A Social History of the Bicycle By Nick Melton Over the course of the bicycle's development, it has affected cultural

mindset; international activism; and a worldwide affection toward self powered transportation. The evolution and invention of the bicycle has been a pivotal changing point for mankind. It has sparked the concept of human powered transportation, and all of the advantages surrounding it. Since the first appearance of the bicycle around 1815 to the year 2010, people have loved it. Of course, over the years, people's enthusiasm for the machine has waxed and waned inconsistently. In times of poverty the machines popularity will perhaps increase, but once a new machine is built (like cars or locomotives) the popularity may decrease. Today, bicycles are an essential part of millions of people’s lives across the world. The relative cost of bicycles of cars is substantially less; they are also smaller; lighter and drivable by people of a larger age range. The bicycle has created transportation for all people of the world, and also innovated concepts of vacation and sport. The true beginnings of the bicycle were in the early parts of the 19th century. The ideas and inventions of this century started a revolution. In the year 1813, Baron Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Freiherr Drais von Sauerbronn of Mannheim, invented a four-wheeled ‘driving machine’

which operated with a treadmill like roller on the rear axle (Wilson). Two years later, this very same German invented a machine that had some very obvious similarities to a bicycle of modern day. It had two wheels of equal size, connected to a frame, with handles and a seat. This device also had some obvious differences to the modern cycle: The frame was made from wood; the tires were solid rubber; and there were no pedals. The Draisienne, it was named, was essentially a running machine. The rider would sit astride and walk or run, going down hills they could easily coast, though it had no brakes besides their feet. In the time of its invention, the Draisienne was a marvel of ingenuity. The largest advancement in technology was the steering front wheel. Without steering, the bicycle would be absolutely useless. A bicycle keeps upright when moving by using a gyroscopic effect. A spinning top can only stay upright by constantly reorienting itself around an imaginary cone. If a bicycle had a fixed front wheel the gyroscope could not work because the wheel would not permit any wheel reorientation (Wilson). Originally, Karl Drais named his invention the Laufmaschine. In France it was named the Draisienne. This name stuck. Another French name was le Velocipede. In the United Kingdom it was known as the Hobby Horse. It was called this because it was something you sat astride, used for transportation and kept, like a horse. The word 'hobby’ was tacked on because tending for the

device was much less demanding and far more of an interest rather than a common practice. In the United States they called it the Tracena. Tracena is a clear misspelling and Americanization of the popular French title Draisienne (Wilson). A short number of years after the Draisienne was invented; an English carriage maker made and marketed an enhanced version of the Drais cycle. His name was Denis Johnson. Johnson named his machine the Dandy Horse. He is truly to thank for first introducing the bicycle to the public. His marketing skills managed to advertise the product into popularity. By the summer of 1819 popularity grew to a point where the London police charged a two pound fee for anyone riding their bicycle on a side-way, it had become too dangerous. In the 1820's Johnson started a bicycle training school. This school was attended almost entirely by wealthy young men. Young people were, almost always, the only students of this school. Bicycling was never a poor man’s sport until much later in the century. A level of wealth was required to afford these new inventions (Wilson). By 1839 a bicycle with a crank system was invented. It had a swinging crank system similar to that of a locomotive’s transmission. This evolution was created by a Scottish blacksmith named Kirkpatrick Macmillan. It was lighter then the Draisienne with thinner parts. This device even beat a post carriage in a

race in 1842. The Macmillan cycle was not hugely successful, but it was an important step in the bicycle’s overall development (Britannica). Nearly twenty years after the Macmillan cycle was invented and used, the next major development in bicycling came around. Pierre Michaux and his son Ernest built a cycle with cranks attached to the front wheel, the first of its kind. It was nicknamed the Boneshaker, having very little shock absorption (Britannica). The Michaux cycle was used in the first official bicycle race, held on the 31 of May 1868, in Parc de Saint-Cloud France. The race was won by an Englishman named James Moore (Britannica). A logical step to increase the speed of the boneshaker was to make the front wheel larger. In 1870 John Kemp Starley made this idea into reality. Today, John Starley is known as the father of the bicycle industry (Britannica). The popularity of this kind of bicycle lasted and grew for a decade and a half. Starting in 1870, the front wheels size was built larger and larger. It grew until it was unreasonable to have a wheel so large with thick metal spokes. 1874 marked the invention of the tangent-spoked wheels (Wilson). These wheels used dozens of spokes stretched from the wheel hub to the wheel rim. This provides the wheel with lateral support in addition to its rolling support. With this modification, the wheels could get even larger. In fact, the wheels got as large as they possibly could, exactly as large as the riders’ leg length. When

