Present Day BicyclesBicycles as we know it today was not invented by a single person. Its development took about 200 years and many inventors are credited to shape the bicycle to its present shape. Bicycle got many names during the time of its development. The name bicycle was adopted later.

The Running Machine – First Model of Bicycle

The Running Machine

The first known bicycle with a verifiable record was made by a German inventor Barn Karl von Drais. It was a two-wheeled human powered bicycle. It didn’t have paddles, crankshaft or rubber tires. It was made of wooden frame and wooden tires. It could be only propelled by exerting force with feet against the ground. This bicycle was named “running machine” and sometimes also called “Hobby Horse”. Mr. Drais got his first patent 1818, and another patent in the Paris and got the name Velocipede. Velocipede became very popular in the France, but it couldn’t sustain its popularity for longer. Then finally after 1820, velocipedes were rarely seen.

The Boneshaker

The Boneshaker

A very important improvement on the running machine (velocipede) was made by Pierre Michaux. He introduced pedals in it that were attached to the axle of its front wheel. This improvement made the velocipede famous again for some time. But its declination also came very fast because paddles were attached to the front wheel, which made steering difficult for the rider while paddling. Another reason was its heavy weight that took a lot of effort to propel it forward with pedals. This cycle got the name “Boneshaker” because it was very shaky on road.

High Bicycle or Penny Farthing

The High Bicycle

The father of this model is a Frenchmen Eugene Meyer. It was the first model to be called bicycle and was a modified version of the boneshaker. Its front wheel was made larger and rear wheel smaller, combined with a lightweight frame provided higher speed. The high front wheel made this bicycle very unsafe. There was always a risk for the rider to be thrown over the front-wheel if he hits something or braked suddenly.

The Safety Bicycle


The Safety Bicycle

The next phase was to improve or redesign the dangerous high bicycle to a safer one. The breakthrough came when John Kemp Starely invented safety bicycle. This bicycle had two equal sized wheels and a chain drive attached to its crankshaft and rear wheel. Since the bicycle had equal sized wheels, it didn’t throw the rider in front the front-wheel. The Safety bicycle had completely replaced the high bicycle by the year 1890.

Pneumatic Tires

An improvement to the tires of safety bicycle was made by John Dunlop. He invented Pneumatic tires (air filled tires) for bicycles in 1888. These tires provided much smoother ride than previously used rubber tires and were less bone shaky.

These improvements almost changed the shape of bicycles to its present-day shape. These bicycles were quite expensive, but their mass production had decreased their price. As a result, working class men could afford it and found it a profitable investment. Today, Bicycles have became an important component of the transportation, and everyone can afford it. Thanks to the time we are living in.

Cite this Page

Abdul Wahab, "Bicycle," in science4fun - Learn Science with Experiments and Topics, August 31, 2018,

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