History of Bikes

Jamison Chow, Journlist

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1418 – The First Human-Powered Land Vehicle – Giovanni Fontana builds the first human powered land vehicle which has four wheels and uses a rope connected by gears to the wheels.

1790 – Celerifere – Invented by Comte Mede de Sivrac, it has two equal-sized wheels and a seat, but no steering, brakes, or pedals. The rider powers forward using their feet for a walking or running start then glides on the celerifere.

1858 – Pedals – The steerable laufmaschine has pedals added to it. It’s unclear who was the first to add these.  This simple invention has evolved into two forms. Flat pedals only allow a downstroke. Clipless pedals are allow for a downstroke and upstroke.  You need special shoes to clip into these pedals though.

1863 – Boneshaker – Blacksmith Ernest Michaux invents the first commercially successful velocipede in 1863, which is now called the boneshaker. The boneshaker was made of stiff materials and straight angles which literally made it a “boneshaker” to ride on over common cobblestone roads.

1866 – Penny Farthing – British engineer, James Starley invented the penny farthing which is commonly known as the high wheeler. Pedals and cranks are fixed to the wheel.  The makers realized the bigger you make the front wheel, the farther you could travel with one pedal rotation but it is extremely inefficient to start up.

1868 – Rubberized Wheels – Clément Ader is granted the first patent for rubberized wheels. There was still room to improve on ride softness, so rubber tires with an empty core were also tried.  They act like suspension absorbing the cracks and bumps.

1876 – Caliper Brakes – English inventors Browett and Harrison patent an early version of the caliper brake.  The modern version is much more refined and powerful.

1879 – Bicyclette – Henry J. Lawson patents the first rear wheel, chain-driven safety bicycle. Lawson’s earlier models were all lever-driven.

1885 – Rover Safety Bicycle – John Kemp Starley invents the rover safety bicycle in England. This is the first model to look like what we now think of as a standard bicycle. This model combines a low seat, strong metal for a chain, and two wheels that are similar in size.

1888 – Inflatable Tires – John Boyd Dunlop patents pneumatic tires in Ireland. These came about when John’s young son asked him to find a way to make his tricycle have a softer ride on their common cobblestone streets. Although Dunlop thought he had invented inflatable tires, they had (unbeknownst to him) already been invented by Robert Thomson in 1845.

1889 – The Pedal-Back Brake – These brakes were patented by Daniel-Stover and William Hance, and would later become known as safety brakes. They also would later become a standard feature on bicycles.  They are also known as coaster brakes and are commonly found on beginner or lower end bikes.

1896 – Coaster Brakes –  These brakes allow the bike to move forward without requiring the pedals to move. Additionally, the rider can brake by pedaling backwards. These brakes continue to be popular in some areas to this day.

1897 – Duck Brakes – This type of brake uses a rod operated by a lever on the handlebar. The rider pulls the lever to pull rubber rollers against the front tire to slow down the vehicle.

1898 – Freewheel – Ernst Sachs invents the freewheel. 1898 is the first year the freewheel is commercialized. This invention allows the rider to keep pedals stationary while the bicycle still moves forward, but uses a different mechanism to do this than the coaster brake.

1979 – Mountain Bike – Californian Joe Breeze is credited for creating the mountain bike. The prototypes for these are developed by many early designers including Joe Breeze, Otis Guy, Gary Fisher, and Craig Mitchell. These are the first tough frames built for downhill racing.  These bike have lower gear ranges so it is easier to climb hills. Also the rigid fork is bent forward to absorb more shock.

1984 – Cogs – It becomes popular for cogs to be added to the rear gear cluster, increasing the number of speeds from 15 to 18, 21 and 24.  This makes it easier to climb hills.

2002 – 10-Cog Rear Cluster – Italian bicycle component manufacturer Campagnolo develops a 10-cog rear cluster, allowing for 30-speed bicycles.

Oct 2016 – Sram releases a 12 speed drivetrain knows as Sram eagle

2019 Sram releases Sram axs a electronic shifting system.