Bicycle Design

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History

TONY HADLAND
HANS-ERHARD LESSING
Nick Clayton
Gary W. Sanderson
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 584
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf67f
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bicycle Design
    Book Description:

    The bicycle ranks as one of the most enduring, most widely used vehicles in the world, with more than a billion produced during almost two hundred years of cycling history. This book offers an authoritative and comprehensive account of the bicycle's technical and historical evolution, from the earliest velocipedes (invented to fill the need for horseless transport during a shortage of oats) to modern racing bikes, mountain bikes, and recumbents. It traces the bicycle's development in terms of materials, ergonomics, and vehicle physics, as carried out by inventors, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers.Written by two leading bicycle historians and generously illustrated with historic drawings, designs, and photographs,Bicycle Designdescribes the key stages in the evolution of the bicycle, beginning with the counterintuitive idea of balancing on two wheels in line, through the development of tension-spoked wheels, indirect drives (employing levers, pulleys, chains, and chainwheels), and pneumatic tires. The authors examine the further development of the bicycle for such specific purposes as racing, portability, and all-terrain use; and they describe the evolution of bicycle components including seats, transmission, brakes, lights (at first candle-based), and carriers (racks, panniers, saddlebags, child seats, and sidecars). They consider not only commercially successful designs but also commercial failures that pointed the way to future technological developments. And they debunk some myths about bicycles -- for example, the mistaken but often-cited idea that Leonardo sketched a chain-drive bike in his notebooks. Despite the bicycle's long history and mass appeal, its technological history has been neglected. This volume, with its engaging and wide-ranging coverage, fills that gap. It will be the starting point for all future histories of the bicycle.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32221-8
    Subjects: Transportation Studies, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. A NOTE ON SPELLING AND ON THE NAMES OF COMPONENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. 1 VELOCIPEDES AND THEIR FORERUNNERS
    (pp. 1-36)

    A period of unusually cold weather at the end of the eighteenth century made a new kind of personal mobility fashionable throughout the Old World: ice skating. Even the Thames in London was frozen over in 1788–89, and again in 1812–13. On the European continent, only in the Netherlands, where there were narrow canals and ditches, had ice skating been commonplace in the past. Period reports describe Dutch farm women skating from marketplace to marketplace on frozen canals while balancing milk cans on their heads and knitting (Ginzrot 1830, volume iii, 328). In the eighteenth century ice skating...

  7. 2 FRONT DRIVE
    (pp. 37-82)

    The origin of the idea of attaching cranks to the front axle of a velocipede is the most fiercely debated topic in cycle historiography, and not merely because of the lack of period documentation. As Tom Rolt said (1965), “the reason why the question of priority is so often the subject of heated debate is that an historic invention is never wholly original.”

    What really was new was balancing while cranking, not the crank itself. And roller skating must have been the forerunner of balancing while cranking: a person who had survived skating with rollers under both feet no longer...

  8. 3 WIRE WHEELS
    (pp. 83-124)

    The invention of the lightweight wheel with tensioned wire spokes was crucial to the development of the bicycle. It took half a century for the new thinking that the wire-spoke bicycle represented to permeate other fields, such as architecture. (On

    “tensegrity,” a design strategy that R. Buckminster Fuller began to develop and promote in the 1920s, see Krausse and Lichtenstein 1999.) Tension structures require less material than compression structures and therefore can be lighter. Larger wheels had less rolling resistance and made it possible to achieve a higher speed with the optimal pedaling cadence. The Crampton locomotives of the 1850s,...

  9. 4 INDIRECT DRIVE
    (pp. 125-154)

    As bicycle technology advanced and roads improved, it became apparent that a bicycle should travel about 16 feet on level ground for each propulsive thrust of the rider’s left and right legs. Achieving that with cranks fixed directly to the driving wheel required a front wheel about 60 inches in diameter. Riding a bicycle with so large a wheel was difficult. A primary drive system that allowed a smaller, more manageable driving wheel was therefore desirable.

