Invention of Safety Bicycles
The bicyclette was invented in France in the 1800’s, but the bike was not very easy to use and it didn’t become popular. In 1817, a German inventor develop a way to steer a bike, which was made out of wood. This was a little better, but not much.
It wasn’t until the 1860’s that a Frenchman added pedals and a crank attached to the front wheel. Before this it was basically a coaster, but now there was some control. However the wheels were solid and gave a very bumpy ride. Later the pneumatic tire was invented and it also came with spokes to provide a smoother ride. Better bicycle chains and brakes were also soon invented.
In the 1870’s the English took the next step and developed the Ordinary Bike. The rear wheel was 18 inches, but the front wheel was 5 feet. The bike was hard to mount and not easy to ride. Falling off was very common and it only became popular with young men who wanted a dangerous hobby.
Many different bikes were developed in the 1870’s, with different size wheels, some with more than 2 wheels and some required at least 2 people to operate. They were really just novelties, being too difficult for most people to operate.
Safely Bike Developed
But the Safety Bicycle was quickly developed. It was introduced in 1885 and had 2 small wheels that were both the same size. The bicycle was made of metal with rubber wheels and was pretty light. An average person could learn how to operate the bike very quickly and it was a huge success. This is the bike that most people ride today.
This bike quickly made it’s way to the United States where it sparked a huge fad. By the mid 1890’s over 10 million bicycles had been sold in the US. That translates to 25% of Americans owning a bike, which cost about $100 apiece.
Changes for Women
The bicycle was an instrument of emancipation for women. They now had independent transportation and going on bike rides was a very popular way for couples to court. The design of the bike also lead to changes in women’s clothing. Shorter hems and looser clothing were necessary for effective riding.
The bicycles were not used so much for transportation as they were for recreation, bicycle clubs sprang up all over the country and there were also many races. The fad ended quickly, but the bicycles were still used as transportation and are still popular today. They have just gone from being a novelty to a necessity.
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