Just like the invention of cars, the urban commuter bikes we ride today weren’t always on the market. In fact, bicycles—and their accessories—weren’t like anything we use today at all. Read below to find out seven little-known facts about bikes and bike accessories, and of course, how the bikes we ride today came to be.
The bicycle, once called a “velocipede,” was invented in 1817.
While many people believe that Leonardo da Vinci invented the bike, it’s not true! In 1817, a German baron by the name of Karl von Drais came up with what became known as a velocipede: a horseless carriage with two wheels. There were no pedals, so riders were forced to propel the “bike” by pushing their feet off the ground. It is believed that the velocipede (also referred to as a “Draisienne,” after its inventor) was created to curb the lack of horses available to pull carriages, due to widespread starvation and death.
The first urban commuter bikes were made entirely of wood.
And like you might expect, they were heavy, clunky and not the least bit aerodynamic. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that the modern “safety” bicycle entered the scene, which, at that point, was made of steel tubing instead of wood.
At one point, kickstands were two-feet long.
In 1869, Frenchman Alfred Berruyer drew the first-ever blueprint for a bicycle kickstand, which was attached to the handlebars and stretched all the way to the ground below.
Biking uses the same amount of energy as walking, but takes you farther.
Studies show that bike riders can cycle nearly three times faster than they can walk, but use the same amount of minimal energy.
Before they invented the airplane, the Wright Brothers built bicycles.
The Wright Brothers opened their first bicycle sales and repair shop, which was called Wright Cycle Exchange, in Dayton, Ohio in 1892. Here, they rented out, sold and repaired bicycles, bike parts and accessories. Eventually, the Wright Brothers started building their first plane out of that shop, too.
The modern-day commuter road bike wasn’t invented until 1885.
It was during that year that an English inventor, John Kemp Starley, invented the first Rover Safety Bicycle—which introduced the standardized look of a bicycle that we all know and love today. Much like modern urban road bikes, the original Rover Safety Bicycle had two 26-inch wheels, a diamond bicycle frame, pedals and a chain system.
...But helmets didn’t come until much later.
After decades of bicycle accidents, cyclists realized they needed something to protect their heads while they rode. Enter… the helmet! In the early 1900s, the first helmets were made out of rings of wool and leather, which wasn’t very protective. Eventually, these were replaced by strips of leather arranged longitudinally on the head, and after that, hard exteriors and foam liners that were both heavy and ineffective.
Fast-forward to 2017, and helmet design and construction has come a long way. Take the Closca Nordic helmet, for example; it’s lightweight, foldable and fashion-forward, has a wool layer to keep riders warm during the winter months, and is even embedded with NFC technology that connects to riders’ smartphones.