Cycle History

The History of Bicycle Industry

Innovation Year Country Details
1817 Germany
Baron Von Drais invents the “running machine” or Laufmaschine. Patented the following year. Known in various forms as :

Draisine, Draisienne, Velocipede. English version was the Hobby Horse (Denis Johnson). All have two, in-line wheels and the ability to steer.

Hand Drive 1821 England
Louis Gompertz adds a hand-driven, ratchet mechanism to the front wheel of a Hobby Horse but the innovation, as with Drais’ was never really followed up.
1839-1840 Scotland
Kirkpatrick Macmillan is traditionally credited with a machine in which power was supplied to the back wheel via rods connected to treadle-type pedals. Thomas McCall marketed copies; an 1845 version is in the Dumfries Museum. It is questionable whether significant progress resulted from either.
Rear-Wheel-Drive Bicycle 1843 France
Alexandre Lefebvre is credited with a rear-drive machine; he took it to America twenty years later and it still exists in the “History San Jose”

museum (the earliest extant bicycle?).

Pneumatic Tire 1845 England
R. W. Thompson invents the pneumatic tire but with no commercial follow-up.
Treadle Drive 1847 Scotland
Gavin Dalzell builds a two-wheeled hobbyhorse with a treadle-drive, possibly copied from the Macmillan design.
Crank-Driven 4-Wheeler 1851 England
Willard Sawyer exhibits his four-wheeled, crank-driven vehicle at the Great Exhibition and subsequently becomes established as a Velocipede manufacturer.
Boneshaker Bicycle 1864 France
J. Townsend Trench documents his purchase of a velocipede from the Michaux family. Possibly the first record of a “production” front wheel, pedal-driven bicycle (but note that it was not presented untill 1895). This style became known as the “Boneshaker”. Historians still debate the claim of Pierre Lallement that he had previously invented the first pedal-driven machine.
1866 USA
Lallement, now in the USA, gets the backing of an investor, James Carroll, and their patent application is granted; probably the world’s first public record of the pedal-powered two-wheeler.
1870 England
James Starley products the “Ariel” High Wheeler (aka “Ordinary” or “Penny Farthing”). Later versions had front wheel sizes of upto 5 feet.
Wire-Spoked Wheel 1870 England
W. H. J. Grout patents the radially spoked, nipple adjusted bicycle wheel (unlike prior load-bearing wheels). Some credit Meyer with this design two years previosly.
Ball Bearings 1872 German
Friedrich Fischer first mass-produces steel ball bearings, patented by Jules Suriray in 1869.
Caliper Brake 1876 England
Browett and Harrison patent an early caliper brake.
Differential Gear 1877 England
James Starley patent a differential gear; probably the first for a bicycle but the principle was not new.
Internal Hub Gearings 1878 England
Scott and Phillott patent the first practicable epicyclic change-speed gear fitted into the hub of a front-driving bicycle.
Folding Highwheeler 1878 England
Grout patents a folding High Wheeler, the first “portable” bicycle.
1879 England
Henry J. Lawson patents a rear wheel, chain-driven safety bicycle, the “Bicyclette” (his earlier models were lever driven).
Chain 1880 England
Thomas Humber adapts the block chain for use with his range of bicycles.
Safety Bicycle 1885 England
John Kemp Starley (James Starley’s nephew) markets the revolutionary Safety Bicycle (the “Rover”) with a chain/rear-sprocket drive and tangentially-spoked, similar sized wheels. Includes many of the major features of modern bicycles.
Seamless Tubing 1886 Germany
The Mannessman brothers are credited with the invention of the process to manufacture seamless steel tubing.
1888 Scotland
Commercial development of the pneumatic bicycle tire by Dr. John Boyd Dunlop.
1890s France
Cycles Aluminium becomes one of the earliest manufacturers of an aluminium bicycle.
Derailleur 1896 England
E. H. Hodgkinson patents a 3-speed Gradient gear, a pre-cursor of the modern derailleur.
Internal Hub Gearing 1896 England
