Bicycle Invention

In 1817, Karl Drais von Sauerbronn invented the first bicycle invention named the "Laufmaschine".

He invented his bicycle as an alternative to riding horses.

Running Machine

The Laufmaschine, which means "Running Machine" was a dual-wheeled bicycle that was made entirely of wood, including the wheels.

It had a wooden seat and steering handles. A rider propelled themselves forward by pushing against the ground with their feet.

This kind of bicycle was also known as a "Velocipede", from Latin meaning fast feet, and had nicknames such as dandy-horse and hobby-horse.

In 1839, the Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick MacMillan invented the first pedal-propelled bicycle.

MacMillan never patented his bicycle invention and it was copied by others.

It was discovered that he was the inventor because of an accident reported in a Glasgow newspaper.

MacMillan was fined five British shillings for running over a pedestrian with a newly designed pedal-propelled bicycle.


During the 1860s, the French inventors Pierre Lallement and Ernest Michaux also designed a bicycle with pedals attached to the front wheel. These bicycles were made from wrought-iron and had wooden wheels. It was an extreme ride that was nicknamed the "Boneshaker".

It was during this period of time that the word bicycle came into use. It's definition was derived from Latin "bi" meaning two and Greek "kyklos" meaning circle or cycle.

High Bike

In 1869, the French inventor Eugene Meyer created a large wire-spoked tension wheel, which he used to design a "High" bicycle. It was a bicycle invention that had a very large front wheel and a very small back wheel. Further improvements were made by the English inventor James Starley. Starley called his bicycle the "Penny Farthing". It had a tubular frame and rubber wheels.

The term Penny Farthing refers to two coins, the penny and the farthing. The difference in the size of these coins approximated the size difference between the two tires on the bicycle.

Modern Bicycle

John Kemp Starley, the nephew of James Starley, invented what is considered the modern bicycle.

This bicycle invention was still powered by foot pedals but now the pedals were attached to a chain that linked to the back tire.

It was easier and safer to use than other bikes. Accordingly, it was named the "Safety" bicycle and it sold all over the world.

The Safety bike was manufactured by J. K. Starley & Co., which later became the Rover Cycle Company.

While John Starley is considered the father of the modern bicycle, it is his grandfather James who is regarded as the father of the bicycle industry.