For an invention that seems so simple, the bicycle has a long and complicated past. Four peoplecontributed to the invention of the bicycle. Karl von Drais, Frenchman Pierre Michaux, James Starley, and John Kemp Starley were the major inventors.

Some inventors were significantly innovative, while some simply improved on others’ inventions. Read on to find out more.

The Draisine

The invention of a bicycle was traced by historians to the year 1817, when Karl von Drais, a German aristocrat  invented the two-wheeled wooden machine that riders could push forward with their feet—they didn’t have pedals or gears. Karl von Drais’s wooden machine was known by different names such as a dandy horse, draisine, and a hobby horse.

It was popularly known in France and England as the draisine. Sadly, the draisine was banned due to the danger they posed to pedestrians. By the early 1820s, there was rarely any available.

The Boneshakers/Velocipede

Frenchman Pierre Michaux, along with his partner, Pierre Lallement, and his son Ernest Michaux developed petals attached to the front wheel of the draisine. Their invention was made in the early 1860s and was the first to ever be called a bicycle.

They were also known as the “boneshakers” due to their rough rides. The addition of pedals improved the mobility of bicycles but still had a shaky drive because they were made of wooden wheels.

The “boneshakers” soon became popular, mass-manufactured only in England. Several inventions took place after the boneshaker, in a bid to give better stability to the bicycle. There were inventions with two, three, and even four-wheel layout and pneumatic tires.

Penny Farthings/ High wheelers

The high wheeler or penny farthing came with innovative new designs. It was invented by a British Engineer, James Starley in 1871, after the invention of the “Boneshaker. It had a large front wheel and a very small rear wheel. Eugene Meyer first invented the penny-farthing in 1869.

Nevertheless, James Starley perfected it and gets most of the credit for the penny farthings. It also had a simple tubular frame with rubber tires. However, the Penny Farthing was the first efficient bicycle, consisting of a small rear wheel and large front wheel pivoting on a simple tubular frame with tires of rubber.

For the majority of its reign, it was known as “Ordinary bicycles” before the name “penny-farthings” became popular. Although the invention was faster and smoother, it had its dangers. It could sometimes be dangerous if the riders stopped suddenly.

The bicycle would “take a header” as the momentum would carry the riders over the front wheel to the ground. The dangers brought about the invention of the safety bicycle.

Safety Bicycles

The safety bicycle was invented by an Englishman, John Kemp Starley in 1885.

It had pneumatic wheels, a rear-wheel chain drive, and a standard metal frame. It also had an equal size of wheels and a set of gear and made the bike safe. The safety bicycle was an instant success and was soon used all over the world. Everyone was able to ride the bike about as this model of bicycle became an instant success.

Within 20 years of its invention, the bicycle became a modern bike with parts such as coaster brakes, roller chains, and a basic diamond shape made with metal.