History of the Bicycle: Evolution of the Bike Over 200 YearsBike Tour Guru
This May, in celebration of National Bike Month, we’re commemorating the major role that bicycles have played in history.
The League of American Bicyclists established Bike Month in 1956 and today it is recognized across the country with events and group rides. Whether you’re interested in giving cycling a try, want to become a bike commuter, or have been considering a cycling vacation, National Bike Month gives you great reason to meet your biking goals.
This year, National Bike Month marks an even more momentous milestone: with the first bicycle debuting in 1817, 2017 will be 200 years since the bike was born! Not that we ever need an excuse to get in the saddle, but this special anniversary is the perfect occasion for seeing the full potential of the bicycle on a DuVine tour.
Early Years of the Bike – 1817
Pinpointing the origin of a machine that was invented at least two centuries ago can be difficult, but historians have found some intriguing insights into the history of the bicycle. The earliest sketch of a bicycle is usually attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. However, the first verifiable claim for a practical-use bike belongs to German Baron Karl von Drais in 1817, making this the date most commonly cited as the year the bicycle was invented.
The “Boneshaker” – 1860s
Thanks to improvements by inventor Denis Johnson, the bicycle made its way to England and rose in popularity during the 19th century. Some of the earliest bicycles were nowhere near as comfortable to ride as today’s models; in fact, bikes from the 1860s earned the nickname “boneshakers” for their bumpy rides.
Penny-Farthing – 1870s
Only a bit more comfortable than “boneshakers,” the high-wheeled penny-farthing bicycles were all the rage in the 1870s. Named for one large and one small British coin, penny-farthing bicycles featured an iconic design with a front wheel that was much larger than the rear. The rider would perch atop the big wheel and turn pedals that were attached directly to its axle.
Novelty Toys – Victorian Era
Despite its elegant appearance, the penny-farthing was not very safe to ride. With the rider perched in a high, precarious position, they were vulnerable to taking a “header”—tumbling over the front of the big wheel when the bike came to a sudden stop or hit a bump in the road. Contrary to popular belief, Victorians didn’t use these bikes as a regular means of transportation, but rather as novelty toys.
Invention of the Safety Bike – 1880s
In the late 19th century, the bike faced a major turning point with the arrival of a bike craze in Europe. Factories began mass-producing cycles and some of the features found on modern bikes first emerged, such as gears, better steering, and safer brakes. The advent of the safety bicycle in the 1880s helped change the perception of bikes. They began to be seen as a safe transportation option for everyone, including—for the first time—women and children.
The Dutch “Roadster” – 1900s
The “roadster,” a Dutch-style bike developed in the late 19th century, is often seen as an important predecessor to the modern bike. As bikes became increasingly safe and easy to ride (and the disproportionately sized wheels disappeared), more people were empowered to cycle. Bicycles became a common sight on city streets across Western Europe.
The Modern Bike
Since the turn of the century, the modern bike has been a safe, reliable, and trusted means of both transportation and recreation. An increasing number of riders have grown comfortable on two wheels, using the new style of bikes to sustain high speeds and brake safely.
Growth of Bicycle Tourism – 1996
In its next phase of life, the bike was identified for its potential in the tourism industry. DuVine began leading cycling vacations 20 years ago in Europe, allowing travelers to discover the beauty and history of ancient towns and charming countrysides from the comfort and convenience of a modern bicycle. From Africa to the Americas, bicycle travel is a refreshing way to delve into the sights, sounds, and culture of the countries you explore.
Join us in celebrating National Bike Month and ringing in 200 years of the bicycle this May! Learn more about DuVine’s biking tours and picture yourself on a short break, grand European adventure, or romantic stateside ride.
CATEGORIES: DuVine Style