purchasing one of these, then ordinary, bicycles, you would buy them in specification to your leg length (Britannica). With hollow tubing for the frame, these cycles weighed approximately 50 pounds. But when built for racing on a track, they weighed closer to 21 pounds (Britannica). Today, these 'ordinary' bicycles are known as penny-farthings . This was an English nickname, a penny representing the front wheel, and a farthing (being a fourth of a penny), the rear wheel. These cycles were highly dangerous, being so high up and going so fast. Regardless of the danger, the public loved them (Britannica). James Starley was an amazing businessman and entrepreneur who standardized the bicycle. It became a popular activity for rich men to ride through the country on holidays. It was unheard of to have women ride a bicycle. Though around this same time, tricycles and quadracycles were also becoming popular. These machines were less dangerous, and less efficient. They were favored by women though, or at least, acceptable for women (Britannica, Rubinstein). Starley also invented the first bicycle gearing system, a gearing so that one revolution of the pedals would make two revolutions of the wheel. This was a very early model of what later would be commonplace, gearing (Britannica). Perhaps the most essential development of the bicycle was by H.J. Lawson. In 1874 he built a rear-drive bicycle with an endless chain between the

driving sprocket and the rear wheel. It had two wheels of equal size, braking and pedals. This machine looks the most similar to the modern day bicycle. With all of these safety advancements it was advertised as the Safety Bicycle (Britannica). In 1888 John Boyd Dunlop of Belfast, created a usable pneumatic tire. Though, Dunlop is not the inventor of the pneumatic tire, a fellow Scot, R.W. Thomson is the true inventor. His experimenting never fully prevailed in the 1840's because he didn't fully realize the elasticity of rubber. Dunlop had a marketable product that worked well. In 1889 his tires were used commonly in races held in Belfast (Wilson, Rubinstein, Britannica). Almost at the same time, popularity both for the pneumatic tire and for the safety bicycle grew. In combination they were comfortable, safe and fast (Rubinstein). In a race in 1895, a safety bicycle easily beat an ordinary. They had better leverage and they were much less cumbersome to operate, even for a professional (Edwards). The pneumatic tire and the safety bicycle together almost killed production of the ordinary (Britannica). Almost anyone could ride one of these machines. This launched the bicycle into popular society (Rubinstein). Before the 1860’s, bicycling was not the norm. Cycles were expensive, heavy, dangerous and strange (Rubinstein). A huge change took place in British

society in the early 1890’s. James Starley (John Starley’s nephew) standardized the safety bicycle. It was mass produced and became less and less expensive. The diamond shape frame was established as the cheapest and most effective (Britannica). In 1890 the bicycle was a common, modern, cheap device. The inexpensiveness made it possible for the average working class citizen to afford transportation. This freed the common people. For the first time in history they had a private, personal form of transportation. It was free from train schedules and the toils of owning a horse. It was fast, efficient, cheap and even fun. As the decade progressed, the velocipede grew from ingenuity, to necessity, then to pleasure. For the first time, the idea of leisure travel took full bloom. People could ride off into the country in the morning and come back at nightfall, just for fun. The bicycle grew into a passion. This passion gradually turned into popular fashion. In the mid 1890’s society figures and politicians of the UK were drawn riding cycles. A popular magazine called Cycling was reported to have sold over 41,000 copies in one week (Rubinstein). Amidst the excitement, a question arose: should, or could women bicycle? Women had been using tricycles to a fine point, but they wanted more. It wasn't exactly frowned upon for women to bicycle; it just wasn't the norm (Rubinstein). A feminist and successful cycling writer named Constance Everett-Green once said:

"It would hardly be too much to say that in the April of 1895 one was considered eccentric for riding a bicycle, whilst by the end of June eccentricity rested with those who did not ride." (Rubinstein)

Women began to ride bicycles in substantial numbers in 1894 and '95. It sparked an independence revolution for women. Now, women had much fewer constraints in terms of transportation. They could travel as much as they wanted with no male supervision. Women could become completely independent with their location. They were free to move. The bicycle was a major step in the emancipation of women (Mackintosh). Women's rights had been slowly gaining traction in the predominantly male society. Earlier in the century women were first allowed to study. All across the world women were finally making their mark on society. The bicycle was a symbol of independence (Women & Bicycles). It gave women power. Susan B. Anthony, the famous feminist, loved the bicycle:

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women then anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel... the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood." (Women & Bicycles)

Arguably one of the most important steps of women's emancipation was

because of the bicycle. This was the revolution of women’s pants. Pants gave woman the freedom to move. The invention of the bicycle helped to change popular cultures opinion of women’s clothing. When women first began riding bicycles, it was quickly realized that it was almost impossible to do with current fashion. An obvious change was to use pants. The first women's pants were large and billowy, looking similar to that of a modern dress (Mackintosh). They could now get their legs over the machine. Dresses and corsets were unconventional for cycling. Pointy boots and tall heels also became obsolete in the cycling community. Over the course of months, dresses, corsets and tight shoes became something to laugh about. Laughable, at least, to the cycling crowd. They were still expected from the average women. As fashionable as the bicycle had become, so were the people who were riding them. Cycling clothing gradually leaked into mainstream fashion. This was the end of the stereotypical Victorian woman (Women & Bicycles). This also marked the end of a century. The 20th century brought many changes in both technology and culture, especially for the bicycle. The bicycle's popularity only momentarily lasted into the 20th century. The industrial revolution in the U.S. made the bicycle even cheaper. That was in the beginning, though. Soon, Henry Ford’s assembly line was adapted for the bicycle, making more of them, faster. Henry Ford’s

assembly line also revolutionized the production of the automobile. The sales and popularity of the car quickly surpassed that of the bicycles in America. The sales of the bicycle plummeted in the 1910's. The bicycle fell out of popular fashion in the west (Wilson). Most European countries still greatly favored the bicycle. Its popularity was almost constant throughout the 20th century. The bicycle was used for everything it could be: commuting; vacationing; touring; and most importantly, racing. France and Italy are two major countries’ that will always have a certain connection in the bicycle. This connection is even patriotic, the bicycle has a connection with the country. This patriotism began early in the century. It began from the development of bicycle racing (Armstrong). The Tour de France was the first of these major races. It first ran in 1903. It was founded by the editor of the sports magazine L'Auto Magazine. Henri Desgrange's first tour ran 471 km (292 miles). It was a grueling challenge of ultimate competitiveness. The racers rode fixed gear bicycles (Edwards). Derailleurs and shifters had been invented but not perfected (Britannica). Desgranges idea was to make a race so challenging that only one man would finish. In the beginning, this was the case. As the tour progressed through the century, its popularity grew (Armstrong). The race gained more and more supporters. By three or four years into the tour people were filling the roadsides

along the route. The tour publicized the tiny towns and tiny roads. It became a symbol of France. In 1910, Desgrange included mountains in the route. The racers crossed the Pyrenees’ mountain pass. The next year, 1911, the tour crossed the Alps. Today, the Tour de France is the summit of a cycle racers career. The 2003 tour was 3,350 km (2081 miles) in the saddle. The race requires both speed and endurance, simultaneously. The ability to push ones physicality for 100 plus miles every day is a necessity for this race. This has always been the case. The Tour de France requires peak physical condition (Armstrong). In 2005 an estimated 15 million people watched the Tour de France from the roadside, 2 billion on television. The race is broadcast worldwide. The Tour de France is one of the three Grand Tours. They are three of the largest cycling races in the world, they are all held in Europe. The trio consists of the Tour de France: the tour of France; the Giro d'Italia: the tour of Italy; and the Vuelta a Espańa: the tour of Spain (Armstrong). The Giro d'Italia, another of the Grand Tours, is held in Italy annually. The race was founded in 1909. Italy does not have as rich of a history in the invention of the bicycle. In the early part of the century, Italy began to make a mark on the bicycles history. Italians were innovators when it came to many things. They developed gears in new ways; they also revolutionized the look of

