There are about a billion bicycles in the world, twice as many as motorcars. Almost 400 million bicycles are in China. Every year some 50 million bicycles – and 20 million cars – are produced.
Although Leonardo da Vinci drew some rough sketches of a contraption that looked like a bicycle, the Frenchman Comte Medi De Sivrac built the first bicycle-type vehicle in 1690. It was referred to as a hobbyhorse, or célérifère. However, it did not have pedals.
Replica of a célérifère, the world’s first bicycle
Peddles were added in 1839 by a Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, who is credited with inventing the real bicycle.
Thomas McCall’s velocipede, 1869 – later predated to 1839 and attributed to MacMillan
On a penny-farthing bicycle, one pedal gave the wheel one turn. A lot of pedaling was needed to get around! With the advent of gears, bicycles could move as fast as cars.
Air-filled tyres were used on bicycles before they were used on motorcars.
The bicycle as we know it today – with two wheels of the same size – looks almost exactly the same as one from 1900.
The first five-seat bicycle, the quindem, was built in 1940.
World’s fastest bicycle
In 1985, John Howard, Olympic cyclist and Ironman triathlon winner from the US, set the world speed record for a bicycle when he reached 152.2 mph (245,08 km/h) cycling in the slipstream of a specially designed car.
Fred Rompelberg in the slipstream of a dragster
The record would stand until October 3, 1995 when Dutch cyclist Fred Rompelberg pedaled in the slipstream of a dragster at 167.044 mph (268,831 km/h).
What is even more amazing is that Fred, who holds a number of bicycle speed records, was 50 years old when he set the Absolute World Speed Record for Cycling. He still is the world’s eldest professional cyclist.
But records are made to be broken! On September 16, 2018 legendary American cyclist Denise Mueller-Korenek cycled in the slipstream of a dragster across Bonneville Salt Flats to 183.931 mph (296.009 km/h).
World Bicycle Day
June 3 is World Bicycle Day.
Save a tree: Get off your bum; get on your bike!