It would be hard to imagine a world without bicycles. They are everywhere and chances are that most or all of you reading this can or have ridden one at some point in your life.
The history of this apparently simple mode of transport is a long and interesting one but the modern bicycle, as we know it, is actually a fairly new invention.
In the following article, we’ll take a quick trip through time and stop off at some of the most important innovations (and hoaxes) throughout its development.
So adjust your seat and get ready to pedal. You are in for one fun ride!
1. A bicycle is nothing without the wheels
Year: 3500 BC to 1700s
There’s nothing that is more important to a bicycle than the wheel. Just when this simple yet powerful device was invented is hotly debated but historians generally agree it originated in Mesopotamia in around 3,500 BC.
These early wheels tended to be attached to carts and drawn by draught animals. It would remain relatively unchanged for millennia until the Industrial Revolution making human-powered wheeled devices more practical.
2. The first bike might have been Chinese
Year: 500 BC
Inventor/Developer: Lu Ban
Back in 2010 a Chinese historian produced a recreation of what, he believes, might have been invented 2500 years ago by a Chinese inventor Lu Ban. This is supposed to have been a large wooden device with complicated gears and pedals to make it move and was technically speaking a tricycle.
His findings are yet to be verified and accepted by his peers but this is certainly an interesting device.
3. Early bikes also needed good roads
Year: Prehistory to the Roman Empire and beyond
Inventor/Developer: Unknown/John Macadam
Wheels are nothing without a level and smooth surface to run on. Resistance to motion varies widely depending on the surface on which it travels with rough surfaces much harder to move along than smooth ones.
The Romans were one of the first peoples to understand this and develop a largescale network of paved roads. John McAdam would further improve road technology many centuries later literally paving the way for the viability of bicycle technology shortly after.
4. Leonardo da Vinci’s pupil might have invented the bike
Inventor/Developer: Giacomo Caprotti
For some time now there has been a debate that Giacomo Caprotti (a student of Leonardo da Vinci) might have made a sketch of a bicycle-like device back in 1534. The authenticity of this evidence has been suggested as a fake by many prominent historians but yet others attest to its validity.
5. The Celerifere was an early proto-bike
Inventor/Developer: Comte Mede de Sivrac
Although not strictly speaking a bicycle, the Celerifere was an early precursor to them. It was supposedly developed by Comte Mede de Sivrac in 1790 in France – but it may have been a hoax.
Most bicycle historians tend to err on the side of caution and believe it never actually existed. The general consensus seems to be that it was made up during the 19th Century by a French bicycle historian Louis Baudry de Saunier.
It was said to have lacked any steering, had no pedals but did ostensibly resemble the technology that would later become known as the bicycle.
The Celerifere, according to stories, had four wheels (though some have suggested just two) and a seat and was powered by the rider using their feet to walk or run to push off and then glide for a short distance.
6. Mt. Tombora lays waste to horses and livestock