Bicycle Research Post #1
This free image of an early bicycle is from the 123 Free Vectors site
While I revise one manuscript I’m researching bicycles for another. Today, I’m taking my first look at the history of the bicycle and its controversies. While I don’t need a lot of details about this topic for my story, having some knowledge about where and how they developed gives me a grounded feeling before I go flying into my plot. I also love the pictures. Yup, I’m one of those geeks who find comfort in the details. And besides, it’s interesting stuff. I thought you might like to come along for the ride.
Bicycles have always created a stir. Let’s look at how that happened.
1493 – Maybe – The Beginning
A sketch attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a student of Leonard d Vinci dated 1493 is arguably the first sign of the bicycle. The rough drafts were found among Da Vinic’s writing for the Italian government in 1966 by a group of monks. Unfortunately it appears no one tried to construct it. (And some people say it’s a fraud.)
1817 – The Draisienne
Almost two hundred years ago Baron von Drias invented what we now call gliders, a wooden two wheel machine you sit on and propel forward by using your feet. You’ll find two and three year olds on them in the your local park. Called the Draisienne, it wasn’t considered that useful.
1865 – The Velocipede
The Velocipede (fast foot) or Boneshaker came next. Made of wood and later metal bits and pieces it was a two wheeled vehicle that you could sit on and pedal. Driving them outside over cobblestone roads was uncomfortable, so again their use was limited.
1870 – The Bicycle
The High Wheel bike, the first all metal machine was developed in 1870. The front wheel was much larger than the back and the pedals were connected directly to it (see picture above). The tires were solid rubber. This was the first to be called a bicycle and was popular with wealthy men. It could cost, “an average worker six month’s pay.”
The High Wheel Tricycle
Long skirts and corsets made it hard for womento tear around on the new fandangle bicycles, so the High Wheel Tricycle was developed. It had one small wheel in front, two large wheels in back and a seat in the middle. They even had brakes.
Then came new bicycle designs: The High Wheel Safety, The Hard-Tired Safety, and the Pneumatic-Tired Safety (1890)
And the emancipation of women
By the end of the nineteenth century bicycling was popular with everyone, and women ditched their corsets so they could ride comfortably.
The impact of the bicycle on female emancipation should not be underestimated. The safety bicycle gave women unprecedented mobility, contributing to their larger participation in the lives of Western nations. As bicycles became safer and cheaper, more women had access to the personal freedom they embodied, and so the bicycle came to symbolise the New Woman of the late nineteenth century, especially in Britain and the United States. Feminists and suffragists recognised its transformative power. Susan B. Anthony said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.(Wikipedia)
Then came “The Scorchers”
Scorchers is a term used in the late eighteen hundreds in Denver Colorado to refer to cyclists who were a nuisance on the street. You have to imagine roadways cluttered with wagons, horses and fiesty bicycle riders. Here’s a good clip from You Tube on this piece of history:
The bicycle, once strong enough to ride, played a role in the emancipation of women, and became a source of trouble on the roads. Not bad for two rubber wheels and a bit of metal. I smell a story.
A Quick History of Bicycles ( Pedaling History Bicycle Museum)
History of the Bicycle (Wikipedia)
The Wheel Story (Canada Science and Technology Museum)