The Bicycle began as a wooden push horse to a mode of transportation, as well as a sport. The future is bright for the bicycle, with its increasing popularity as well as the advancements in technology. The bicycles history dates back to the 1490’s. During this time Leonardo da Vinci, a famous artist, as an well as inventor created a primitive drawing of the bicycle. These pictures were more advanced then many ancestors of the modern day bicycle. Da Vinci’s sketches showed a bicycle with gears and a chain rotating the rear wheel, but these bikes were not manufactured until the mid to late 1800’s.
The first bicycle built was constructed by Baron Von Drai in 1817. His bicycle was called the hobby horse, its main body was made of wood and the front and rear were solid wooden forks allowing the rider very limited movement. It received the name hobby horse because of its size and shape. The hobby horse was ridden by the movement of your feet. (Like the Flintstones cartoon when Fred is driving his car. ) These bicycles were very popular among the rich of the time, since no one else could afford them.
Around 1863 many different inventors experimented with different ways to modify the out of date hobby horse, so with the new technology the new bicycle was known as the “Bone Shaker. “(Lehrer 43) It was named this because of the hard materials used to make this bicycle, most were made of a wood frame with steel wheels. The movement of peoples feet were still used. With the wheels being made of steel, riders had a bone shaking experience while people rode them on the cobblestone streets. In 1871 the more popular High Wheelers were being manufactured.
A High Wheeler was a bicycle constructed of solid steel with a huge wheel in the front averaging in size of 5-6 feet and a smaller wheel in the back averaging in height 2 1/2 feet. The advancement from the Bone Shaker was that there were handle bars to steer the bike with as well as pedals to put the immense thing in motion. To mount the bicycle took acrobatic skills which made it hard for the average person to learn to ride. The High Wheeler was the first affordable bike of the time, it only took the average worker 6 months worth of his salary to buy one. (McGurn 157)
A few years later in 1880 the tricycle was invented. Like tricycles of today they were made of steel and the pedals were located on the front wheel. These tricycles were used by the women, at the same time men were still using the High Wheelers risking the chance at breaking their necks. In 1890 the Safety Bike was invented. The safety bike was a giant step in the technology of bicycles, the wheels were now the same size, the bike now had pedals that connected to a crank with gears, and the bike featured a spring front and rear suspension for added comfort.
Only the extremely wealthy had the opportunity to purchase this bike because of its titanic price tag. This bike had technologies not used until the 1980’s. The 1890’s not only fashioned a bicycle for the wealthy but also for the common working people of the day. Common working class people were able to enjoy the bicycle as a mode of transportation as well as a recreational vehicle. (Ballantine 187) “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think It has done more to emancipate woman all around the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.
It gives women freedom and self reliance. “(Susan B. Anthony, qtd. In Mozer) By the beginning of World War I American people became more interested in automobiles than in bicycles. Companies such as Sears, Mead, and Schwinn began to market bicycles for children. (Baranet 76) Present From the beginning of World War I to the early sixties bicycles lost its popularity that it had for one hundred and ten years. Then in 1962 the bicycle began to make its comeback. In 1962 the bicycle was modified from its single speed, kiddy bike format, to a more advanced speed machine.
The bicycle was reshaped so it was more pleasurable as well as comfortable for people of all sizes. Some advances to the standard bicycle were a new frame made of aluminum and light weight steel,10 speed derailer that allowed the rider different ratios of gearing that made the bike more convenient, hand brakes that were controlled from the handle bars, wheels that were made of rubber tubing with a more rugged rubber outer layer that protected the wheel from easily being punctured, and suspension was brought back again. (Sloan 249) All of these improvements made the bike of today much more comfortable as well as affordable.
During the sixties there was a shortage of oil in the United States that further helped the growth of bicycles among the public. The oil shortage caused the quantity of oil the decrease intensely, with this oil prices sky rocketed. Many Americans thought the prices were unreal and began to use bicycles as there mode of transportation to and from work since it did not need any oil or gas. In the early 80’s there was a craze about person physical fitness and the growth of bicycling further increased. The main focus point of the bicycling was by the upper middle class. The 1984 Olympics brought even more attention to future bicyclist.
It brought more attention by the United States doing so well in bicycling events, and from their success gear ratios got a lot larger to increase the speed of the bike they started as 10 speed to 24 speeds by the late 1980’s. (Lehrer 31) By the late 80’s bicycling became the 3rd most popular sport. The two other activities that finished behind bicycling were swimming and general exercises. With the increased grow came expansions on the sport. Some of the new modifications were BMX and flatland bicycling. BMX was an off road dirt jumping sport and flatland was a challenge of balance while the rider turned and rotated the bike.
In the 90’s mountain biking blew up in the United States. From the beginning of the bicycles life it remained a road based vehicle. Mountain biking grew so fast that by 1996 Mountain Bikers competed at the Olympics for the first time in Atlanta. Future In the future the sport of bicycling will continue to grow and the technology as well as the sport will be changing. The biggest changes in the world of bicycling will be in the type of material used, the expansion of the sport, the change in the bicycles components, improvements in design, and the change in style of the bike.
In the future bicycles won’t be made of heavy steel that was used in the 50’s and 60’s, bicycles of the future will be made of heat treated aluminum, titanium, and heat treated carbon fiber. These materials will be put into use to reduce the weight of the bicycle from being (in the 60’s) 60 pounds a bicycle, to meagerly weighing 10-12 pounds. (Kolin 134) The sport of bicycling will become more broad with various coed sports. A few of the new futuristic sports that are beginning to be developed today are downhill mountain biking, Salem mountain biking, and downhill speed biking.
Downhill mountain biking will be done in ski resorts in the off season, Salem mt. Biking will be raced on the ski resorts but in season on the snow, downhill speed racing won’t be done on fully suspended bikes but on sleek aerodynamic bikes down hills nearly 90 degrees steep. (Sloane 231) Parts of bicycles like the frame will be reduced in weight in many different types of ways. One way they will reduce the bikes weight is by changing the materials to carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. A lot of bike companies now sell parts made of these materials but at unbelievable prices ($8,000 for a carbon fiber frame.
Another way components will change is by getting rid of unneeded parts on a bike. An example of doing this is by changing styles of shifters from rapid fire index shifters to grip shifters that don’t have as many moving parts making it lighter by a few grams. Improvements on design will make bicycles more aerodynamic for the road and more durable for off road riding. A way they will improve a bicycles aerodynamics is by making the tubing thin and blade like allowing the bike to cut through the air, and durability of off road bicycles will be improved by thickening the joints of the bicycles and making the frame tubing larger.
The most important change will be the overall change in style. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the big handle bar banana bike seats were in, but in the future bicycles with carbon fiber rims, front and rear suspension, titanium allow brake boosters, and florescent colored frames that stand out will be a big trend in a few years. (Kolin 163) In conclusion the bicycle starting as a wooden push horse to a machine capable of going over 50 mph. has under gone a metamorphosis in its 200 year life. The future is bright with the advancement of its popularity and technology. Who knows where the bicycle will be 100 years from today?