    Various systems were tried, some employing levers and cranks, some belts and pulleys, some rotary driveshafts, some meshing spur wheels, and some chains and...

  10. 5 THE SAFETY BICYCLE
    (pp. 155-186)

    The high-wheeler was simple, efficient, and elegant, but it was an evolutionary dead end. By about 1880 it had reached its peak. The name “ordinary,” rapidly adopted in the UK to differentiate the high-wheeler from the newer safety bicycle, testified to how well established it had become. The name by which it is perhaps best known to today’s general public, “penny-farthing,” was British slang; as was mentioned in chapter 3, it referred to the difference in proportion between the machine’s front and rear wheels, analogizing them to the penny and farthing (quarter-penny) coins of the day.

    A number of technological...

  11. 6 COMFORT
    (pp. 187-220)

    In this chapter we examine technological developments in tires, in sprung supports for saddles, in sprung handlebars, and in wheel suspension.

    Developments in tire design eventually provided considerable improvements in ride comfort, quite apart from contributing to lower rolling resistance, improved road holding, better traction, and safer braking. Tires can add greatly to comfort, helping isolate rider and machine from vibration and shock caused by irregularities in the road surface. But the earliest tires contributed nothing to a rider’s comfort. Karl Drais’s machine had traditional spoked wooden wheels. The wooden spokes, which radiated from a wooden hub, were attached to...

  12. 7 IMPROVING TRANSMISSION
    (pp. 221-256)

    We discussed the evolution of the primary drive system in chapter 4. In this chapter we examine two ways in which transmission has been improved to more effectively match the limited power output of the rider to the desired speed of travel, taking account of factors such as gradients and wind direction.

    One approach is multi-speed gearing. As the magazineCyclingput it in 1903, the ability to select a lower gear when encountering hills or headwinds enables the rider “to overcome the increased resistance by a steady flow of energy spread over the longer period caused by the sacrifice...

  13. 8 BRAKING
    (pp. 257-290)

    We saw in chapter 7 how the automatic freewheel necessitated better brakes to compensate for the loss of back-pedal braking provided by fixed-wheel transmission. In this chapter we consider the evolution of the various types of brakes.

    All commonly used bicycle braking systems work by converting the forward kinetic energy into heat, then dissipating it to the atmosphere. The heat is generated by friction between the brake surfaces—for example, brake blocks acting on a wheel rim, or brake shoes acting on a drum in a wheel hub. Air braking, by increasing the frontal area of the bicycle and rider...

  14. 9 SADDLES, PEDALS, AND HANDLEBARS
    (pp. 291-320)

    Because the points of contact between rider and machine are important for a comfortable and efficient ride, prospective purchasers often look at a bicycle’s saddle, pedals, and handlebar first. Experienced sellers know this and make sure that a second-hand bike’s handlebar grips, saddle, and pedals are in good condition. In this chapter, we explore the development of those components.

    As was noted in chapter 6, Drais’s first machine had a padded saddle fixed to the main beam. The second-generation draisine had a padded, sausage-like suspended saddle. The simple rope suspension made it possible to adjust the saddle’s height but also...

  15. 10 LIGHTING
    (pp. 321-350)

    The need for lighting as an aid to night riding was felt from the earliest days of bicycling. This chapter recounts how new methods of lighting were pressed into service for cyclists and how those applications evolved thereafter.

    Candles were long the standard means of lighting doors, rooms, or coaches. They were cheap, and they were easy to store and replenish. Wooden candle housings with glass sides were widely forbidden in the eighteenth century as fire hazards; they were superseded by safer sheet-metal lanterns. Two engravings preserved in Germany are thought to show candle lanterns in use on velocipedes in...

  16. 11 LUGGAGE
    (pp. 351-384)

    The ability of bicycles to carry luggage has been acknowledged since the machine’s earliest times. Karl Drais’s machine was intended as a horse replacement, and therefore Drais provided luggage-carrying facilities, starting a practice that continues to this day.

