Bicycle History

Last Updated on

Commerce Content is independent of Editorial and Advertising, and if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication. Here’s how we make money.

One of the things that fascinate me about bikes is just how they have evolved. From simple two-wheel rides that were quite complicated to ride at the time to the most advanced road bikes and mountain bicyclesthere have definitely been many changes for sure.

Today, the cycling industry is a world of its own kind, with a unique history that dates back to the 1800s. In fact, it is almost 200 years since the invention of the first bike, which, if anything, means we have come a long way. And things are only getting better for the cycling community.

Although not everyone you meet may fancy biking as you do, that’s not to mean that cycling has lost its popularity. It’s still a big part of our society.

Your parents may have bought you a balance bike when you were two years old, but the design concept of this bike traces its way back to a time none of us was even born yet. And if you have been wondering what the revolution was like, believe it when I tell you that there has been quite a huge milestone in the biking world.

In this post, I will walk you through the timeline in biking history, with the goal of helping you understand how biking got to the current point and just how far we’ve come.

Bicycle Timeline

The invention of Draisine in 1817

It all started in 1817 when a German Baron called Karl von Drais invented Draisine,the very first object on two wheels that actually qualified as a bike. Draisine was simple in design and it was quite popular in France and Germany. Somewhere between the time of invention and 1858, Draisine was converted into a 4-wheeled unit for railroad use. While it ceased to exist then, Draisine marked the beginning of the modern cycling.

The invention of Boneshaker in 1858

The Boneshaker, a bike that was also known as Velocipede, followed in 1858. Boneshaker’s frame was stiff, the wheels were pure wood, and the tires were made of iron. Judging from the features, and even in a practical sense, this bike was extremely difficult to use. Although it wasn’t easy on the rider, Boneshaker was the first bike in cycling history to have the front-wheel pedals.

The invention of the High Wheeler in 1866

If you ask someone today about what they think of Penny Farthing bike, they’ll probably tell you that it is ridiculous to ask about such an Ordinary bike. Although it is not anywhere close to the bicycle standards that we have in today’s market, the High Wheeler was recognized as the real bicycle since they had good wheels. And, at least, they weren’t as difficult as the boneshakers were. 

Two things made the Penn Farthing bike to stand out at the time. First, the bike had real wheels. Unlike the bikes we have in the market today, Ordinary had a small back wheel and a big front wheel, with the pedals attached to the front wheel. Second, the High Wheeler led to the birth of today’s sports cycling.

The explosion of steam powered bikes in 1868

Two years after the invention of the Penny Farthing bike, Pierre Michaux collaborated with the Oliver brothers to mass produce velocipedes. The production of the first steam-powered bike, led by Sylvester Roper, was one of the company’s biggest wins at the time. Known as Roper Steam Velocipede, the bike was invented at the time when the demand for bicycle was quite high.

Although there is no evidence to show for it, some people believed that Roper Steam velocipede didn’t just belong in the cycling space. Some are said to have treated it as the first motorcycle in the history of humankind. However, whether the Roper Steam doubled as a motorcycle is still subject to questioning even today.

The invention of rubber tire and first road race in 1869

The year 1869 is probably the time when things started looking up quite well for bicycle enthusiasts. It was at this time that the very first rubber tires were invented. The tires invented at this time didn’t just improve the development and production of bikes, but also it enhanced the capabilities of the bikes that were produced thereafter.

The first bicycle road race was also held the same year. It was one of the longest cycling races in human history, about 113km from Paris to Rouen. James Moore, a cyclist from France won the race, making the country the known pioneer in the cycling sport. Today, France continues to host some of the biggest cycling competitions in the entire universe.

The coming of the chain-driven bike in 1879

From 1817 to 1879, pedaling and controlling a bike was quite a pain in the ass. As you already know, the likes of Boneshaker bikes were the most uncomfortable bikes in history and even the High Wheelers never cut it nearly as much. At the time, a rider had to pedal front wheel in an effort to push the back wheel forward. This did not just make riding the bikes on different terrains difficult; it also made starting, stopping, and controlling hard as well.

The coming of a chain-driven bike in 1879 changed everything. Patented by Henry J. Lawsen in the same year, the chain made riding easier than it used to be back at the time. Of course, the design of the chains has changed over time. Even then, bike chains are still popular today. 

The era of the first safety bike – 1884

By 1884 Penny Farthing was no longer up to the scratch and the itch for an upgrade was quite anticipated. It is during this time that John Kemp Starley invented the first safety bike in history. Named Rover Safety, this bicycle resembled the ones that we ride today; the front and back wheels were of the same size with a similar frame.

People admired Rover Safety for so many reasons. Since John marketed it as safer bike, the bike became quite a hit in the market. The cycling community loved it because the safety aspect played a very big role in sparking their interest. More importantly, safety was really a big factor as far as biking for women was concerned.

The Invention Of Inflatable Tires In 1888

Inflatable tires are quite common these days. In fact, every bike that you have ever come across has them. Btu they did have a humble beginning, tracing their history back in 1888. John Boyd Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon and inventor who had skills and experience in working with rubber, developed the very first inflatable tire for the tricycle of his son.

From his testing, John learned that inflatable tires were superior to rubber tires and began working hard to get it patented. Boyd Dunlop isn’t the only one who proved to the cycling space that inflatable tires were superior at the time. Willie Hume, one of the most recognized cyclists in history, also proved in different cycling events that, indeed, these tires were the game changer.

1890 Was The Year Of Aluminum Bikes

Whether you own a mountain bike or you use a hybrid bike for your daily commute, one thing is for sure: you searched and paid for the most lightweight bike for an easy and smooth ride on different terrains. A bigger percentage of the bikes that we have tested and reviewed on Bikes Havenare made of aluminum, and for good reasons.

By 1890, bikes had already become popular. It’s in the same year that manufacturers started to buy the idea that using aluminum would be a good idea. Aluminum is the most lightweight metal out there, so it has always been a more than ideal option for building different types of bikes.

Cycles Aluminum started mass production of aluminum bike in 1890. And using the same material for production has never stopped since.

The Evolution From 1893 And Beyond

The very first bike that folded away was invented in 1893. The idea of designing a bike this way was very simple:  to enhance portability and make commuting easy. Folding bikes were primarily designed for the army and were used heavily in scouting mission. Today, though, anyone can buy and use a folding bike on different terrains.

Two years after the coming of the folding bikes, battery powered bikes came out. Also known as electric bikes, powered by motors to boost speed while paddling, these bikes also gained a lot of attention from the cycling community.

In 1901, bike manufacturers created the very first recumbent bike in history. In 1905, manufacturers had the idea of designing the rear derailleur gear and integrating it on bikes. In 1920, dealers started to manufacture bicycles for kids. About 50 years later, in 1970, cycling sport became popular leading to the making of mountain bikes.


Fast forward in 2019, the cycling industry has revolutionized so much that we cannot help but appreciate the inventions that were made in the past. As you ride your bike this year, always remember that you are riding a bike whose history dates back to about 200 years ago.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top