Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bicycles - a little history

April 14, 2005

As far back as 1490, one of Leonardo Da Vinci's students made rough drafts of a bicycle, but with no hard-surface roads, bicycles were not practical until the 1800s.

In 1817, a walking machine with no pedals was invented. This was patented in 1818 and one had to use his feet to push it. In 1865, pedals were applied to the front wheel. This was known as the "boneshaker," and it was made entirely of wood. In 1870, the first all-metal high-wheeled machine appeared. They had their heyday in the decade of the 1880s and cost an average worker six month's pay. The term "taking a header" came into being when these machines would hit a stone or rut in the road and throw the rider over the top of the handlebars on his head.

Bicycling was so popular in the 1880s and 1890s that cyclists formed the League of American Wheelman, now called the League of American Bicyclists. This group lobbied for better roads, literally paving the road for the automobile.

Before I started school, I learned how to ride a bike at Don Clark's house at what is now 107 E. Mary Street. I do not remember whose bike it was, but I remember using the wooden steps to get on and ride around in a circle and back to the steps. It's a great feeling the first time you realize you are riding without someone's help.

Lansing streets were not easy to ride on as they were covered with black cinders. The best riding was on Kansas Avenue or the highway. It was much safer on the highway then, as there was little traffic.

One day when I was 12 years old and doing circles in front of the grade school, I made the mistake of leaning too far with the pedal down and falling right in front of Dr. Moore's car. I got a tongue lashing from him like you would not believe.

Now, 71 years later, I still ride in circles and figure 8's in my own driveway, which is only 200 feet from where I first learned to ride. I try to ride a little each day. It is great fun and good exercise.

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