200 Years of Cycling

Two Hundred years ago, a German nutcase invented the first bicycle and transformed the world.

 

From the ABC:

 

Cyclists celebrate ‘nutcase’ inventor as bike turns 200 years old

 

Cyclists across the country have celebrated the 200th anniversary of the world’s first bicycle ride.

Monday marks 200 years since inventor Karl Drais rode a bicycle for the first time, in the German city of Mannheim.

“Everything we have today … came from this machine. It’s as simple as that,” said vintage cycling enthusiast Stewart Clissold at a celebration in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.

“Karl von Drais saw a lovely young girl ice skating, and he saw how fluently she moved across the ice. And his idea was, if he was to put wheels under himself, he could move as gracefully as her.”

Other celebrations have been held in Sydney, Darwin, Bendigo and Geelong.

“It started a total revolution,” Charlie Farren of the Vintage Cycle Club said.

“We’ve got to thank this nutcase inventor.”

Bicycle’s creation linked to Indonesian volcano

The bicycle was invented as Europe suffered in the aftermath of an Indonesian volcanic eruption that caused chaos across the world.

“Back in the early 1800s, there was this phenomenal eruption, clouds of smoke and dust permeated everywhere [in Europe],” Ms Farren said.

“It’s said that the crops failed, the horses starved.

“This invention of Baron von Drais became a hit overnight because it wasn’t a horse, it didn’t need feeding. All it needed was you, your legs, a bit of energy, and you were away.”

The invention quickly became popular, mainly with affluent young men.

However, poor road quality meant they would often ride on the footpaths, which led to the machine being banned soon after it was created.

‘You just glide along’: riding a replica

Vintage cycling club members were proudly showing replicas to keen onlookers today, and explaining the machine had its limitations.

“I think not only was it the first carriage that went underneath a human, it was also the first natural contraceptive,” Mr Clissold said.

“I can assure you, after riding one a short period of time on rather rough cobblestone roads, you were not going home for anything other than a hot bath.”

However, Ms Farren said the replica was a delight to ride on flat surfaces, likening it to ice-skating.

“It’s a little bit like roller-blading,” she said.

“You get a beautiful stride going, and you glide along.”

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