the bicycle. Therefore, the cycling world today is strewn with Italian names: Campagnolo, Bianchi, Cinelli, Colnago and many more. Italy also has one of the largest numbers of professional cyclists in the world. Some of the most famous cyclists were Italian: Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Francesco Moser. The Giro is almost a national holiday in Italy, bringing tens of thousands of people out to the streets. It is a day celebrating Italy (Bike For All). Outside of the professional circuits, bicycling was a common pastime for many working class citizens (Wilson). In and around the 1920's, in the U.S., cycling was mostly reduced to use by children. The automobile became exponentially popular. By this time gear shifting on bicycles was a common practice (Britannica). The first gears were designed in the late 19th century. They were less popular at first because using a derailleur on dirt roads was not optimal (Britannica). In 1899 the derailleur was patented (Wilson). In 1901 the hub gear was patented by H. Sturmey and J. Archer. They first made a gear with two speeds, then they moved to three, which became the norm (Britannica). The Raleigh company in Nottingham England started selling Sturmey-Archer sport bikes in the very early 20th century. These remained hugely popular for most of the 20th century (Wilson). The automobile caused significantly reduced sales of the bicycle (especially in the U.S.) during a large part of the early 20th century. That was

until the Second World War. In 1939 supplies were rationed all across the world. This included fuel. Cars got more and more expensive as the war progressed. The bicycle was cheap and efficient. It provided almost free travel. It boomed and the world momentarily remembered its affection for the bicycle. The boom lasted for most of the war, fuel seldom stopped being rationed (Wilson). After World War Two, gas prices in the U.S. were at their lowest point. The post war climate in the U.S. brought urban sprawls, low gas prices, and therefore, more cars. The U.S. grew a renewed interest in the car. Almost every family had at least one car. This had devastating effects on bicycles. The bicycle was reduced to use by almost entirely children (Wilson). This unpopularity was a U.S phenomenon. After the Second World War, the Tour de France had a resurgence. The race marked an important step toward the reconstruction of France. It also brought a feeling of patriotism back (Armstrong, Wilson). In Italy at this same time, a star was created. His name was Fausto Coppi. In his professional career, Coppi won the Giro d'Italia five times and the Tour de France twice. He became a legend all across the world. He was an Italian idol. Today Coppi is placed in the Cycling Hall of Fame and the Italian Athletes’ Hall of Fame. He has had a movie made about him and a special award in the

Giro d'Italia named after him. Coppi is still one of cycling's greatest athletes (Bike For All). At the end of the post-war economic expansion in 1973, the stock market crashed. For the winter of 1973 most of the U.S. experienced an oil crisis. As with most gas shortages, this brought a boom in bicycles popularity. These were also the first years that the major cycling races were filmed, spreading the sport to the masses of the United States. The boom started by influencing middle class college students. At first, three-speed Raleigh Sports and other English cycles were popular. As the decade progressed, the national interest turned more to ten-speed French or Japanese bicycles. This sparked America’s obsession. The sales of bicycles surpassed those of cars (Armstrong). For the first time, America was involved in the professional cycling world. Over the past few decades there had always been a few Americans in professional cycling, but they weren't hugely successful or popular. That was until a certain Texan came along. He gave the American people someone to idolize in a sport so filled with Europeans. His name was Lance Armstrong. He brought the sport to the American people. Of course, there always was a small group of U.S. citizens who followed the sport; Armstrong merely popularized it into the mainstream. Lance Armstrong has won the Tour de France seven times, the most of any man (lancearmstrong.com).

