolution started in the early 1860s with the invention of the pedal.
Two French carriage makers Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallement started production of their bikes. The addition of pedals greatly improved the mobility of the bicycle, but still the greatest problem regarding those bikes were the wooden wheels that produced a very shaky drive.
The Popular name of their bikes at that time was “boneshaker”. After several successful years of mass manufacturing the bicycle craze remained high only in England. There, several major inventions happened, most notably the use of high wheel bicycles (with two, three and even four wheel configurations) and pneumatic tires.
There, a number of significant inventions were made, chief among them the usage of pneumatic tires and high-wheel bicycles with two, three, and even four wheels.
The last significant event in the history of bicycles occurred in 1885 when John Kemp Starley’s “safety bicycle” was introduced. With a standard metal frame, pneumatic wheels, and a rear wheel chain drive, this model was instantly successful, became widely used, and could be driven by anyone. Over the next 20 years, all the components that make up a modern bike were standardized, including the basic diamond shape made of metal, roller chain, one gear, pneumatic rubber tires, and coaster brakes.
Although modern bikes are packed with fascinating advancements, history indicates that Pierre Michaux’s installation of pedals is still regarded as one of the best bicycle inventions ever.
- Bicycle: The History – David V. Herlihy [ISBN 0300120478]
- The Golden Age of Bicycle Racing in New Jersey – Michael C Gabriele [ISBN 1596294272]
- The Dancing Chain: History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle – Frank J. Berto [ISBN 1892495597]
- The Bicycle: The Myth And The Passion – Francesco Baroni [ISBN-13: 978-8854403369]