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Bicycles...getting a handle on technology

Bicycle Slide Show

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Draisine bicycle
Paris, 1816.
(acquired from Veteran Wheelmen's Association, Philadelphia.)


In 1816 German Baron, Karl von Drais, designed the first two-wheeled vehicle with a steering device. This machine was made with wood and was named after the Baron. It had a handlebar that pivoted on the frame, enabling the front wheel to be turned. Its nickname was Swiftwalker and was propelled by the rider striding along road while straddling the frame.

The popularity for this only lasted about 5 years. It was mostly used by the artistocrats and middle class doctors, clergy, and children.

Sheridan Tricycle
Tricycle: 1876.
mfc: Crosby, Gilzinger & Co. Patented in England and France.
(acquired from Veteran Wheelmen's Association, Philadelphia.)


Tricycles became a popular alternative to the high-wheeled Ordinary bicycle. They were especially used by women and short, unathletic men. This was made with wood.

Velocipede Tricycle
Tricycle: 1880.


The word "velocipede" literally means "fast feet" and was nicknamed boneshaker. With the combination of the wooden structure and cobblestoned roads, the ride was far from comfortable. The pedals were attached directly to the front wheel. Later the wooden wheels were replaced with metal tires wrapped in solid rubber, which still offered a very bumpy ride.

The velocipede was extremely difficult to control. Riders had to walk the bicycle up hills and carefully guide them down hills. The veolcipede tricycle was popular with older people and considered safer than the two-wheeled version.

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