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Quick Reads

National Bike Week: The Evolution of Bikes!

With National Bike Week 2015 starting on the 13th June, we thought it would be a pretty appropriate time to take a ride down memory lane and have a look at bikes of the past. National Bike Week is an opportunity to oil the chain, pump your tyres and get out and about to see the world at your leisure. There’s nothing like the freedom of riding a bike on a sunny day; whether you like to go off road or stick to the cycle paths – Bike rides are fun for the whole family!


The History of Bikes

The history of the bicycle is speculated to date as far back as 1790, with the introduction of a wooden bicycle called a ‘célérifère’. Supposedly with two wheels, and no steering, this wooden bike was moved along by the riders feet against the ground. However, it is now thought that this bicycle never existed in the form and did in fact have 4 wheels!

Moving swiftly on to the 19th Century, the first officially verified bike was produced in Germany by a chap called Baron Karl von Drais in 1817. Named the Draisine, this was the first two wheeled bike which the user could steer in the direction they want! Nicknamed ‘hobby horse’ it was an alternative at the time to horse riding, as there was a shortage of horses due to unsuccessful crop harvests in the year before. Because of the high number of accidents though, the popularity soon decreased and some authorities began to restrict its use to avoid further injuries.

It was only a few years later though that a new, improved model was produced which was a little more safe to use. Still being nicknamed the Hobby Horse, other names these early bicycles would also go by were ‘pedestrian curricle’ or ‘velocipede’ – which weren’t quite as cute or catchy!


Bikes in the 19th Century

From 1820 to 1850 the designs of bicycles developed even further and that’s when we first started to see 3 and 4 wheel human-powered vehicles being introduced. Tricycles and Quadra-cycles came in a wider variety designs, which lent themselves more to the use of pedals and hand cranks to help set the bike in motion. It was a Scottish Blacksmith who reportedly built the first mechanically propelled two wheel bike in 1839, which unfortunately was also the subject of the first recorded traffic offence involving a bike in 1842!

Jumping forward in time to the 1860’s, we saw the Michaux bicycle, which was also more commonly known as the ‘boneshaker’. With a more simple design and wider availability, this bike started a bit of a craze for a few years due to the easier method of pedaling which in turn made the speed faster and therefore a more convenient way to travel for some. It was nicknamed the Boneshaker due to the sturdy frame and lack of suspension, which was reported to create a ‘bone shaking’ experience for the rider (give us a modern mountain bike any day over this one!).


The Penny Farthing

One of the more iconic and well known early bikes was the Penny Farthing, which was an unusual design which utilised the use of a very large front wheel. The popularity of the Penny Farthing lasted well in to the 1880’s due to the large wheel at the front helping the rider to ride better over Victorian cobbles and stone roads. Unfortunately though, the dangers of the Penny Farthing outweighed the positive attributes and with the release of the first ‘safe’ two wheel bike, riders chose the more modern two wheeled options over the classic high wheeled design. The new wave of two wheeled bikes which overtook the Penny Farthing in popularity, were also the first ones to use the chain design which meant riders could use a gear ratio to adjust speed and have a smoother riding experience.


Bikes in the 20th Century

Up until the 20th Century, bike designs continued to refine this new type of two wheel bike and improve on its ride ability and safety features. Fast forward to the 1970’s and we start to see a new era of bike redesigns which has become iconic in their own rights today. The Chopper bike is the most notable shape in this new era of bicycle designs.

The Raleigh Chopper Bike was one of the most desirable accessories for any child or teenager in the 1970’s and due to its cool, low rider design it is now a unique cultural icon. With limited speed and gear options having little impact on the desirability of the bike, the unusual frame featured high handle bars and a long, padded high back seat. Mud guards added even more to the cool factor of the chopper and the ‘sissy bar’ at the back of the seat meant it was perfect for giving a ‘backie’ to your pals!

It wasn’t long until the cool, slow cruising design of the chopper was replaced with the BMX bike though. BMX’s were perfect for getting to where you wanted to be fast, and also opened up new activities to owners by being versatile enough for not only riding in the streets, but also for stunt riding and tricks. The essence of the BMX continues to be strong today and it has grown in to an international sport, showcasing many levels of discipline and skill.

Modern Bikes

Nowadays riders much prefer the versatility of the Mountain Bike over most other options. Although there are many options when it comes to buying bikes, the Mountain Bike is favoured due to its lightweight frame, comfort and ease of use. You can pick up a great range of Mountain Bikes here on Preloved, but you also might be tempted by the other modern options for your daily commute. Electric bikes and hybrids are also increasing in popularity!

National Bike Week 2015

Are you in the mood to crack out your trusty bike for National Bike Week?? Let us know how many miles you plan to clock up on your commute over on Twitter by tweeting @PrelovedUK

Terri Lowe

Terri Lowe

Community User

Terri is passionate about three things in life: Cats, Crafts and Food. With a degree in 3D Design Crafts, specialising in Jewellery, she loves creating new things from found objects and recycled materials. An avid hoarder of anything cute or quirky, she has a fine collection of cat themed ceramic objects and everything in her home has been sourced from friends, family and the odd car boot sale!