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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]

Jims59.com

Jims59.com

Jim Snell’s tribute to the 1959 Chevy Impala and other Chevrolets (Bel Air, Two-Ten Wagon, etc.) from the 1950s a… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

De Rosa Slx 1986 Racing Bike, Campagnolo Super Record - Restored! Rare! Size 561969 Sears Screamer 1 5-speed Muscle Bike Vintage Stick Shift Bicycle Krate SlikCinelli Mod.b 1964 Campagnolo Perfect! 58.25cm Ctc1940 Colson Vogue Pre War Mens Snap Tank Bicycle. Not SchwinnSchwinn Panther1976 Pogliaghi Pista Track Bike Campagnolo Cinelli 54.5cm Ctt Curly Hetchins Magnum Opus 23" Old School Bmx Alloy Renthal 1980s Pro Bars Handlebars Hutch Haro Pk Jmc Vdc .1958 Schwinn Tornado Straightbar Mens Cruiser Bike Vintage Typhoon Bicycle S7 As1966 Schwinn Stingray Sprint Fastback 5-speed Original Nice Sky Blue Rare Antique Jc Higgins Beehive Springer Fork Assembly Vintage Bike/bicycle Colorflo!1900’s Old Store Stock Delta Stratolite 2 Cell Bicycle Head Light - Rocket ShapeOld School Bmx Haro Sport Freestyler F&f Original Chrome 1986 Vgc.Masi "gran Criterium" Vintage Road BikeOld School Bmx Blue Oakley B2 B-2 Grips Will Fit Hutch Haro Pk Ripper Jmc Vdc ..Prewar 26" Drop Stand Clip Schwinn Shelby Bike Bicycle Vtg Colson Cwc Hawthorne2007 Schwinn Stingray Black Friday Krate Bike/bicycle! Springer Slick Loaded 07!Prewar 26" Hawthorne Zep Frame Fork Truss Cwc Rat Bicycle Schwinn Elgin Vtg BarsSchwinn Apple Krate 1930s Rollfast Mens Cruiser Bike Vintage Prewar Bicycle Schwinn Rat Rod Typhoon!Vintage Pre War Messinger B2 Saddle SchwinnSchwinn Panther Ladies Model!Boys Schwinn Coppertone Stingray 20" Muscle Bike Banana Seat - Reproduction 70sGt Pro Freestyle Tour Bmx Bike Bicycle Survivor '86/'87 Dyno PerformerOld School Bmx Gt Performer Fs Freestyle Frameset W/ Frame Fork Bars Headset '84Awesome Vintage Monark Bicycle Bike Tank & HornPrewar Hawthorne Seat Saddle Troxel Cwc Rat Bicycle Schwinn Elgin Vtg ColsonSchwinn Cycle Truck 1951 Original Parts Completely Restored Post Office Us Mail80s Redline St-20 Oldschool Bmx Bike All Og Estate Sale Find Stored 25 Year Nr Old School Bmx Rare Vintage Kkt Lightning Lmx Gold Magnesium Pedals 4 Hutch VdcBmx, Vintage, Kuwahara, Magician, OriginalOld School Bmx Elina Flyte Tech Seat In Black Fits Hutch Haro Pk Ripper Redline Vintage Schwinn Cycle TruckOld School Bmx White Oakley B2 B-2 Grips Will Fit Hutch Haro Pk Ripper Jmc Vdc .Vintage Bicycle Nos Delta Rocket Ray Light, Schwinn Panther Shelby Monark Elgin Vintage Silver Plated Cycle Lamp By Powell & Hamner LampsVintage Raleigh Twenty Folding Bicycle Excellent 3 Speed Rear Fender CarrierVintage Malvern Star 1930's Era 3rensho Super Record 'katana' Road Bike - Great Japanese Bike Of 80's. Fine CondOld School Bmx Gt Performer Frame,forks,gt Pro Bars & Headset White 1987 Vgc.Prewar Hawthorne Crank Sprocket Pedals Cwc Rat Bicycle Schwinn Elgin Vtg ColsonHaro Sport Freestyle FrameOld School Bmx 1980s Redline Stu Thomsen Str Pro Handlebars Bars Fit Hutch HaroVintage Hawthorne Mens 26" Bicycle Antique Tank Bike Nice1930s Rollfast Army Rat Rod Bicycle! Springer+light Elgin Prewar Schwinn Us Ww2Nos? 3-speed Stick Muscle Bike Console Shifter Huffy Rail/wheel Murray Screamer1986 Rl20 Ll Freestyle Bmx Old School Vintage Hutch Gt Haro Elf FramePre- War Roadmaster Men's BikeToy Stamp & 1970s Huffy All Pro 3 Speed Muscle Bike With Cissy Bar Rare1965 Schwinn Deluxe Stingray Bicycle Deep Tufted White Seat Super Krate MuscleOld School Bmx Black & White Oakley F1 F 1 Grips Will Fit Hutch Haro Jmc Vdc Vintage Colnago Italian Road Bike Of The Early 80'Original Schwinn Springer Phantom ? Front Fender With Light Excellent Vintage Torpedo Rocket Bicycle Tail Lights1900’s Delta Cadilite Bicycle Headlite Model A2595 - Mint Old Store Stock1965 Schwinn Deluxe Stingray Bicycle S7 & S2 Wheel Lot Super Krate Slik ChikPrewar Crown Bicycle Frame+brass Head Badge Vintage Hot Rat Rod Schwinn Indiana!Vintage Bicycle Light Prewar DeltaMasiero 1978 Vintage Racing Bike Campagnolo Super Record Triple Crankset Size 53Mcs Old School Stem Aluminun Bmx Bike Gold Anodized

