A brief history of our two-wheeled companions

Inspire • Pulse #1 • 3 min

Bicycles have been around for some 200 years. Since their invention, they have certainly evolved! So let’s back-pedal and take a look at the key stages in the history of bikes.

1493

The first sketch of a rudimentary bicycle design is attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci.


1817

1817

Baron Von Drais, a german, invents the draisienne
Built on a wooden frame and wheels with wrought iron bracing, it had the first steerable front wheel but no gears or brakes.


1871

The pennyfarthing makes its appearance
Also known as the high-wheel or ordinary and with a huge front wheel, it was faster but more hazardous, as the rider was seated up very high. It had steering, a tubular steel frame, solid rubber tyres and was equipped with pedals on the smaller front wheel and rear rim brakes.


1888

1888

Tyres make all the difference!
Watching his son struggle to ride his tricycle over cobbled ground, Scottish vet John Dunlop wrapped its wheels in thin ubber sheets, glued them together and inflated them with a pump. The pneumatic tyre was born and Dunlop quickly patented his idea.


1895

1895

Cycling shifts up a gear
Frenchman Jean Loubeyre designed the first-ever gearshift mechanism (derailleur), which he called the ‘Polycelere’ (multispeed).


1900

Squeeze to a stop
The beginning of the last century saw the development of drum brakes, which apply
friction through a set of rubber pads to the rim or tyre of the front wheel. The brake is operated by levers on the handlebars.


1930

First motorised bicycles marketed
A battery is used to power the motor and amplifies the pedal strokes.


1970

1970

Mountain bikes hit the tracks
Mountain bikes were developed by cycling enthusiasts to ride the mountains trails of California.


2000

2000

Bike-sharing boom
One after the other, major cities around the world have launched public bike-share schemes. As the trend grows, creative concepts are being rolled out: lighter, foldable frames, handlebars that can become a lock, power-assisted rear wheels and indicator systems.


2009

2009

From electrical assistance to a hub of innovation
Designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the city of Copenhagen, The Copenhagen Wheel looks like a regular bicycle wheel, but packs an impressive amount of smart pedal power. Sensors in the motor-equipped rear wheel monitor temperature, speed and performance, as well as air and noise pollution, congestion and road conditions. And when the rider brakes or back pedals, the wheel captures the energy and sends it back to the battery for when it’s needed.


2014

Never get lost again!
A smartphone navigation app alerts the rider to upcoming turns by buzzing through a
vibration system built into the handlebars – leaving the rider to keep their eyes on the road.


2015

2015

Latest innovation: the hydrogen fuel-cell bicycle
Time already to say goodbye to the motorised bike’s battery? Possibly, following the advent of a simpler, greener solution: the electric powered bike that runs on hydrogen. Hidden inside the frame of the bike, the hydrogen fuel cell gives it a range of 100 km (63 miles) and it takes just two minutes to charge (compared with 3 hours for lithium batteries, which only have a range of 40 km).

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Pulse #4 3 min

Off to work we go!

Worldwide, the private car is the main form of trans- port for 64% of working people — with all the familiar consequences: congestion, pollution, accidents and stress. As the main decision- makers on how work is organ- ised, companies have a major role to play in changing behaviours and developing shared mobility.

Pulse #4 4 min