History of the bicycle – who invented it and in what year, a sketch of the first bicycle

The history of the bicycle provokes controversy among the public. In what century the first bicycle was invented is a big question. It is also unclear who invented the first bicycle. The invention is attributed to different years and countries. The French are sure that the first bicycle was designed by their compatriot, the inhabitants of Great Britain are divided between the Scottish and English inventors, and Americans are convinced that the creator was an American.

At the end of the twentieth century there was an attempt to trace when the first bicycle appeared. In the history of bicycle transport it is believed that the emergence of the two-wheeled horse – the merit not one person, but several individuals who contributed to its creation with ideas and implementation of ideas. So, the first bicycle: when was invented, who and how, where was the iron bicycle first forged? Let’s look into it. The history of the creation of the bicycle is briefly described below.

The first mentions and history of the bicycle

the world's first bicycle

In what year the first bicycle was invented, it is not possible to establish. The first mentions are dated 1418. Therefore, we can say that the first bicycle in the world appeared in 1418. A sketch of the first bicycle is dated 1493. Initially, it was believed that the man who made this sketch was the scientist and artist Leonardo da Vinci. After studying the drawings, experts came to the conclusion that the author of the drawing is not a great artist at all. Made a special test, but the result is not announced, so the authenticity is not proven. In the end, who made the sketch of the very first bicycle is still a mystery.

Biography of Carl von Drese

Baron Karl von Dreze

Who invented the bicycle first in the world? Many historians unanimously recognize Baron Carl von Drese, who lived in the 18th century and was engaged in construction, as the first inventor of the bicycle.

He was born in Germany into a wealthy and noble family. Since the baron did not need money, he engaged in the creation of a “running machine”. Drez first presented a version with four wheels, then with three, eventually two were left. This is where the principle of two-wheeled transport originated.

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Drez’s transport consisted of wheels, frame, handlebar-holder and saddle, was without pedals and weighed 23 kg. What material do you think the first bicycles were made of? They were made of wood. To keep the construction moving, a person would push off with his feet and balance.

Carl von Drez wanted to demonstrate his development abroad. The invention was appreciated and the apparatus was called “dresina” in honor of its creator.

The prototype of Giovanni Fontana

Italian engineer Giovanni Fontana invented the vehicle in 1418. The very first bicycle in the world was more like a wheeled machine and consisted of four wheels, a rope loop and cogged wheels or gears. The design moved when a person pushed off the ground. The discovery was not popular. Only about four hundred years later was such a transport recognized.

Models of bicycles created in the early 19th century


The French Comte de Sivrak built a celerifer. This invention was a horse made of wood with wheels. There is an opinion that this very first bicycle is just a patriotic myth invented by a French historian.

Russian craftsmen did not stand aside either. In 1801, the master smith Yefim Artamonov came up with a two-wheeled design with wheels, saddle, steering wheel and pedals. Researchers have questioned this story.

In 1839, blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan added pedals to the rear wheel and saddle to the “dresina.” It is a pity that this invention went unnoticed by the public, and Kirkpatrick McMillan did not achieve fame.

More modern bicycles created 50 years later

In the 1860s a wooden device with steel wheels was invented. There were already pedals, they drove the front wheel, but there was no brake, so the vehicle was considered unsafe. There are several versions of who created the first bicycle of this plan. But the patent for it was received by the young French master Pierre Lalmen. Therefore, we can say that Lalmen invented the first bicycle.

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Together with the Olivier brothers and the engineer Pierre Michaud, they began to produce such a model en masse. Michaux later decided to make the frame out of metal. That’s how the first iron bicycle appeared. There are reports that Michaux also came up with the name: from the Latin words velox – speed and pedes – feet.

In 1867, the Englishman Edward Cowper modernized the wheel. He invented a wheel with metal spokes. Before that there were all-metal wheels, which were hard to turn and gave low speed. There were also light and fast wheels with wooden spokes, but they broke too often.

In 1870, the so-called “big wheels,” or the first all-metal car, were created.

Henry Lawson

In 1878, Henry Lawson invented the chain drive, and English scientists invented a gear shifting mechanism.

In 1885, Englishman John Kemp Starley launched mass production of models that had chain gears and wheels of the same size. The invention was quite different from anything that had gone before, so it quickly gained popularity. It was the world’s first bicycle that was safe for cyclists and pedestrians.

In 1888, inflatable tires were invented. Thanks to the rubber tires, the device was no longer referred to as a “boneshaker.

Bicycle developments in the 20th century

In 1903, hubs with multi-speed gearboxes began to be used. And then parallelogram shifters began to be used.

In 1930, they built a model with wide tires and a multilevel frame. This is the model for mountain bikes.

first mountain bike

In 1977, the mountain bike appeared in the United States.

From 1984, sprockets began to appear in the cassette on the rear wheel, and the number of speeds increased.

In 1994 the first hydraulic disc brakes began to be produced.

What decisions most influenced the development of the bicycle industry in the 19th and 20th centuries

The bicycle industry was developing by leaps and bounds during this period. The first models vaguely resembled what we have now. The design improved, acquiring sometimes intricate forms. First, a wooden dresina, then came the pedals and saddle, then the frame becomes metal, and the pedals from the rear wheel of the bike moved forward. Previously, the front wheel was much larger than the rear wheel. Then metal wheels with spokes and a chain gear were added. Only after that did models with the same size wheels appear.

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The next stage of improvement was the advent of rubber tires, and road riding became much more comfortable. Brakes and a gearshift mechanism appeared. Every year the development was more and more rapid, there was a folding unit, a lightweight aluminum unit, a tandem, etc.

Briefly the evolution can be described as follows: Dresina – Two-wheeled – Pedal – Big-wheeled – Safe – Racing – Mountain.


While it is not known exactly when the world’s first bicycle appeared, what is certain is that it influenced human history. The development of the bicycle industry has influenced the overall technological progress. A number of manufacturing techniques have migrated to the automobile industry. In some countries, bicycling has influenced the improvement of roads. People use the bicycle for both recreation and work.

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Comments: 1
  1. Sara Reed

    Fascinating article! I never knew that the bicycle was invented in 1817 by karl von drais. The sketch looks very different from what modern bikes look like today, and it’s amazing to see how much development has gone into creating the bicycles we use now!

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