    In some developing countries, particularly in the Far East, stupefying loads are regularly carried on very ordinary bicycles. The Viet Cong moved vast amounts of equipment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. At the other extreme, some Western cyclists advocate “credit-card touring,” in which the rider carries little more than a credit card with which to pay for food and overnight accommodations....

  17. 12 RACING BICYCLES
    (pp. 385-412)

    In Britain, machines inspired by the draisine were often called “hobby-horses” or “dandy horses.” Racing such machines became a minor craze in 1819. In March of that year, two riders in Essex competed to see which could ride farther in an hour, the winner achieving nearly 8 miles. A month later, on a bet, a rider in Kent covered 6 miles in just over 51 minutes. Later that year, in Cornwall, a rider managed 26 miles in less than 4 hours, averaging more than 7 miles per hour (Street 2000, 77). In three-mile races in the Ipswich area, average speeds...

  18. 13 MILITARY BICYCLES
    (pp. 413-432)

    In this chapter we trace the history of the bicycle’s use and adaptation for military purposes. This is a topic that captured the imagination of certain inventors and military strategists, particularly before armies were motorized. But although bicycles have been widely used by some armies for short-range transport away from combat zones, they have rarely been used to any great extent in combat situations. The most impressive military use of bicycles has been the use of standard diamond-frame utility versions to move troops and supplies. The earliest known depiction of military use of a bicycle, published by Karl Drais (1817a),...

  19. 14 MOUNTAIN BIKES
    (pp. 433-446)

    In 1869, in the days of the Michaux-style velocipede, a German magazine featured a fanciful drawing of a Gebirgevelocipede (mountain bicycle) being assisted in its climbing by a large hydrogen balloon (Berto 1998, 64). It is doubtful that any such machine was ever built. It is certain, however, that for many years there have been cyclists who have enjoyed off-road riding. An early example was Amos Sugden, who in 1890 took his heavy bicycle over Sty Head Pass in England’s Lake District and wrote about his exploits in theCTC Gazette.

    In the second half of the twentieth century, interest...

  20. 15 SMALL-WHEELED BICYCLES
    (pp. 447-472)

    The wheel diameters commonly used on bicycles made for adults have changed little since the evolution of the diamond-frame rear-drive safety bicycle. The 28-inch pneumatic tire was the biggest that could conveniently be accommodated in the robust, uncomplicated, easy-to-manufacture diamond frame. All other factors being equal, a bigger wheel rolls more easily than a smaller one. In an unsprung frame, a bigger wheel also gives a more comfortable ride because it falls less deeply into small depressions in the road surface and, on hitting bumps, rises and falls more slowly. Quite simply, the 28-inch wheel gave the best balance of...

  21. 16 RECUMBENT BICYCLES
    (pp. 473-492)

    The rider of a recumbent bicycle occupies more space horizontally than vertically. The seat back of a fully recumbent bicycle is at an angle of 30º or less to the horizontal.

    The French-style velocipedes of the 1860s were, technically, semi-recumbents. The upright riding position now regarded as standard evolved with the high-wheeler, as it wasn’t possible both to pedal and to steer the high wheel unless the rider was over the steering axis. When the high-wheeler became accepted as the “ordinary” bicycle, the upright riding position became regarded as normal and was therefore retained for the safety bicycle.

    In still...

  22. APPENDIX A: DEBUNKED PRIORITY HOAXES
    (pp. 493-502)
  23. APPENDIX B: DAVIES’S LECTURE “ON THE VELOCIPEDE” (MAY 1837) AND SPENCER’S REPORT OF THE DEFEAT OF THE DANDY OR HOBBY-HORSE
    (pp. 503-520)
  24. APPENDIX C: BICYCLE AESTHETICS
    (pp. 521-526)
  25. APPENDIX D: THE PARTS OF A BICYCLE
    (pp. 527-528)
  26. SELECT LITERATURE
    (pp. 529-536)
  27. REFERENCES
    (pp. 537-548)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 549-564)