The history of the bicycle

It is very difficult to tell the history of the bicycle, from one person to another the inventor can be different according to the definition we have of a bicycle.

So as not to confuse you, we have selected 5 key dates that retrace the history of the bicycle and in addition, a small video showing the evolution over time.

1817 – It all started without pedals

The ancestor of the bicycle is the dandy horse, invented by the German Baron Karl Drais von Sauerbronn in 1817. It is a wooden vehicle with very little steel, two wheels in a row and a handlebar for steering. To move forward, you have to push yourself with your feet on the ground. Conceived in 1817, the invention was patented in 1818.

dandy horse invented by Karl Drais von Sauerbronn in 1817

1860’s decade – Pedals on the front wheel

In the 1860’s in Paris, the first pedal velocipedes were marketed by Sargent, Michaux and Vincent. Pierre Michaux, a locksmith, is said to have invented the pedal velocipede when a hatter brought him a draisienne with a faulty front wheel for repair. One of his sons would have tried it and would have complained about the inconvenience of keeping his legs up once the vehicle was launched. Pierre Michaux would then have imagined footrests positioned on the wheel which allows to turn the hub of the wheel.

first pedal velocipede created by Pierre Michaux in the 1860's decade

Decade of 1870 – Invention of the penny-farthing

The pedals being fixed on both sides of the front wheel hub, it was necessary to increase the size of the front wheel in order to give more impulse to the velocipede at each pedal stroke and thus go faster. The size of the rear wheel is reduced, serving only to maintain the balance of the velocipede. The first penny-farthing, Ordinary was born in 1872. It was a huge success with the bourgeoisie in England and France.


1880’s – The modern bicycle

In 1884, the chain was invented by John Kemp Starley. He created, with the Coventry Sewing Machine Company, the bicycle with reasonable-sized wheels and a chain drive. In 1886, Peugeot started marketing these bicycles. Finally, in 1888, John Boyd Dunlop invented the tire and filed a patent. The bicycle became more efficient and more comfortable. In 1891, Edouard Michelin, perfects the tire by imagining the “removable tire”, it is the arrival of the inner tube. The two great names of the tire are still there today.

modern bicycle with a chain, equal wheels size and pedals in the middle

20th century – The bicycle of today

At the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the Second Industrial Revolution, the bicycle became the queen of transportation. The first Tour de France, won by Maurice Garin, is realized in 1903 and meets a real craze and allows to reinforce the popularity of the bicycle.

Finally, it is in the 1930’s that the use of a multi-speed system became widespread. Finally, it was not until the 1950s that the first derailleur appeared. We can now recognize our current bikes!