The precursor to the modern-day bicycle was the 1817 Draisine, named for its German inventor, Karl von Drais. This two-wheeled machine lacked pedals, so cyclists straddled the bike and pushed it along with their feet. Despite their primitive design, these "swift-walkers," as they were sometimes called, were quite popular in 19th-century Europe and the United States, but as novelties rather than a serious means of transportation.
Around 1863, the wood-and-iron velocipede or "boneshaker" appeared in England and France. This was the first true bicycle, with pedals attached to the front wheel so that riders could propel themselves up hills. Some models had a rear "spoon" brake; most had a bell to keep horses from being spooked.
Because gears for bicycles had not yet been invented, the only way for engineers to increase the speed of a bike was to enlarge its front wheel. This led to the development of high-wheel bicycles in the latter part of the 19th century.
High-wheel bikes (also called penny-farthings) were eye-catching and not as difficult to get onto as they looked, but they were next to impossible to stop once they got going, which often resulted in crashes that would send the rider flying head first over the handlebars. Smart riders learned to ride downhill with their legs draped over the handlebars to mitigate the impact of sudden stops.
Manufacturers tried to solve the "header" problem with models like the Star and the Eagle, which placed the bike’s small wheel in front of the large one to give the rider a slightly better center of gravity. Tricycles with a small wheel in the front, two large wheels in the back, and a seat between them were another solution, favored by women in elaborate Victorian dress as well as professional men, for whom high-wheelers were not an especially dignified mode of transportation.
By the end of the 19th century, the high-wheelers were replaced by so-called "safety" bikes, which resemble the bikes we ride today. The key was a chain to drive the rear wheel.
In addition to steel, wood such as hickory and bamboo was used to construct the frames. Elliott Hickory Cycle Co. of Boston went so far as to tout the wood used in its bikes as "...
Some of these turn-of-the-century bike builders would go on to become prominent manufacturers of automobiles. George Pierce was making bicycles more than a dozen years before his company produced its first Pierce Arrow in 1903. The Pierce bicycle’s "monoshock" suspension was a far cry from the boneshaker bicycles of a half-century before. Similarly, Lozier cut its teeth on its line of Cleveland bicycles before becoming a renowned builder of luxury cars in 1900.
For collectors of antique racing bikes, the bicycles produced at the beginning of the 20th century are of particular interest. Track bikes by companies like Peugeot were designed to be stiff and responsive, with deep-drop handlebars to reduce the rider’s wind resistance. Chainless drives were also tried but quickly discarded. And by the 1930s, John "Pop" Brennan was producing frames that are considered prototypes of the contemporary handmade bicycle-frame industry.
The arrival of the derailleur in 1908 changed everything. Americans were slow to accept the device, and the English thought three gears were quite enough, but the French embraced the device. Consequently, a culture of cycling evolved in France, while bikes in the United States largely fell out of favor.
The vintage balloon-tire cruisers from the 1930s to 1950 brought the bicycle back into fashion in the U.S. In 1941, Colson made the Cruiser and Super Cruiser models for Firestone and the Clipper for Goodyear. Many vintage bikes from this era had fake gas tanks to imitate the ones on motorcycles, and built-in headlights and taillights. Some were gloriously painted two-tone jobs; others showed off their aluminum and chrome.
Murray was another company that had its own line as well producing bikes for third parties. In Murray’s case, it supplied bikes to Sears. Its house brand was the Mercury. Among other collectible brands from the pre-war era are Shelby, which made the gorgeous Speedline Airflow, whose sweeping and curving lines suggested movement even when the bike was standing still.
But it was the Schwinn that really changed the American perception of the bicycle, in particular with the 1933 Aerocycle with its awesome Buck Rogers design. The Auto Cycle followed, as did the heavily fendered and chromed Phantom and Jaguar.
By the middle of the 20th century, Schwinn was, as Schwinn collector Jim Snell puts it, "where bicycles came from for Christmas." In the 1960s and 1970s, if you were the luckiest kid on the block, that meant you spent Christmas morning riding your high-handlebar, banana-boat seat Stingray, Apple Krate, or Grey Ghost, some of which had a black-handle "Stik Shift" attached to the frame. Also collectible are the three-speed Schwinn Paramounts and Travelers from the 1950s and 1960s, and the classic 10-speed Varsity models from the 1960s and 1970s.
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STURTON BY STOW: WIGainsborough Standard, August 1st
Outside the hall stood a beautiful Model T Ford and inside was also a mini tank and a vintage bicycle. Entertainment including poetry, readings and familiar songs relating to the event was provided by members of A Touch of Class and guests, Loretta...Read more
Off to market: Fulton Buy-Way yard sales are Aug. 8 and 9Clinton Herald, July 31st
One location is even promoting a 1960 vintage bicycle for sale. Wiebenga expects the ratio will be about 50/50 of local residents to people traveling to take part in the five-state, weekend yard sales. “Some woman called for information and said she...Read more
Sauder Village hosts annual eventsThe Bryan Times (subscription), July 30th
The Meet of Ohio Wheelmen is taking place this weekend at Sauder Village. Nearly 80 antique bicycles will be on display on the Village Green and there will be daily demonstrations and parades. The 31st annual Doll and Teddy Bear Show and Sale returns ...Read more
Music, artisans & slabs o' pie Braham Pie Day's silver anniversaryIsanti County News, July 30th
The event has grown to include crafters; a small quilts display, a pie art and hat show, an antique bicycle and car show, performances by folk artists, storytellers, and musicians. There are also pie baking, pie eating contests, and a pie trivia...Read more
Historical society to show bikes at fairForest Lake Times, July 29th
The Washington County Historical Society will bring three vintage bicycles from their collection to show at the Washington County Fair this weekend. A high-wheeled bike from the 1880s, a Dayton brand with wooden rims from the 1890s and a. Schwinn from ...Read more
A flea market at Saigon's centerVietNamNet Bridge, July 29th
Flea market goers can find a wide variety of antique bicycles, cars, musical instruments, silver cups, pots, or even pencils every Sunday near Cao Minh café at No Trang Long street, Binh Thanh district, Ho Chi Minh City. The market, usually called...Read more
Bike shows at History San JoseSan Jose Mercury News, July 27th
The Shiny Side Up show seemed to break down into roughly three categories: vintage bicycles, custom-made cruisers of all sizes, and bicycles made of all manner of junk. One bike made of rebar -- metal construction rods -- looked like it came out of...Read more
Home News Toronto Vintage Bicycle Show rolls into Trinity...insideTORONTO.com, July 22nd
Got a classic on two wheels? Come celebrate bike culture at this year's Toronto Vintage Bicycle Show. The third annual event happens Sunday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Trinity Bellwoods Park. Vendors can display their bikes for $50 (retail) and...Read more