boneshaker,ran on ironclad wooden rims, the front wheel larger than the rear. Major improvements followed rapidly, including a light, hollow steel frame, ball bearings, tangential metal spokes, and solid rubber tires.
By the 1880s the front wheel had attained a diameter up to 64 in. (163 cm). Although the larger the wheel, the greater the potential speed, size was limited by the length of the rider's legs, and speed by their strength. The safer tricycle, a three-wheeled vehicle similar to the bicycle, also enjoyed a vogue in the 1880s, especially among women and short men. The safety bicycle, with wheels of approximately equal diameter and a sprocket-chain drive connecting the pedals with the rear wheels, was first manufactured at Coventry, England, c.1885 by the English machinist James Starley; following the invention of the pneumatic tire in 1888 by the Scot John Dunlop, the safety bicycle superseded the high-wheeled form. Subsequent modifications include the freewheel (a rear wheel that turns freely when the pedals are stopped), the coaster brake, the hand brake, variable drive gear, and adjustable handlebars. Electric bicycles, with a battery-powered electric motor to assist the rider or fully drive the bicycle, have been developed; although the concept dates to the 1890s, the development of lighter weight batteries since the 1990s has made for more practical electric bicycles.
In the 1880s cycling became a fad of major proportions in the United States and Europe. Bicycle clubs were formed; both sexes participated in rides into the country, often on tandem bicycles. The League of American Wheelmen, organized in 1880, was a leader in the agitation for good roads. Although cycling declined in the United States with the introduction of automobiles, it has recently grown in popularity, notably since the introduction in the 1970s of wide-tired, off-road
mountain bikes. In many parts of the world the bicycle remains a more important means of transportation than the automobile. See also bicycle racing; motorcycle.
See D. V. Herlihy, Bicycle (2004); M. Glaskin, Cycling Science (2012); T. Hadland and H.-E. Lessing, Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History (2014).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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