Vintage Bicycles

Do you remember that first bike. I surely do, I had wheels, I was mobile, I could go anywhere and did. Transportation was cool. I am sure many of you have fond memories of your first bicycle. The first ride was an adventure and great fun.

On this page I want to bring you a little history of the vintage bicycle. The bicycle has come along way from a few boards with wheels attached to the mechanical marvel of today.

The first bicycle had two wheels and no pedals. Known as the Draisienne or Hobbyhorse this machine was presented to the public in Paris France in 1819. Designed by Baron von Drais, this bicycle was simply a wooden frame with two wheels which the rider sat on and pushed along with his feet while steering the front wheel with a handle bar. The hobbyhorse was duplicated by builders in many countries around the world. Some of the best were produced in England by Denis Johnson and were knows as the velocipede. Compared to early models these machines were better built and much lighter. Because of poor roads and hard wheels these bicycles were a punishing ride and the hobbyhorse lost favor with the public during the 1820’s

At last a better way to make it go. 1860- A better way to make it go. Before 1860 many people thought a rider could not keep their balance very far not having their feet on the ground. This idea was proven wrong by many new builders of bicycles. The addition of pedals to provide forward motion was the answer to make it go and it was found that a rider could balance and steer the machines quite well.

These changes to the velocipede brought new interest to cycling world wide, however the interest did not last as these bicycles were much to heavy, hard to steer and slow. The pedals only allowed one revolution of the drive wheel.This design did however give a base for development in the coming years

Lighter and Faster In Britain, as popularity of the velocipede fell off, the search went on for a lighter and faster bicycle. The search was led by the cycling sportsmen, cycling clubs and the growing bicycle manufacturing industry.

British bicycle builders, by 1870, had built a new type of velocipede with a large front wheel made possible by a new way to construct the wheels. The new wheels, known as suspension wheels, used wire spokes, and rubber mounted on the rims to make for a much lighter and smoother riding wheel. The rear wheel was made smaller to save weight. Also around this time period the tubular frame began to be used on most models.

The riders of these cycles sat over the front wheel to be able to reach the pedals, which looks a little scary to me, but the new faster, lighter cycle was born

Now a safer way to cycle During the later part of the 1870’s the high wheel bike was instrumental in creating a new cycling craze. The drawback to this was many people could not ride these tall and hard to ride machines.

Manufacturers looked to a safer design, and the tricycle was the answer. James Starley was one of the first tricycle designers with his lever operated trike of 1876 and the following year saw his design of the continuous chain on the Coventry Rotary.

Over 350 models of these machines were available to the British public with a large variety of steering and brake systems along with other special features such as an improved transmission system.

All of these improvements added to the popularity of cycling in general and made the machines much safer for the public to use

High wheel design modified for safety. While making tricycles, bicycle builders were also working with the two wheel design to improve safety. Lowering the center of gravity was one way used to reach their goal. By moving the rider behind the front wheel and adding pedals with levers, the rider was closer to the ground while still being able to reach the pedals of the still large front wheel.

This design along with the tricycles served the market well until the mid 1880’s. Again a new design arrives with many improvements. From the British this time a design which moved the rider even farther back and lower to the ground. This was done by reducing the size of the front wheel. They used a gear and chain system which turned the wheel faster than the pedals to compensate for the reduced size of the driven wheel. The bicycle known as the Kangaroo by Hillman, Herbert and Cooper led many builders to adopt their own version of this design

The Modern Bicycle Arrives Builders continued improving on the designs of the 1850’s to bring a safer more comfortable bicycle to market. These improvements became known as the safety bicycle, featuring a lower and longer profile with a chain-drive to the rear wheel. This design with both wheels the same size set the rider between them and the pedals below the rider. Setting the front forks at an angle enabled the rider to easily reach the handle bars to steer the bike.

As with any new designs they were not perfect, however many new things were on the way to improve the comfort of the bicycle. The largest single improvement was the pneumatic tire. The bicycle was now a safe and reliable mode of transport.

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