Cycling Information Guide
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The basic elements of today's bicycle were developed in the 19th century, over a span of several decades. In 1817, Baron Karl Friedrich Drais von Sauerbronn patented a wood-framed, steerable vehicle with two wheels, which he called the draisine. Propelled by the rider's feet scooting along the ground, this vehicle spawned the development of many similar machines, known as dandy-horses. In 1839, a primitive bicycle, featuring treadles that propelled the rear wheel, was invented by Scotsman Kirkpatrick Macmillan, and in 1845, Englishman Robert William Thompson patented a "hollow, air-filled tube," the first attempt at creating a pneumatic tire. In 1861, French coach builder Pierre Michaux invented the velocipede, which was essentially a dandy-horse with cranks and pedals attached to its front wheel. Velocipedes became popular in Europe, and in 1866, former Michaux employee Pierre Lallemet patented the velocipede in America. In 1869, the first recorded velocipede race was held in Paris, and larger front wheel sizes were developed in order to achieve higher cycling speeds. This led to the development of the unstable, but fast penny-farthing bicycle, with its very large front wheel and very small rear wheel. The penny-farthing's top speed was limited, however, because its front wheel diameter was limited by the length of its rider's leg!
In 1885, Englishman James Starley invented the Rover safety bicycle which featured a diamond-shaped frame as well as pedals and a chain drive that propelled the rear wheel. Two years later, Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop developed the first practical pneumatic bicycle tire. Key elements of today's bicycle were now in place, the modern bicycle industry was born, and the bicycle's popularity exploded. Further refinements such as seat posts, coaster brakes, freewheels, and derailleurs, quickly followed in the 1890s, the Golden Age of Bicycles.
USA Cycling is the official United State cycling organization, and their website is a good resource for those wishing to learn more about this exciting sport. The Science of Cycling features an excellent photo and video essay on how bicycles and their components are designed to efficiently interact with their riders. We also encourage you to visit the resources listed below, which provide a wealth of information about bicycle equipment and accessories and their suppliers.
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