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The Vintage Bicycle

Remember that first bike. I surely do, I'd wheels, I was mobile, I could go anywhere and did. Transportation was cool. I am sure a lot of you have fond memories of the first bicycle. The first ride was a journey and great fun.

On this page I wish to bring you a little good reputation for the vintage bicycle. The bicycle has come along way from the few boards with wheels attached to the mechanical marvel of today.

The very first bicycle had two wheels and no pedals.

Referred to as Draisienne or Hobbyhorse this machine was given to the general public in Paris France in 1819. Created by Baron von Drais, this bicycle was just a wooden frame with two wheels that the rider sat on and pushed along with his feet while steering the front wheel with a handle bar. The hobbyhorse was duplicated by builders in lots of countries around the world. Some of the best were manufactured in England by Denis Johnson and were knows as the velocipede. Compared to early models they were better built and far lighter. Because of poor roads and difficult wheels these bicycles were a punishing ride and the hobbyhorse lost favor using the public throughout the 1820's

Finally a better way to really make it go.

1860- An easy method to really make it go. Before 1860 lots of people thought a rider could not keep their balance very far lacking their feet on the ground. This idea was proven wrong by many new builders of bicycles. The addition of pedals to supply forward motion was the answer to make it go and it was discovered that the rider could balance and steer the machines quite well.

These changes towards the velocipede brought new interest to cycling world wide, however the interest didn't last as these bicycles were much to heavy, tough to steer and slow. The pedals only allowed one revolution from the drive wheel.This design did however provide a base for development in in the future

Lighter and Faster

In great britan, as interest in the velocipede fell off, the search continued for a lighter and faster bicycle. The search was led by the cycling sportsmen, cycling clubs and also the growing bicycle manufacturing industry.

British bicycle builders, by 1870, had built a brand new type of velocipede with a large front wheel made possible by a new way to construct the wheels. The brand new wheels, known as suspension wheels, used wire spokes, and rubber installed on the edges to create a much lighter and smoother riding wheel. The rear wheel is made smaller to save weight. Also during this time period period the tubular frame began to be used on most models.

The riders of those cycles sat over the front wheel to be able to reach the pedals, which looks a little scary in my experience, however the new faster, lighter cycle was created

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Now a safer method to cycle

Throughout the later part of the 1870's the high wheel bike was instrumental in creating a new cycling craze. The drawback to this was lots of people could not ride these tall and hard to ride machines.

Manufacturers looked to a safer design, and the tricycle was the answer. James Starley was one of the first tricycle designers with his lever operated trike of 1876 and also the following year saw his design of the continuous chain around the Coventry Rotary.

Over 350 types of they were open to the British public with a large number of steering and brake systems as well as other special features for example an improved transmission system.

Many of these improvements added to the popularity of cycling generally and made the machines much safer for the public to make use of

High wheel design modified for safety.

While making tricycles, bicycle builders were also working with the two wheel design to improve safety. Decreasing the center of gravity was one way accustomed to reach their goal. By moving the rider behind the front wheel and adding pedals with levers, the rider was closer to the ground yet still be able to get to the pedals of the still large front wheel.

This design along with the tricycles served the market well before the mid 1880's. Again a new design arrives with many improvements. From the British this time a design which moved the rider even farther back minimizing to the ground. It was done by reducing the size of the front wheel. They used a gear and chain system which turned the wheel faster than the pedals to pay for that reduced size the driven wheel. The bicycle referred to as Kangaroo by Hillman, Herbert and Cooper led many builders to consider their very own version of this design

The Modern Bicycle Arrives

Builders continued improving on the designs of the 1850's to bring a safer more comfortable bicycle to market. These improvements became referred to as safety bicycle, having a lower and longer profile having a chain-drive towards the rear wheel. This design with both wheels exactly the same size set the rider between them and also the pedals below the rider. Setting the leading forks at an angle enabled the rider to easily get to the handle bars to influence the bike.

Just like any new designs they were not perfect, however many new things were in order to enhance the comfort of the bicycle. The largest single improvement was the pneumatic tire. The bicycle was now a secure and reliable mode of transport.