The Bicycle is 200!

John W Lewis's picture
Chat Date: 
Thu, Jun 15, 2017

It is 200 years (and 3 days) since the first reported ride on the invention which became known as the bicycle. Its adoption has been extremely widespread. What can we learn from the bicycle as an innovation?

The entry for the Bicycle on Wikipedia states:

The bicycle's invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets and tension-spoked wheels.

The invention of the bicycle is credited to Karl Drais (or Karl von Drais):

Drais was a prolific inventor, who invented the Laufmaschine ("running machine"), also later called the Velocipede, Draisine (English) or draisienne (French), also nicknamed the hobby horse or dandy horse. This was his most popular and widely recognized invention. It incorporated the two-wheeler principle that is basic to the bicycle and motorcycle and was the beginning of mechanized personal transport. This was the earliest form of a bicycle, without pedals. His first reported ride from Mannheim to the "Schwetzinger Relaishaus" (a coaching inn, located in "Rheinau", today a district of Mannheim) took place on 12 June 1817 using Baden's best road. It was a distance of about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi). The round trip took him little more than an hour, but may be seen as the big bang for horseless transportation. However, after marketing the Velocipede it became apparent that roads were so rutted by carriages that it was hard to balance on the machine for long, so Velocipede riders took to the sidewalks and moved far too quickly endangering pedestrians. Consequently, authorities in Germany, Great Britain, the United States, and even Calcutta did ban the use which ended its vogue for decades.

Interestingly, von Drais's Laufmaschine, having no pedals or drive to the wheel, is similar to the balance bikes on which many children are now finding it much easier to learn to balance, than using bicycles with training wheels or stabilisers which have been in use for many years.


Let's discuss the bicycle as an innovation during #innochat on Twitter on 15th June 2017 starting at 12 noon Eastern time, based on the following questions:

  1. What have been the benefits of the bicycle (including the motorcycle) for users and for the world?
  2. Which aspects of the bicycle, as an innovation, have been most important to its adoption?
  3. In what ways could the bicycle and motorcycle be developed further?
  4. What can we learn from the bicycle that we can apply to other innovations?
  5. What, if anything, is likely to supercede the bicycle?


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