Made c 1869
NotesAfter the rise and fall in popularity of the Draisine or Hobby Horse patented in 1818, the idea of a personal form of transport which was inexpensive to buy and maintain (and did not bite) continued to develop quietly. A number of coachbuilders, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and others contributed to this evolutionary process involving cranks, levers and chains which culminated in the two-wheeled crank driven bicycle, first produced commercially by Pierre Michaux (1813-1883) in Paris. Michaux was a blacksmith and coachbuilder and adapted the Hobby Horse by adding cranks and pedals to the front wheel of a Draisine in 1861 and introducing his machine as the Velocipede at the Paris Exhibition of 1867.
As the Velocipede gained in popularity riding schools, clubs and publications on Velocipede-riding were established. Riding a Velocipede was seen as an "art" like riding a horse or dancing. In the United States of America, 1869 was declared the unofficial Year of the Velocipede. Numerous songs were composed including the "Velocipede Galop". In Boston alone there were 20 riding schools operating 24 hours a day.
The first recorded track cycle race was ridden on 31 May 1868 at St Cloud, near Paris, followed the next year by the first road race between Paris and Rouen, a distance of 123 miles (198 km). All types of cycles entered, including monocycles, tricycles and quadricycles. Despite this, the Velocipede was not accepted as a road vehicle, it was banned from the streets. and its use was restricted to parks. "The Times" in London described it as the "new terror of the streets".
Women also rode Velocipedes but in a side saddle position with a double crank on the front wheel and dress guards added. In France, skirts were soon considered unsuitable and dangerous for riding and instead women wore a "rational dress" of tights and knickerbockers around Paris, revealing for the time a scandalous amount of leg. To the English this was seen as both immodest and immoral.
The Franco-German War halted production of Velocipedes in France and it was taken up in other countries, especially in England. Velocipedes were not only made in London but especially in Coventry where the Coventry Sewing Machine Co. was among the first to become involved in the new industry. In 1868 the sewing machine trade had slackened off and the city was in a depressed state, so the firm decided to make Velocipedes as well, subsequently changing its name to the Coventry Machinists' Company Ltd to account for this diversification. Initially its Velocipedes were for export, but the continuing war saw them sold locally on the British market from 1869, where they became known as bicycles (or bysicles) by those who took them seriously and boneshakers by those who did not.
The best boneshaker wheels had elm stocks, hickory spokes and ash felloes (rims), which were bent in one piece with only one join. Axle bushes were bronze with brass oil reservoirs for lubrication with whale oil. Saddles, pedals, footrests and lamp brackets were sometimes very decorative, despite the added weight, as several manufacturers were from the horse-drawn vehicle industries.
An improvement on the heavy timber wheels was the wire spoked suspension wheel patented by Meyer in Paris in 1869. Its spokes could be tightened individually with nuts at the hub. The boneshaker phase only lasted until about 1870.
Beeley, Serena. "A History of Bicycles", Wellfleet Books, New Jersey, USA, 1992.
Clayton, Nick. "Early Bicycles", Shire Publications Ltd, Princes Risbrough, Buckinghamshire, England, 1986.