In other parts of the world, the mass spread of the bicycle began. In China, the bicycle had been growing in popularity since the late 1920's. Bicycle industries in China started producing these machines in mass. As the industries in China started to develop, so did the publics interest. In the 1940's the bicycle was mass-produced, making it substantially cheaper. City streets began to be crowded with cycles. It is reported that in 1949 the country of China may have had half a million bicycles on the streets. By 1958, the number reached a million. Bicycle lanes became a common part of city street planning. The bicycle was used by anyone who could ride them, it was a method of mass transportation (Esfehani). China felt a massive decline in cycling culture since the 1990's as cars have become commonplace. Bicycles will still always be popular but automobiles have become popular as well. Environmentalists strongly push the bicycle as means of transportation. China is one of the most crowded countries in the world. Cars in mass create a heavy level of air pollution in an area like this. China, most recently, has been making substantial progress in the field of alternative energy and fuel. A huge number of cars in a small, densely packed area can be very unhealthy for the residents. Certain government officials have pushed alternative energy because of this (Esfehani, Kurtenbach). The country of Japan has a similar history to that of China's. The industry

increased and so followed people’s interest. The numbers of bicycles didn't reach into the millions like China, but it was still very popular. The bicycle is a common sight in most Japanese cities. Many cities in Japan have bicycle programs for locking and parking your personal bicycle, as well as rental programs (Japan Guide, Wilson). During the Japan's reconstruction period after World War Two, a form of track bicycle racing was created and sponsored. Keirin looks very similar to that of normal track cycling, but it has some very important differences. Keirin pits nine racers against each other in a velodrome. The major difference between average western track racing and Keirin is Keirins aspect of betting. Every race is legally bet on, giving the sport an element similar to dog, or horse racing. A very complicated betting system is used where every statistic of a racer is published. The statistics might even go as far as blood type of any given racer. Every official Keirin racer must attend the Keirin training school. This school provides racers with knowledge and practice of strategy in racing. Racing strategies also get very complicated. Racers have to rely on teamwork and positioning to win a race, not just speed. Students at the Keirin school get frequent lectures in etiquette as well. Because Keirin is a betting sport, racers could easily be bribed, so the school teaches morals as well as race training. Keirin racing even has had affiliations with members of the Yakuza (organized

crime groups in Japan). Keirin race champions are advertised on posters and other media sources, giving Keirin a glamorous feel at times. Keirins overall popularity comes and goes as with an sport (Edwards). The modern world is making innovations and advancements every day. Bicycle booms and trends come and go very quickly. Since the beginning of the bicycle, people have been trying to go fast. The innovations began with the penny-farthing bicycle, then into dropped handlebars. From here the objective to make them faster was to make them lighter. They used aluminum frames with holes drilled through almost every component to save precious grams. They soon realized that lightness alone would not be sufficient; cycling manufacturers realized that the key was to be aerodynamic. This brought a wave of aerodynamic track bicycles. It was found shortly that upright bicycles themselves were very inefficient in terms of wind resistance. Recumbent (bicycles that have you sit or even lie down to operate) bicycles have the ideal aerodynamic qualities. Now, records of self-paced land speed records are up in the 80 mph range. The cyclists use carbon recumbent bicycles that have an aerodynamic shell on the outside to cut as much wind as possible (Edwards). Another modern form of bicycling is mountain biking. Mountain biking, simply put, is off-road cycling. Through the use of wide, knobby tires and sturdy frames with shock absorption, people now can traverse the most serious

of terrain. There are various types of mountain biking: downhill, trails, or even jumping. The sport has varying levels of danger; for instance, downhill biking could ultimately be fatal. In fact, part of the thrill of the sport comes from the danger. Mountain bicycles also have a varying level of shock absorption, depending on what variety of the sport is being practiced (Bike For All). A related discipline of cycling is bicycle motocross. The sport of motocross has inspired generations of cyclists. Motocross is a sport that involves racing motorcycles over a course that consists of rolling dips and jumps. The sport that is now known as bicycle motocross (BMX) is a race in which cyclists race on tracks similar to that of motocross', on bikes designed just for the purpose. The cycles themselves are relatively light and very small. These bicycles are designed for jumping. BMX cycles can be seen ridden around in public. Today, the machine itself is used more for the act of doing tricks on flat pavement rather than for the actual sport. This is called freestyle BMX. The small size of the BMX bicycle lends itself to a huge variety of stunts and tricks, including jumps (Bike For All). Observed bicycle trials is a sport that combines freestyle BMX and mountain biking. This sport has the rider of a bicycle navigate through an obstacle course. The rider will use skills of jumping, track standing (staying upright on a bicycle without moving forward or back) and turning. The sport is