William Reilly patents a two-speed hub gear. His later 3-speed version was put into production by Sturmey Archer in 1902.
Butted Frame Tubes 1897 England
Alfred M. Reynolds takes out a patent on “butted” steel bicycle tubes.
Freewheel 1898 Germany
First major commercialization of the freewheel by Ernst Sachs. William Van Anden had obtained the first freewheel patent in 1869.
1910 France
The first, easy-to-use derailleur is invented by Paul de Vivie (Velocio) that shifted among four gears at the pedals.
Recumbent 1914 France
Peugeot markets their production recumbent bicycle. Charles Challand had exhibited his “Horizontal Bicyclette Noemale” in Geneva in 1895.
Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike 1915 Italy
Bianchi produced a folding bicycle for the Italian Army with telescoping seatstays, a leaf spring at the bottom bracket, a spring fork and large profile pneumatic tires. Bianchi now calls it the first dual suspension mountain bike! There are earlier versions of military folding bicycles.
1930 Italy
Tullio Campagnolo intriduces the bicycles hub quick-release.
Recumbent 1932 France
Charles Mochet designs the Velocar, a recumbent bicycle on which Francois Faure breaks both the mile and kilometer records.
1933-1934 USA
Introduction by Schwinn of the balloon tire and “streamlined” bikes which leads to rugged bikes that can take the abuse of teenage boys and which set a forty-year trend.
Mountain Bike 1938 USA
Schwinn markets the “Fore-wheel” brake, “Cantilever Frame” and the “Spring Fork”. Resulted in what was to be the Grandfather of today’s mountain bikes.
Folding Bicycle 1939 France
A. J. Marcelin petents “Le Petit Bi”, a 16-inch wheeled folding bicycle, remarkably similar to the Moulton and Bickerton of later years.
Shifter 1946 Italy
Campagnolo markets the dual-rod “Cambio Corsa” gear shifter (over ten years after the prototype) widely used for atleast a decade.
Index Shifting 1949 England
The Hercules Herailleur is launched; a rear derailleur with indexed shift levers. Marketed for five years.
Derailleur 1951 Italy
Introduction of Campagnolo’s modern Gran Sport derailleur.
1962 England
Launch of the Moulton small-wheeled bicycle with separately sprung suspension and custom tires. Competed successfully in time trials and track pursuit events.
String-Ray 1963 USA
Schwinn introduces the Sting-Ray that subsequently helped launch the BMX craze.
Rear Derailleur 1964 Japan
The Sun Tour Grand Prix is marketed as the first slant parallelogram derailleur, a design that has held up till the present day.
Index Shifting 1969 Japan
Sun Tour launch their indexed shift lever, the Five-Speed Click, and a combined freewheel-plus-rear hub, the Unit Hub. Neither of them found a market, and were abandoned. Bayliss Wiley in England has also experimented with unit hubs as far back as 1938.
1970 England
The aluminium Bickerton portable small-wheeler is developed. Followed by the successful Brompton in 1976 and Dahon in 1980.
Bmx (Bicycle Motocross) 1970 USA
The movie On Any Sunday by Bruce Brown debuts. Although it is a motorcycle documentary, a brief scene during the beginning of the movie shows kids on Sting-Ray bikes emulating motocross. This small spark eventually evolves into full-fledged, organized BMX racing by 1974.
Mass-Produced Titanium Frame/Fork 1974 USA
Teledyne markets the first titanium bike that was produced in any quantity (Speedwell of England had some Ti production frames as far back as the 1960s, welded by Lamborghini!) Litespeed brought titanium frames to a broader market in the 1980s.
1975 USA
The first carbon-tubed, metal lugged frame appears: the Exxon Graftek. Suffered from frequent frame failure. The technology was later perfected by Look, Trek and others.
Aluminium Frames/Bikes 1975 USA
Gary Klein displays his welded and heat-treated aluminium frames at the International Bike show. Alan (Italy) and Vitus (France) were producing their lugged aluminium frames arround the same time. Cannondale launch their “Aluminium for the Masses” in 1983.
1978 USA
