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The First Bicycle in the World – History, and Appearance

first bike

The first bicycle came into existence relatively recently but has gained worldwide popularity very fast. Bicycle is a comfortable, handy means of transport that can carry a rider over long distances at minimum physical and resource costs.

But it wasn’t always that way. The first bicycle wasn’t the same as its modern versions and an inexperienced spectator couldn’t tell what he sees – a bicycle or a trolley.

The evolution of bicycles took a long time. For decades first models and prototypes were attracting scholars, enthusiasts, and inventors who have tried to create something brilliant and simple at the same time.

The first bicycle didn’t have pedals, saddles, and even chains. It was a strange but unsophisticated invention, created by a German professor, Karl Freiherr von Drais. He spent his life creating and inventing fantastic devices at that time devices most of which are still in use.

For example, Karl’s draisine, now – railcar, a human-powered railway vehicle, is still widely used all around the globe. Our world would have been very different if not for him. Just imagine that the first meat grinders, keyboarded typewriters, hay chests, music recorders, and stenograph machines were invented and developed by one man.

Laufmaschine is a wooden bicycle frame with two wheels and handlebars

cycle evolution

But his most famous and significant invention is and will be a velocipede. He named it a Laufmaschine – literally the «running machine». Although it was just a bicycle’s prototype at best, this invention has served as the basis of further bicycle’s development.

The reason for this invention is very unusual. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 had caused rapid and global cooling causing mass hunger and epidemics across the globe. Western Europe had suffered a lot and almost all cattle had died because of starvation and fodder shortages.

These factors had nudged a young, ambitious, and noble inventor to create an alternative means of transport. As a result, the «running machine» was invented. Although it wasn’t perceived as something serious or decent, it had gained wide popularity in Western Europe. More than ten thousand samples were sold in less than a decade.

Laufmaschine was a prolonged wooden bicycle frame with two wheels and handlebars. It was propelled by human power. A rider, placed between two wheels was forced to move his legs, accelerating his machine then leaning forward on the handlebar. Such riding requires serious physical performance and perhaps, it was a sight to see: flying like rockets across the streets gentlemen losing their hats on the move.

It’s interesting that this velocipede was called a «pedestrian hobbyhorse». This is a case when appearance is in full compliance with the name. Despite its funny name, technological characteristics and performance of a «pedestrian hobbyhorse» are equal to modern city bikeы, whose ancestor a Laufmaschine is.

Laufmaschine was able to reach speeds of twenty kilometers per hour and weighed only forty-five pounds (around twenty kilos) which is roughly equal to the city bike’s weight.

bicycle patents

More than two hundred and three years have passed since the first bike ride, taken by Karl Freiherr von Drais in a distant 1817. History tells that his ride was shorter than thirteen kilometers and took place between his home and the nearest post station.

In those days such a performance would have amazed all surrounding people but perhaps, Karl himself would have been amazed, if he knew how his short and solely ride will change the world.

Karl’s «running machine»

oldest bike ever

Karl’s «running machine» had started the irreversible process of endless invention and technological progress because it is really hard to underestimate the role that bicycles play in our society.

Because of his noble status, Karl was unable to patent his invention but he received big donations and profits from the distribution. No doubts that Karl’s Laufmaschine is the oldest bike ever. It created the term «velocipede» which is a French word and launched the global process of cycling development.

Bicycle evolution involves numerous inventors, prototypes, and bicycle analogs. Although future inventors had done a great job developing and creating new bicycle types, exactly Karl Drais is the founder of the bicycle world.

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