The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources

Road Bikes

I bet each of us has a favorite memory of when we were young riding road bikes with our friends. Think back to before you got your license wasn’t a road bike your main form of transportation?

Bikes have been a part of the culture of the world for centuries, but when was the first bike invented?

The first recorded mention of a bike was in 1817. A German gentleman named Drais created what would be known as the Running machine. The reason people called it the Running machine was because you had to power the bike by pushing with your feet against the ground. The bike was popular in America and Europe but people knew that it could be improved. This improvement would come with the invention of pedals and the sprocket mechanism.

In the 1870’s the bicycle took another leap forward with the invention of the Penny Farthing bicycle. The Penny as it was know had a steel frame and utilized long lasting ball bearings in the pedal assembly. The Penny was a dangerous bike to drive and the drive chain was connected to an oversized front wheel which made it prone to tipping over.

Although the Penny did have unique features for the day such as rubber tires it was still a difficult bike to ride for the average person.

During the 1930’s the depression hit people hard many of them lost there cars or could not afford gas. This need for transportation caused an increase in bicycle development and usage. One of the characteristics of road bikes from this time period is large balloon type tires. These bikes were often called Cruisers or Junkers due to their poor condition from continuous use.

Since the 1930’s the bicycle has evolved into a sleek lightweight, strong alternative form of transportation. You can buy a road bike for as little as ninety nine dollars or as much as five thousand. Your options for fun and affordable transportation using a bike have never been better. Have fun riding and remember always use your safety equipment.