Bicycles – A revolution

During the year 1817 – Baron Karl Drais Von Sauerbronn patented what we know know as “The Bicycle”.  He named it the “DRAISINE”.

The Draisine (or Draisienne) had two wheels and a wooden frame with a rotating handlebar attached, which permitted the front wheel to be turned.

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Unlike todays bicycles, the Draisine was powered by pushing with your feet along the ground.  Much like the wooden balance bikes used by aspiring cyclists under the age of 5.

Back then bicycled were known by many names;  Hobby Horse or Dandy Horse.  Pedals came about in 1839 when Kirkpatric Macmillan invented the “Velocipede” – otherwise known as a Foot Treadle.

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As time went on, a small invention became something massive, taking the world by storm.    Very few children today have ever ridden a bicycle, or know someone that has.  One things for certain – We’ve all seen one.

Today there are many varieties of bikes to choose from including; Road bikes, Cyclocross, touring, triathlon, Flat bar road, track, fixed gear, Mountain, Hybrid, Performance hybrid, Cruiser, flat foot cruiser, City, BMX, Folding, recumbent, Tanden, adult tricycles, hard tail, soft tail and the list goes on.

Making a decision on best suits your style and needs can be as confusing as trying to find a running shoe for every day use.  I’ve tried and its not easy.  For example, a hybrid won’t handle down hill terrain tracks with jumps, and a mountain bike wouldn’t be much use on the road in speed events.  What a marketing dream this is !!!

wrong-bike

I remember when BMX first came out.  Finally a bike you ride off the kerb, over rocks and gravel without fearing the tyre coming off the rim.  You could even do tricks like wheelies on them.  I thought I was so cool, until BMX stunt riding took off.  Like “Break Dancing” I quickly realised how untalented I actually was.  My 2 second wheelie couldn’t match the skills of those guys/girls.

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Before we knew it, Bikes had 3 speed’s, then 10 speed’s then 12 and 14 and 18 speeds, all make possible by a complex wheel of gears perched on the rear wheel, and usually 3 on the front cog. So with a push of a lever or twist of a handle it was now easier to go up hills.  No longer would you see a cue of school boys/girls pushing their bikes to the top of the hill just so they could ride down it again.

It’s best to find a style you enjoy and stick to it, or buy several bikes, one for each discipline.  This isn’t a cheap exercise mind you.  Especially with some bikes costing upwards of a thousand dollars (at least).

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I’ve had my fair share of bikes.  I remember a Scott Triathlon Bike I had for a year.  I sold it when I discovered I wasn’t getting much use out of it, so bought a mountain bike, more suited to what I was doing at the time.  I’d have kept both but aero bars and a smaller front wheel wasn’t an everyday cycling type setup.

With mountain bikes, theres also many options, features and accessories.  The main decision you’ll find is whether to choose a “Hard tail” or a  “Soft tail” bike.  A hard tail has rear suspension to absorb the momentum when traversing undulating terrain or coming off jumps, and a hard tail is a great cross country bike when you need torque to the back wheel while peddling.  An in between bike is a hard tail soft front bike.  A bike that has suspension on the front and not on the back.  This feature absorbs impacts through the handlebars but nothing through the rear, allowing for easier hill climbs and flat surface riding.  confused ??  But wait, theres more.  You also have an option on some bikes to lock the front suspension.  This makes flat surface riding easier as you don’t have the front ducking and bobbing up and down when your trying to pedal while standing up off the seat.

Oh and bikes nowadays have hydraulic disc brakes, not the little rubber pads operated by a lever and cable causing friction against the rim.  The good old days had many many a rider going through a puddle and unable to stop as the rubber brakes were wet.  Fun time I tell you.

 

Just when you thought mountain bikes couldn’t get any better the 29’er came along and the way we rolled over obstacles became easier. The 29’er because the wheels are a larger diameter.  Usually mountain bikes have a wheel size of either 26″ or 27.5″ (also known as the 650B). the 29’er is arguably better amongst many cyclists as it’s perceived that it has increased ability to handle obstacles (as the height of the bottom bracket is raised) and larger wheels roll over terrain more efficiently.  I’ve had both 26″ and 29″ and I think the 29’er rolls better into and out of obstacles, and the increased sized wheels change the gear ratio’s slightly.   I guess its personal preference though.

