How The Humble Road Bike Has Evolved Over The Years

Bicycles, defined as manually powered two wheeled forms of transportation, have been around since 1817 in one form or another. The bikes we see on the roads today differ drastically from their early cousins, with vast improvements having been made in terms of safety, speed, comfort and manoeuvrability. They played a key role in the female emancipation movement of the early twentieth century, and have evolved from a basic form of transportation through to children’s toys, and are now used in all sorts of popular sporting activities.

Early Versions

In 1817 the Draisine was created in Germany. At first glance it looks similar to bikes of today, but has no pedals. Instead, riders were seated and used their feet to push themselves along the floor on two wheels. The two-wheel machines were not very practical, and it was several years before any other version reached a level of popularity.

In 1863, a design colloquially known as the ‘Boneshaker’ was developed in France. This bike was pedal powered, but unlike today’s machines the pedals were attached to the front wheel hub, and suspension was virtually non-existent, hence the name.

This was soon followed by what became known as a ‘Penny-Farthing’. Still placing the pedals on the front wheel, this design allowed the rider to reach greater speeds, but was incredibly unsafe. Riders were perched high up atop a huge front wheel, and would easily fall into the road if they hit anything.

The Beginning of the Modern Design

The rear-wheel chain drive came into use in the 1880’s, with the advent of the safety bike. This popularised bicycles for the masses, and women especially took advantage of being able to transport themselves long distances easily. The freedom and mobility afforded by the bicycle appealed to many, and sales sky-rocketed.

The Decline and Rise Again in Popularity

Once automobiles began to be affordable and more widely used, the bicycle took a back seat. For a long time in the early to mid-twentieth century it was seen as nothing more than a toy for children by most of the US. In Europe, however, cycling remained a widespread form of entertainment, and in the 1930’s the use of gears prompted a spate of racing activities. By the 1950’s the typical road bike looked much as one does today, with gears, reflectors, pumped up tyres and kickstands.

Sports Bikes

By the 1980’s bikes for sports were becoming increasingly common, and manufacturers outdid each other in the race to create the perfect racing and stunt bike. BMXs and Mountain Bikes were born. Off-road cycling and stunt biking became popular pastimes, and designers improved suspension, style and weight. Nowadays, modern technology allows manufacturers to create sport-specific machines and custom made bicycles. With products on the market such as ENVE wheels, road hubs and powertap meters, dedicated riders can adapt their bike to suit their particular needs.

This post was brought to you on behalf of

Image attribution 1|2|3|4

Speak Your Mind


Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free