Monday, June 12, 2017

200th Birthday of the Bicycle!

Baron Karl Drais - Father of the Bicycle
Two hundred years ago today, on June 12, 1817 Baron Karl Drais went on the world's first bicycle ride. He used the best road in his region of Germany, and made a round trip ride of nearly ten miles in slightly over an hour. He did this on a draisine, which he had just invented. While Drais called it a running machine, it became better known as a dandy horse in England, since most of the riders were dandies.

His motivation for this was the high price of oats, which were used to feed horses. After several years of bad harvests, Indonesia's Mt. Tambora erupted in 1815. The ash from the eruption blocked enough sunlight that 1816 became known as the "Year without a summer." This resulted in very high prices for grain, and many people around the globe starved.

The Baron's bicycle was very primitive. It did have two wheels and steering, but it lacked brakes and pedals.Still, it might have been successful if not for the poor condition of the dirt roads at the time. They were rough and rutted due to the  horses and carriages that traveled on them. Because of this, those who rode bicycles used sidewalks, which endangered pedestrians. Cities responded by banning them. Bicycles were a short-lived fad that quickly died out. They didn't come back until the 1860s when someone got the bright idea of adding pedals.

Karl Drais came up with other inventions besides the bicycle. These include the first meat grinder and the railroad handcar. He supported revolution and renounced his aristocratic title in 1848. He died three years later

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