Recent News: Bicycles

Source: Google News

Coast Lines, May 29, 2015: Resurfacing work to close West Cliff
Santa Cruz Sentinel, May 28th

This weekend, shoppers can find wedding gowns and wetsuits, furniture from Restoration Hardware, tools, guitars, toys, jewelry, luggage and electronics at garage sales throughout town. Even a vintage bicycle and tandem surfboard are listed on the...Read more

Islands in focus: Communities to develop cultural tourism
Jakarta Post, May 27th

Among the communities attending the meeting are the Makarti Roso bullock cart, vintage bicycle, photography, cave expedition, mountaineering, rock climbing, tour guide and other communities. The meeting, according to Soegarman, is important because ...Read more

McDorman remembered as dedicated to community
ThisWeekNews, May 27th

Also included in the museum collection are an antique service station he displayed at his dealership on Gender Road and McDorman's vast collection of model cars, neon signs, vintage gas station items, dealership items and vintage bicycles, along with ...Read more

Sculpture wheel-ing in admirers
The Star Online, May 26th

“We have another 80 vintage bicycles and we will extend the sculpture by another 500m with them soon,” he said. Ideal Property Group senior secretary Khoo Phay Mun, who drives by the sculpture on the way to work every morning, said she was elated to ...Read more

Again and Again resale shop comes to Merrill
Merrillfotonews, May 26th

The upcoming auction will feature some higher end items, such as Lionel trains and vintage bicycles. Items that don't sell on the auctions may be relisted, put into the retail store or donated. Malsack operated Again and Again as a resale shop in...Read more

Montclair's Anderson Park marks 110th anniversary
NorthJersey.com, May 24th

To celebrate 110 years, the park was transported back in time on Sunday with vintage bicycles, Victorian crafts and a tree planting, for a celebration called Victorian Day. "It's nice to have this event to get a feel for what it was like back then. If...Read more

A Unique Bicycle Collection: "Bicycles From the Embacher Collection" Auction ...
PR Newswire UK (press release), May 4th

The Embacher Collection made up of over 200 vintage bicycle models is one of the most significant and exciting bicycle collections in the world. It will be auctioned in the Dorotheum auction house in Vienna on 19 May 2015. The collection was assembled...Read more

Pedals for Progress bicycle collection slated for June 6 in Flemington
NJ.com, May 4th

Pedals for Progress, in its continuing effort to recycle bicycles properly, is having a used bike collection sponsored by Flemington Presbyterian Church and Flemington Rotary Club. Anyone with an adult or child's bicycle in repairable condition is...Read more