The Bicentennial of The Bicycle: A Visual History

The Bicentennial of the Bicycle

Get a handle on the bicycle's many evolutionary chain-ges with this timeline of two centuries of two-wheelers — from birth, to boneshakers and BMXes, to beyond.

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Published on June 16, 2017

1817

The First Bicycle

1866: The first U.S. patent is issued for a pedal-driven bicycle

It all begins in Germany with the velocipede, a pedal-less, foot-propelled bicycle, constructed almost entirely of wood.


1839

Improved Velocipede

1868: In France, Michaux and Co. is the first to mass-produce bicycles


1870s: The unicycle is created as riders discover the rigid frame actually increases stability

The addition of a rear crank and pedals allows riders to propel themselves without their feet touching the ground, transporting bicycles out of their Flintstones-esque Stone Age.


1863

Boneshaker

1878: Bicycles begin getting imported to the U.S.

Bicycling becomes a fad following the introduction of front-wheel pedals, though the comfort level remains “boneshaking.”


1866

Penny Farthing

1889: The pneumatic tire make for a smoother ride on paved streets

This icon of “old-timey” has an enlarged front wheel that allows for a notable increase in both speed and accident rate — thus the term “taking a header” is born.


1884

Tricycle

1890: Safety bicycles like the rover become the most popular type of bike in the U.S. and Europe

1900-10: In America, the automobile rises, the bicycle falls

Tricycles gain in popularity, boasting safety, stability and the ability of women to ride while dressed in the traditional (read: constricting) fashions of the time.


1885

The Rover

1920-30: Derailleur gears grant bicyclists the luxury of multiple speeds


Combining safety, comfort, speed and affordability, this forerunner to the modern bicycle finally elevates bicycling from semi-hazardous hobby to everyday practical transport.


1898

Tandem Bicycle

1960-70: Annual U.S. bicycle sales double in a decade

Daisy, Daisy, your famed “bicycle built for two” potentially offers twice the speed — or twice the odds of tipping over, depending on the coordination between riders.


1933

Cruiser

1970: Newly health- and energy- conscious Americans (well, relatively) kickstart a bike boom in the U.S.

1975: U.S. adult bike sales reach over 17 million

Schwinn releases its popular Cruiser model, considered the prototype of modern mountain bikes.


1960-80

Flying Pigeon

2000: Mountain bike sales outpace those of all other bicycle types

China becomes known as the “Kingdom of Bicycles” as this government-endorsed model becomes a must-have for citizens.


1971

BMX

Do try this at home! The documentary “On Any Sunday” prompts American children to bug their parents for a BMX bike.

2000s: Computer-aided design and analysis lead to growing improvements in bicycle weight and aerodynamics


1981

Mountain Bike

The first mass-produced mountain bike reaches the market — to extreme success.


2017

Specialization

Bicycles trend further toward specialization, keeping pace with a growing population of casual, recreational and commuter cyclists.

SHIFTING GEARS

1866: The first U.S. patent is issued for a pedal-driven bicycle

1868: In France, Michaux and Co. is the first to mass-produce bicycles

1870s: The unicycle is created as riders discover the rigid frame actually increases stability

1878: Bicycles begin getting imported to the U.S.

1889: The pneumatic tire make for a smoother ride on paved streets

1890: Safety bicycles like the rover become the most popular type of bike in the U.S. and Europe

1900-10: In America, the automobile rises, the bicycle falls

1920-30: Derailleur gears grant bicyclists the luxury of multiple speeds

1960-70: Annual U.S. bicycle sales double in a decade

1970: Newly health- and energy- conscious Americans (well, relatively) kickstart a bike boom in the U.S.

1975: U.S. adult bike sales reach over 17 million

2000: Mountain bike sales outpace those of all other bicycle types

2000s: Computer-aided design and analysis lead to growing improvements in bicycle weight and aerodynamics

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