The Evolution of the Bicycle - Significant Events

Bulletin #: 21
by Carl Wiedman with helpful critique and guidance by Derek Roberts
Prepared June 1977
Revised: 1994-01-01

1817 von Drais Germany Introduced device having two wheels connected by beam.  Rider straddled beam and propelled with feet on ground. Front wheel steerable. Machine called ‘Draisine’ and later ‘Hobbyhorse’.
1819   England Cartoonist drew figure of Prince Regent lying on Hobbyhorse, using hands to turn cranks attached to front wheel. Early conception of cranks.
1839-40 Macmillan Scotland Built machine with cranks on rear wheel, propelled by pedals attached to cranks by long arms.
1845 Thomson England Patent for a type of pneumatic tire which received some use on carriages.
1861 Heilmann Germany First use of steel spokes.
1866 Lallement & Carroll America First patent for a rotary action crankdriven velocipede.  Invention of velocipede or ‘boneshaker’. Two-wheeled device with steerable front wheel and cranks with pedals attached to front wheel.
1868 Henlon Bros. America Slotted cranks for adjustable crank length.
1868 Edwards, Bradford America Introduction of solid rubber tires in America.
1868 Meunier France Freewheel and two speeds.
1868 Pickering America Brought machine from Paris which provided model for machines he and Davis manufactured in U.S.
1868 Wood Bros. America Manufactured expensive machines noted for their quality and beauty.
1868 Buell America First use of springs in frame to reduce vibration.
1869 Magee France First tubular frame.
1869 Stassen England Bicycle patent with first use of term ‘bicycle’.
1869   France Publication of Le Velocipede Illustre. First journal devoted to velocipeding.
1869 Reynolds & Mays England Produced Phantom, first radical departure from velocipede—wire spokes and suspension.
1869 Suriray France Patent for ball bearings.
1869 Goddard America First U.S. book on cycling.
1870   England Metal wheel rims with cushion rubber tires.
1870 Witty America Bought Lallement & Carroll patent, and licensed many manufacturers.
1871 Smith, Starley & Co. England Developed and produced Ariel—first practical ‘Ordinary’ bike.
1974 Starley England First tangent spokes.
1876   England First manufacture of adult tricycles.
1876   America ‘Ordinary’ bicycle first shown in U.S. Philadelphia Exposition.
1876 Lawson England Patent for ‘safety’ bicycle—lever driven machine with first emphasis on safety concept.
1877 Hughes England Adjustable ball bearings. Later became Bown’s Aeolus ball bearings.
1878 Pope America Bought Lallement and Witty patent rights, began producing Columbia bikes.
1878 Beale England Invented Facile, and with Straw began its production. Safety concept.
1878 Singer England Invented and produced the Xtraordinary Challenge.  Further trend towards safety.
1879 Lawson England Production of Bicyclette, first commercial chain-driven machine.
1881 Smith America Began commercial production of American Star, originally invented by Pressey. Bike with safety features by having small wheel in front, ratchet and strap drive.
1883 Hillman England Patented the Kangaroo, and with Herbert & Cooper began its production. Wheel size reduced by lowered cranks and use of chains and sprockets.
1884 Stevens America Began trip around world on Ordinary.
1884   England First appearance of more conventional safeties having rear drive, chain and sprockets.
1885 Starley (J.K.) England Production of Rover—bicycle form substantially as it remains today.
1885   America Production of Springfield Roadster—safety features.
1886   America Production of Eagle—small wheel in front and regular pedal action.
1886 Albone England Developed first ladies drop-frame safety.
1887 Bowden England Took over the firm of Woodhead, Angnois & Co., and renamed it the Raleigh Cycle Co.
1887 Morris England Production of first diamond frame bicycle.
1888 Dunlop Ireland First practical pneumatic tire.
1899   America 312 factories produced over one million bicycles.


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