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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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Cycle fit

ARE you interested in getting into cycling? Cycling provides a number of health benefits as well as being an economic, environmentally-friendly form of transport. Biketreks, in Ambleside, offers general advice for cyclists in a new, bi-monthly column.

History of the bicycle – how did it all begin?

lThe Celerifere, 1790, is claimed to be the first two-wheeler, and was supposedly, a toy of the French nobility in the 1790s. It was made from wood, often in the shape of an animal, and riders sat astride it and pushed it along with their feet.

lThe Draisienne, 1817, was created by German baron Karl Drais de Sauerbrunn having patented this wooden pushbicycle in 1817. The Draisienne was a ‘walking machine’ that would help the baron get around the royal gardens, sporting two same-size, in-line wheels mounted in a frame which one would straddle, propelled by your feet pushing along the ground.

lThe Velocipede was created in the 1850s by Ernest Michaux, a Parisian manufacturer of baby and horse carriages. It was the world’s first mass-produced riding machine. The pedals were attached directly to the front wheel. Pierre Lallement took this bicycle’s design in a new direction by placing the pedals on an enlarged front wheel during the 1860s, which increased riding speed. These bikes were uncomfortable due to wooden frames and wheels.

In order to increase speed in the absence of any practical method of gearing, larger and larger wheels were used in the Velocipede. British cyclists likened the disparity in size of the two wheels to their coinage, nicknaming it the ‘penny-farthing’.

lIn 1885 John Kemp Starley launched the Rover Safety Bicycle (so-called because the rider was seated much lower down and much further behind the front wheel) and over the next 15 years or so, the penny-farthing vanished. The safety bicycle sported the modern placing of the crank axle and featured a cross-frame tension structure. With two wheels of equal size and a roller chain geared transmission, the safety bicycle is the grandfather of today’s machines.

The 1890s was the golden age of bicycles.

In 1888, Scotsman John B Dunlop introduced the pneumatic tyre to the spoked wheel, which evolved in massive universal application. Soon the rear ‘freewheel’ was developed – enabling the rider to coast without the pedals spinning out of control – in turn leading to coaster brakes in 1898. Derailleur and cable-pull brakes were also developed during these years.

Rover, Morris, Škoda, Henry Ford and the Wright brothers all started in the bicycle business.

Despite its variations and guises, the humble chain-driven diamond frame bicycle is one of the most efficient machines ever created and remains celebrated throughout the world. It was a commercial success before the automobile, and – in all likelihood – will outlast it as well.

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