the ultimate test of bicycle control. On a course, there may be a 15 foot jump, a thin metal railing and any number of rocks or stumps. A competitor is expected to ride over all of these obstacles as fast as possible (Bike For All). The most modern movement in bicycle culture is the fixed wheel craze. This bicycle has a fixed transmission with no brakes or gears. This trend is not specific to the use of the bicycle, but to the way the bicycle is constructed. The popularity began with New York messengers riding track bicycles along their routes for advantage of speed and agility. From there it spread all across the world. The appeal of it lies with the simplicity and the minimalism. It is a direct transfer of motion into energy. A huge community has grown around it. Certain fixed bikes are used for tricks, while most are used for road racing (Edwards). A huge part of the trend is the appeal of the counter-cultural aspects. Most riders are urban cyclists. They race and do tricks in the city. A large percentage don’t wear head protection and the riding styles they employ are dangerous and illegal. The styles of riding are faster ways of navigating through traffic. In a large city a cyclist can easily go as fast or faster than cars on the road, especially if the rider doesn't brake at traffic lights or follow any rules of the road. A cyclist can weave through cars and dodge past them with relative ease. This style of riding is the most effective way of riding in the city, at least for speed. Using a fixed bike with no brakes puts all of the stopping

responsibility in the legs. To stop, a rider must lock their legs and skid. Special urban races called Alley Cats are made to mimic that of a messenger’s daily job. There are checkpoints for racers to reach, then go to the next checkpoint, the first person who has reached all checkpoints win. These are very illegal races and are organized by underground groups. Regardless of the law, every year, an international bicycle messenger competition is held. Competitors race and have trick challenges. Fixed cycling is now an entire culture in and of itself (Edwards). The city of Copenhagen has revolutionized the bicycle in the city. Contrarily to that of bicycle messengers, it is a very legal practice. Copenhagen, Denmark is the world’s first bicycle approved city. It was approved by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). Copenhagen is a city that was originally designed for the lives of people. It was not built for businesses, and not for cars. It was "...designed for life." according to city officials. Denmark and surrounding countries have always had a share in bicycle culture. The land in this area is ideal for the bicycles use; the roads are slim and there are relatively few hills. The bicycle provides transportation and independence. In addition, it does not increase air pollution, like cars or buses. The bicycle is made for people; just like the city (Copenhagen).Almost every road in Copenhagen has bike lanes. The city has co-operative bicycle exchange programs. With multiple

cycling programs around, one can easily use a free bike from the city, or simply rent one. The community aspect is the overwhelming idea behind it (Copenhagen). The world over has taken trends from Copenhagen bicycle culture. People, businesses and governments are employing the use of bike lanes and community bike co-ops in other places around the world. The bicycle has so many advantages that naysayers are very few. Today there are programs in the west that provide impoverished children in Africa free bicycles. This program could change a child's life by giving them the chance to go to school, or maybe just to survive. In times of pollution crises and the overuse of cars, the world has turned to the bicycle. Most environmental activists are advocates of the bicycle. The bicycle is a clear option for the future of the world (Bike For All). The bicycle is a marvel of ingenuity and intelligence. It is the most efficient form of self-powered transportation. It has changed the world. It has become a pastime, a protest, a hobby, a symbol of rights, a career, an obsession, a fashion, and even a friend. But most of all, the bicycle is an object of freedom. It has made people self-reliant. There are so few disadvantages that it has become a way of life. The bicycle has been there for 200 hundred years, in times of war and peace. Today, the bicycle could change a community, or perhaps even the world. A simple machine has become a necessity for millions of people

around the world. It can keep you fit, and take you to where you need to go. The world loves the bicycle.

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