Quick History of Bicycles

When did you first learn how to ride a bike? Nowadays there are training wheels and helmets, arm pads and plenty of parental support for those first few bike riding experiences. Jump back in time to when bicycles were first created and used and the style, design and overall experience are much different. We here at Sturbridge Yankee Workshop feature different bike style themes in our wide range of products from wall art to decorative clocks and more.
Newsprint Bike Clock Bicycle Beginnings

The earliest bicycles, circa 1817, were made of wood, and involved a not-so-complicated motion of propelling yourself and the mechanism forward while peddling your feet along the ground, known as the “hobby horse” or Draisienne. This machine was not quite as practical as originally hoped and was mainly used for well groomed paths such as would be found on a stroll through a well-maintained garden area. On Newsprint Bike Clock, a vintage image of a 1950’s style bicycle is printed on an image of historic newsprint.


Not So Successful Designs

When pedals were first added to the bicycle in 1865 they were added directly to the front wheel. This version was called the velocipede, although those who actually rode these all wood bikes around on cobblestone streets commonly called them the “bone shakers” as your body was jolted about as you rode along.

The first all metal machine did not appear until 1870, with rubber wheels and pedals still attached to the front wheel.

Metal Bike Wall Art
Speaking of the front wheel, these began to become larger and larger as manufacturers realized that the bigger the front wheel, the longer distance you travel with just one push of the pedal. This was also the first machine to be called bicycle, meaning “two-wheel”. Nowadays these are commonly referred to as the penny farthing bicycles, easily recognizable like the wall art shown above.

Bicycle Jute Wrapped Wall Art A Bicycle Built For Two

Tandem bicycles, those with seats and pedals arranged fore and aft from each other, were first popularized in the 19th century. As early as 1898, patents were being filed for two-person and four-person tandem bicycles weighing close to 25 and 65 pounds respectively.

On this jute wrapped wall art, a vintage tandem bicycle is featured with scrolling script reading, “And they lived happily ever after.”

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