Today was a very important day in History – not only for Sports but also for technology and science – on February 17, 1818 the first bike was introduced to the world. It is still the basis for all current bicycles and motorbikes.
The history of the bicycle begins in the early 19th century with an invention by Baron Karl Drais, an aristocrat with visionary brains which made him one of the most creative German inventors of the century. He also was involved in politics and supported the failed revolution of 1848 and became a professor of mechanics.
Karl Drais invented the Laufmaschine ("running machine"), later called the draisine which incorporated the two-wheeler principle – but why?
In 1812 bad weather caused oat crops to fail resulting in horses starving. This mad Karl to think about how to move fast without horses. His first invention was a four-wheeled vehicle but went nowhere. In 1815 a huge eruption of a volcano in Indonesia resulted in a European summer with snow in 1816. Prize for oats were high, horses died, and he got back to work on his previous idea.
This time, he invented a two-wheeler on a frame that looks similar to the bikes nowadays – but without a chain drive and pedals. One had to drive and stop with feet like a scooter – also no brakes included.
Karl died in 1851. After his death, many creative people improved the two-wheeler:
• 1861: Ernest Michaux added pedals on the front wheel as well as brakes.
• 1869: James Starley and William Hillman produced bicycles with a small back wheel and huge front wheel.
• 1879: Harry John Lawson added the chain transmission.
• 1885: Gottlieb Daimler added an engine and created the first motorbike.
Sources: Institute and Museum of the History of Science (Florence, Italy), Baden-Baden City Guide (Germany), Wikipedia, crazyguyonabike.com, Wired
To see what happened in Sports History already - check the links below: