Pedestrian Curricles

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    Athough there were a few ancestors of the bike prior to the late eighteenth century, we see the first two wheeled parent of the modern bike in 1791. The Comte de Sivrac was reportedly seen riding through the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris. It was called the celerifer, or "wooden horse", it had two wheels connected to a rigid frame - and it was heavy. There were no pedals, it was propelled by pushing the feet directly against the ground and steered by lifting or dragging the front wheel to either side. For a brief time, this was seen as a great sport, with several clubs forming and running races.

    Pictured to the left is the first practical two-wheeled muscle-powered machine which appeared in 1817. Credit for its development goes to Baron Karl von Drais in Germany. He called it a velocipede in his patent application. He used this new device as an aid in getting around the grounds of the Grand Duke of Baden, where he was a landscape gardener. It has also been called "draisine", "swiftwalker", "dandyhorse", and "pedestrian curricle".

    1819-- W.K. Clarkson was granted a patent for improving the "bike": the rider was perched on a saddle cushion in the middle of a longitudinal bar over 2 equal sized wooden wheels held in iron forks with another leather cushion to lean upon while steering and propelling the machine with feet. Became very popular at this time among the wealthy in Germany, Britain, and the USA.

    The first man to fit pedals to a bicycle was Kirkpatrick McMillan, Scotland 1840. He drove the rear wheels by cranks and swinging levers, and steered his front wheel by direct sloping forks.

    Above - A contemporary caricature of two slightly differing types of velocipedes or 'Dandy horses' of 1817.

    Above - a contemporary picture of the "Hobby horse" or Velocipede - not the similarities of the bike in this picture to the bike on the left of the caricature above Return to Regency Collection