The Bicycle Full-Circle
Long gone are the days that clunky, old contraptions have required us to make like Fred Flintstone and push wheels with our feet on the ground. For old time's sake, though, sometimes a walk down memory lane can make us appreciate what is available to us today.
Man invented the human-powered land vehicle. Contraptions had all things wooden – wheels, wings and wooden train tracks. Carriages were aided by beasts for transport, making them an inconvenient substitute – what if the horse ran away?
Without a doubt, the bicycle rapidly changed during this era.
In the early eighteen hundreds, many models of "bicycle" were introduced to the public. Still all made of wood, they had names like the Hobby Horse, Dandy Charger or Velocipede. It was common to have a model distinctly for women (as with most avenues of life in that era).
These models did not have pedals but were pushed along with feet on the ground. As the decades progressed, the idea of foot treadles was introduced and they were designed to mechanically spin the wheels using a series of axles and cranks. They did not have the luxury of chains to use.
Bicycles became more popular as the era drew to fruition. Penny farthings with massive front wheels became the rage. Races were hosted in Europe and England, while luxurious fixtures like handle covers were introduced. Chains were introduced, along with pedals to propel the creations. Their shape began to morph into the modern cross-frame we are familiar with today.
The distinction between leisure and sport came here. Cruisers were for the hobbyists: large tires, no gears and simple brakes. Coaster bikes were significantly more technical, with lights and gears and breaks galore. As new materials were tested, bikes became more slimline and extremely light. BMX bikes were fostered in the state of California and the seventies, later to be joined by the typical mountain bike in the eighties.
These breakthroughs meant that suddenly it was (usually) more sensible to ride a bike instead of driving a car. In the USA, there was a mass increase in both recreational bicycle use and biking sports.
The era of technology. This translated into the building of newer, lighter and faster bicycles that were just plain mind-blowing for people of all calibre. Bikes became available in many specialised forms, and now incorporated electronic systems.