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Friday, June 8, 2012

195 Years of the Bicycle

The bicycle was invented in 1817 and later patented in 1818 by Karl von Drais. Known as the Draisine it had two wheels and no pedals, chain or gears... It was instead propelled by your feet pushing off the ground (a bit like a skateboard).

Of course in 195 years the bicycle has gone through numerous changes... from wooden frames, to steel frames, to aluminum, to alloys, to carbon-fibre bicycles that are currently used by racers.

And then there was the steering and the drive train.

Henry Lawson invented a rear-chain-drive bicycle in 1879 with a huge front wheel and a small rear wheel but it failed to be a seller. It wasn't until John Kemp Starley created his "safety bicycle" aka "The Rover" in 1885 that sales took off and it became widely copied. The Rover featured a steerable front wheel, two wheels of the same and a chain drive to the rear wheel.

In 1888 John Dunlop reinvented and popularized the pneumatic bicycle tire, which is still used today.

Braking systems have varied wildly, but typically most bikes now come with two sets of brakes (front and back). I recall a few years ago fixing a bicycle which had 3 (front, back and coaster/pedal brakes).

What doesn't seem to have changed with time is the inability of some motorists to share the road with cyclists, especially in metropolitan cities where cycling is a common practice for getting to and from work.

You would think that after 195 years of the bicycle people would get used to cyclists, but apparently impatient motorists stuck in traffic will complain about anything.

NOTE: We would have a lot less complainers if city councils put bicycle lanes on ALL the major streets instead of just lip service.

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Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



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