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Heres a comparison between a 29’er and a 26″ bikes wheel.

Things have gone a little further now with “Fat Bikes” becoming the trend.  Extremely easy to ride on loose surfaces such as sand, mud or gravel, these massive wheels and tyres give the rider the confidence to tackle almost anything.  I’d kill myself on one I reckon.

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There is a new kid on the block though.  Battery powered bikes have revolutionised the way we enjoy the trails.  Faster, more enjoyable (for the lazier of us), and becoming more affordable is the bike that has a battery and motor.  It’s still small enough not be known as a motorcycle, but the technology is the same as battery powered motorcycles, just on a smaller scale.  Again, there are a variety of types.  The extreme battery motorised mountain bike;

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Or the commuter bike (seen cruising around your local neighbourhood delivering mail).

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How can we stand in the way of technology ?  People may ask “Yeah but at what cost”??  We’re becoming a society of convenience, and an an electric commuter bike costs very little to charge, takes next to no effort to ride, and because its a bike, you can ride it to the office and keep it in a store room.  With benefits of no fuel costs, registration, car parking fee’s, Tolls, traffic or road raging drivers….. No wonder they’re becoming popular for people living close to work.

Maybe its just be me ?!  but I actually enjoy a little exertion, the exercise I’m getting when I’m riding. I reach my destination, and think to myself “I’ve actually achieved something”. It makes me feel good to know I can pedal my bike up a hill, and each time I do it, it becomes easier. Yes, I’ve been told on occasion that I over think things !! ha haFor the Hipster type parents.  Those parents that enjoy riding, the outdoors and pedal power, there’s an alternative to the old fashioned kids seat perched on the rear cargo carrier of the old type parents bike.

old-kids-seat

Now theres a bike that looks like a pedal powered wheel barrow.  It has a large cargo area between the peddler and the front wheel.  Here you can fill it with blankets, pillows and yes, your children.

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Alternatively, you can purchase a bike trailer that looks like a tent on wheels, inside your children sit patiently while being dragged through traffic or along the bike paths.  I always wonder though, what happens to the loose stones that are usually thrown out from the rear wheel, or the rooster tail of water that we’ve all had soak the rear of our trousers, making them look like you’ve followed through while expelling flatulence.

The rear, side mounted briefcase or carry bag has given way to an office deliver bike.  This bike has a sealed container of which documents of the highest importance are kept safe between city blocks.

The Bicycle courier wouldn’t have a job had it not been for the invention of, the bicycle.  Neither would the newly created roles of Deliveroo (Pizza and fast food delivery) where college student make extra money delivery food to those too time poor to go get it themselves.

ET wouldn’t have been able to sit in a basket of a bicycle with his finger glowing saying “ET Phone home”, had it not been for a Frenchman in 1869.

et

So, some of life’s greatest experiences have happened (or been made easier) because of the humble Bicycle.  Grazed knees/elbows/faces, gravel rash, runnings with branches, gates and electric fences, having your favourite pair of white trousers eaten by the chain, fingers caught in spokes and “Doubling accidents gone wrong” wouldn’t have been part of the “Highlight Reel” had it not been for bicycles.  New and improved bicycles have changed the face of cycling as have the different varieties of cycles but one thing remains a constant.  It’ll never change (well not in foreseeable future anyway), and that is the required skill everyone must have.  Balance.  Without this simple yet easily disrupted skill, the art of riding would be impossible.

Learning to ride a bicycle is a right of passage.  A simple transition from infant to childhood.  A test for parents to see how they’re going, whether they’re children will listen to them, trust them, and of course be comforted by them.  It’s a child’s first real test, it gives them experience in failure (everyone falls off when learning), it teaches them to persist, and ultimately succeed, with practice and determination.  Ask yourself one thing.  Without the bicycle, what could replace this valuable experience in a child life ??  xBox or Playstation ??!!

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And this has been my blog on Bicycles.

 

 

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