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Home » Cycling Advice » The 19th century bicycle—-and how it changed!

The 19th century bicycle—-and how it changed!


Whether used as transport or for hobby the bike is a major part of people’s lives these days. The bicycle was an invention that coincided with the Industrial Revolution, and met the needs of a growing number of people to go farther and farther away to work at new factories. In a way it foretold the arrival of the car about fifty years later. In many ways, the bicycle added to the Industrial Revolution what aircraft added to interwar period.. However, it was not a polished product when it emerged, but rather its development took nearly half a century for the bike to turn into something we’d recognise today and it took another fifty years before it took on the technology that’s common with the bikes of today.

Karlsruhe, in Baden, Germany wgave birth to the first verifiable bicycle, from a historical point of view. Baron Karl von Drais worked as a civil servant working for Grand Duke of Baden and in his leisure time he was a passionate and as it turns out inspired inventor. What we today call bicycles were originally called Laufmaschinen—literally running machine—and developed as early as 1817. It was not much more than two wheels and a beam of wood connecting them.. Its very basic saddle was sat on the rider propelled himself by taking long, kicking strides. Seeing one in a museum, it’s amazing to think the bike ever morphed into the recognisable shape of today.

A few years after that so-called running machine, bicycles began acquiring one or two wheels. These larger machines, are not strictly speaking bikes, but came as a result of the development of the first bicycle. These bicycles had what today we could call outlandish technology, like a hand crank to power the machine.

In the 1830s the first mechanical bicycles were developed however. Developed by Scottish inventor Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a blacksmith, this technology appeared in 1939. His device utilised treadles—in essence a pedal that connected to the wheels directly instead of connecting to a disk cassette and chain.

From then it took another thirty years before the cycle evolved to have the chains we associate with them nowadays. The first bicycle race was held on 31 May 1868 in Paris. But in wasn’t until the 1890s that bikes really  became a success with the average person. This also the began the age of commuters and these awkward running machine transformed into the favourite transportation method for new and industrialised men and women.