How did cycling become popular

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In the 1800s, early forms of bicycles existed. Although the invention of the bicycle, to this day, is not entirely clear, cycling, as a sport and hobby, soon did become of great interest to the public. Shortly after the bicycle was invented, cycle races began to spread in many areas.

Early Development

Bicycles, of some types, appears as early as Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches from 1493. By the early 1800s, several types of bicycles were made. Initially, different forms existed. However, among the earliest forms of what would become the forerunner to the modern bicycle was the Draisine, which was a two-wheeled vehicle invented by Karl Drais. This bicycle consisted of front steering and was pushed along by a person's feet. The frame of the bicycle is familiar to us, which is what made it different from earlier forms. After this development, the next big innovation was the use of pedal. This is not clear when this happened but it could have been invented by Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a Scottish blacksmith. The key design modification though was when Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallemen put the pedals at the front wheel and put a seat on the support beam in 1863. This now made the bicycle much easier to control and power.

With that innovation, cycling soon began to develop as a recreational activity and sport. In particular, cycle races began to develop by the 1860s. The first documented cycle race of a measured distance was in Paris, which was a 1200 meter event. held in Saint-Cloud Park. Bicycles similar to our own forms now began to appear throughout Europe and North America. In the United States, early bicycle manufacturers were also carriage manufacturers. Riding schools and competitions began to develop by 1869, although in the United States already by then the sport of cycling began to decline due to the fact that early bicycles were often uncomfortable, particularly the seats.

Modern Cycling

In the 1870s, cycling was focused on delivering faster speeds and was mostly a young man's sport. The so-called high-wheel bikes became popular, which often had a very large front wheel and small back wheel. Such bikes did make it possible to attain very high speeds, but the were notoriously unsafe with many fatal and major accidents having taken place. The main problem was these bicycles placed the driver high up, which meant that any bump or uneven surface made the cyclists loose control. In the 1880s, the so-called safety bicycle was developed which emphasized greater steering control and more even wheel sizes, giving the rider not only greater control but greater comfort was also given to the driver through giving the back wheel chain control. By improving safety and comfort for cycling, these new so-called safety bikes also became the first bikes to be popular among both sexes and for different age groups. In the late 1880s, improvements with the use of rubber wheels made bicycles also more able to travel rougher surfaces. The oldest cycling club in the US was soon established, in 1887, in St. Louis, called the St. Louis Cycling Club. In the 1890s, the roadster bike became among the most popular designs, which saw now bicycles developed for men and women, where women's bikes accommodated the fact they wore skirts and dresses which could get caught on the back wheels, thus a design to prevent this was developed.

While bicycle design continued to improve in the early 1900s, Europe and United States soon began to diverge in their perceptions of cycling. In the United States before 1910, the automobile, such as the Model T, began to gain much greater popularity, which led to a major decline in cycling. In fact, cycling, in the United States, soon began to be associated as a children's activity and adults largely stopped using cycling as a means of transport to work or recreation. In Europe, cycling, even with the introduction of cars, continued to be popular. Clubs, tours, and racing contests continued in their popularity. The Tour de France is perhaps among the best known European cycling events, where it has been running since 1903. In the 1930s, multiple gears were introduced for racing bikes. This now made cyclists have easier control of their bikes as they changed and focused on different inclines in their rides.

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