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The invention of the bicycle


We have an antique book that chronicles those amazing 100 Years of World History, Progress and Achievements between 1800 and 1900. The section covering inventions and scientific discoveries of the 19th century includes this explanation of The Invention of the Bicycle:

“Among the inventions that came into popular use during the last quarter of the century (1875-1900) was the bicycle. Many years previous to this, attempts were made to construct some vehicle by which the use of the horse could be set aside, yet its speed could be assured. As in nearly all inventions the first efforts were only partially successful and the machines that were built were not adapted to general use, and were therefore unsatisfactory.

All this has been obviated (removed) and it is evident that the bicycle has come to stay. No new method of locomotion ever leaped so rapidly into public favor. While there have been differences of opinion as to the physical advantages of cycling, the weight of this opinion is decidedly in favor of it. The exercise is healthful when not overdone. Even walking may be overdone, and is liable to the same objection that might be made against the wheel. A person must know when his ride has been long enough, and knowing this he should have will power enough to stop.

It is nothing uncommon now to see businessmen in all parts of our country making use of the bicycle. It gives promise of a more robust health and a better physique.

Cycling has a short but brilliant history of the past. In endurance, man mounted on a cycle has beaten the strongest and fleetest of domestic animals, the horse, out-and-out in a 24 hours’ ride. What horse could compete against a cycler who covers, as some have done, more than 300 miles a day? Horses have trotted a mile rather faster, but where is the horse that could cover 40 miles under two hours, as not one but several cyclists have done in the 50 miles championship? What horse could turn out morning after morning, and trot or gallop over a hundred miles a day, as have some cyclists? A practical knowledge of cycling tends to increase one’s wonder at these “giant performances.”

At first the bicycle was likely to be regarded as merely a toy, while young and old attempted to ride it more for the purpose of seeing whether they could do it than for any other reason. The motion was exhilarating and the exercise was lively, but not for these reasons would the bicycles be so universally used. There are other and important considerations.

As already said, businessmen in large towns and cities make use of the bicycle instead of streetcars and ordinary carriages and horses. More and more the bicycle has come to be regarded as useful, and it is not likely that this use will be diminished. Postmen in the suburbs of cities and in country places employ it; errand boys make use of it everywhere, while at the same time as a vehicle for exercise and pleasure it is a popular favorite.

Many improvements in handle bars, in lamps, in saddles, in fact, in all the various parts and appliances of the machine have been made, and these have found ready favor with the general public. An immense amount of capital and a vast number of hands are employed in the manufacture of this popular invention for locomotion.” (circa 1870-90s)

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle.

Most of us have gears we never use.”

-- Charles M. Schulz

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at or visit

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