There may be few things truly as green as a bicycle and May just happens to be National Bicycle Month.
The first signs of a bicycle hit the history timeline in 1817 when Baron von Drais enjoyed his royal gardens while using the "Walking Machine" he invented (according to www.pedalinghistory.com). The contraption had two in-line wheels of the same size with the front one steerable and a person simply straddled the frame. The walking machine was propelled forward by the pushing of feet against the ground, thus rolling the person forward in a sort of gliding walk; much like a Flintstones cartoon car. The machine became known as a Draisienne or hobby horse. Not only does it sound uncomfortable, it was! It was made entirely of wood. (Wheels and all!)
Then in 1865, pedals were applied directly to the front wheel. This machine became known as a velocipede, for "fast foot" (sounds like a cross between a velociraptor and a centipede to me). Riding an apparatus such as this on cobblestone roads was extremely uncomfortable, since it was still made entirely of wood. The fancy name fell off quickly as it became known as, "The Boneshaker."
Entering the Victorian era in 1870, the first bicycle that most of us think of, with the large front wheel and small back wheel, enters its journey on the timeline. Metal is now strong enough to make small parts and this is the first all metal machine. The pedals remain on the front wheel, however, now rubber tires replace the wooden wheels of its predecessors.
The front wheel was made as large as a young man's leg was long, as makers realized that the larger the wheel – the smoother the ride. Young men found the bicycle a wonderful way to show their grace and wealth to the young ladies.
The new machines became very popular during the 1880s. However, bicycles were expensive and cost an average worker six month's pay. To put that in perspective, if the average salary now in Kansas City is $50,000/year, this would translate to the equivalent of a $25,000 bicycle!
One of the biggest drawbacks of this bicycle was that the center of gravity was very far from the ground. So, imagine riding along showing off to a beautiful lady when a small stone hidden in the road is now right below the bicycle tire. The front wheel jerks and the young man topples over the handlebars landing crumpled in a heap right in front of the lady in a very unimpressive manner! Thus, the term, "taking a header" came into being.
Shortly after the bicycle came out, the high wheel tricycle made its debut on the roadways. As young men were risking their crowns and their wrists (from breaking their falls from high places) ladies and gentlemen, such as doctors and clergy began riding safer tricycles that had a small wheel, either in the front or back, and two large wheels opposite. These models were safe, fast, and quite comfortable.
Page 2 of 2 - Then in 1898 there was a history-making change: the pneumatic tire was first applied to the bicycle by an Irish veterinarian. He was trying to make his son's tricycle more comfortable. The doctor's name was Dunlop. (Sound familiar?) The safety of the tricycle and the comfort of the tire now came in one package; and the package kept getting cheaper as manufacturing methods improved and everyone wanted a bicycle with pneumatic tires.
Do you have a safe route to ride to work, or school? Can you ride to the grocery or farmer's market to pick up a few things? Do you have a bike path that you can either ride to, or take your bike to for some great healthy exercise? Bicycling can save you time and money; it can preserve your health and the environment.
It can be a great way to spend time with family, friends, or just by yourself. There is nothing quite like riding your bicycle and having the wind blowing through your hair and the sunshine on your face.