Who Invented the Bicycle?
In 1817, Karl Drais von Sauerbronn invented the first bicycle named the “Laufmaschine”. He invented his bicycle as an alternative to riding horses. The Laufmaschine, which means “Running Machine” was a dual-wheeled bicycle that was made entirely of wood, including the wheels.
It had a wooden seat and steering handles. A rider propelled themselves forward by pushing against the ground with their feet. This kind of bicycle was also known as a “Velocipede”, from Latin meaning fast feet, and had nicknames such as dandy-horse and hobby-horse.
A rider would push his or her feet against the ground to make the machine go forward. Sauerbronn’s bicycle was first exhibited in Paris on April 6, 1818. It was an extreme ride that was nicknamed the “Boneshaker”. It was during this period of time that the word bicycle came into use. Its definition was derived from Latin “bi” meaning two and Greek “kyklos” meaning circle or cycle.
In 1839, the Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick MacMillan invented the first pedal-propelled bicycle. MacMillan never patented his bicycle invention and it was copied by others. It was discovered that he was the inventor because of an accident reported in a Glasgow newspaper. MacMillan was fined five British shillings for running over a pedestrian with a newly designed pedal-propelled bicycle.
Some history books state that Pierre and Ernest Michaux, the French father and son team of carriage-makers, invented the first bicycle during the 1860s. Historians now disagree with this, and there is evidence that the bicycle is older than that. However, historians do agree that Ernest Michaux did invent the modern bicycle pedal and cranks in 1861.
In 1869, the French inventor Eugene Meyer created a large wire-spoked tension wheel, which he used to design a “High” bicycle. It was a bicycle invention that had a very large front wheel and a very small back wheel. Further improvements were made by the English inventor James Starley. Starley called his bicycle the “Penny Farthing”. It had a tubular frame and rubber wheels.
The term Penny Farthing refers to two coins, the penny and the farthing. The difference in the size of these coins approximated the size difference between the two tires on the bicycle.
Invention of Modern Bicycle
John Kemp Starley, the nephew of James Starley, invented what is considered the modern bicycle. This bicycle invention was still powered by foot pedals but now the pedals were attached to a chain that linked to the back tire.
It was easier and safer to use than other bikes. Accordingly, it was named the “Safety” bicycle and it sold all over the world. The Safety bike was manufactured by J. K. Starley & Co., which later became the Rover Cycle Company.
While John Starley is considered the father of the modern bicycle, it is his grandfather James who is regarded as the father of the bicycle industry.