Fomac Corporation designs the Avatar recumbent. It is one of the many styles that constituted the 1980s renaissance of recumbents which included Lightning Cycle winning the HPV-RAAM relay and Easy Racers breaking the 65 mph barrier.
High-Quality Folding Clincher Tire 1978 USA
Specialized introduce the first high-quality foldablr clincher tire (the Turbo) which launches the demise of the tubular.
Aerodynamic Road/Track Bicycles 1980 East Germany
Introduction of aerodynamic bicycles with a stable construction. Culminated in the American “Super Bike” at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Mass-Produced Mountain Bike 1981 USA
The specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike is launched nationwide, capitalizing on the Marin Country vogue inspired by Calofornian icons, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Tom Richey et al. (all of whom also produced earlier mountain bikes).
Electronic Cycle Computer 1983 USA
Avocet launch the first electronic cyclometer (bike computer).
Moulton 1983 England
Moulton launches his second generation of “space-frame” small-wheeled bicycles.
Clipless Pedals 1984 France
LOOK markets their clipless pedal (following on an earlier track model launched by Cinelli in 1970; the “Death Cleats”, no automatic release).
Index Shifting 1985 Japan
Shimano introduces SIS indexed shifting (learning from their inferior product, the Positron, from 1977).
1986 USA
Kestrel introduces their production non-lugged, carbon fiber frame and Trek market their first lugged carbon frame.
Suspended Mountain Bike 1987 USA
Paul Turner demonstrates a full suspension bicycle with front and rear shocks. Eventually becomes a partner in Rock Shox. Diversified the sport of off-road biking.
Aero Handlebars 1987 USA
Scott USA manufactures the first modern aerobars, originally the brainchild of Boone Lennon. Pete Pensyres had earlier used his own clip-on style bars in setting his RAAM record.
High-Performance Folding Bike 1989 USA
Hanz Scholz designs the Bike Friday “World Tourist”. A reasonably compact folding bicycle that matches the performance of conventional touring machines.
Integrated Brake/Shift Levers 1990 Japan
Shimano introduces integrated brake/gear levers.
Electric Derailleurs 1993 France
Mavic markets their ZAP electronic shifting. Ceases production in 2001. Possible future follow-up by Campangnolo. Browning Research had invented a prototype electronic system in 1974.
Hydraulic Disc Brake 1994 USA
Sachs (SRAM) introduces Power Disc, the first mass-produced hydraulic disc brake system.
1998 Germany
Rohloff develops the Speedhub, 14 equally-spaced hub gears which are operated by a twist-grip with no overlapping ratios and a gear range as wide as a 27-speed derailleur system.
30-Speed Derailleur Drivetrain 2002 Italy
Champagnolo offers a 30-speed derailleur drivetrain with the Record 3-x-10a adrivetrain.

The lndian Cycle Industry

Bicycle was seen in India in the year 1890. Import of cycles, however, started in 1905 and continued for more than 50 years. Complete ban on imports was announced by the Government in July, 1953, but cycle kept on simmering in the country till 1961. In 1890, selling price of an imported bicycle was arround Rs. 45/-; in 1917, during the First World War the price jumped to Rs. 500/- but dropped considerably, month by month and came down to Rs. 35/- or so (U. K. makes) and Rs. 15/- or so (Japanese models).

It would be interesting to mention that in 1919, five persons in Punjab imported cycles and used them on The Mall, Simla. These included one Bishop, Two military men and two contractors including S. Pala Singh Bhogal (Grand Father of Mr. M.S. Bhogal of Ludhiana). Under special permission of the Governor, they were allowed to use cycles on ‘The Mall’ only for one hour in a day. They imported B.S.A. Cross Bar Cycle from U.K. and it used to be a kind of Mela at that particular hour on the Mall in Simla, the scene watched by hundreds of people everyday. Later, a firm was formed under the name of Singh & Co. with shops on Railway Road, Jalandhar and Bazar Vakillan, Hoshiarpur, which imported bicycles in the year 1930 onwards.