A bicycle, often called a bike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A bicycle rider is called a cyclist, or bicyclist.
Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century in Europe and, as of 2003, more than a billion have been produced worldwide, twice as many as the number of automobiles that have been produced. They are the principal means of transportation in many regions. They also provide a popular form of recreation, and have been adapted for use as children’s toys, general fitness, military and police applications, courier services, and bicycle racing.
The basic shape and configuration of a typical upright, or safety bicycle, has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. But many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for many types of cycling.
The bicycle’s invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets, and tension-spoked wheels. The word bicycle first appeared in English print in The Daily News in 1868, to describe “Bicycles and tricycles” on the “Champs Elysées and Bois de Boulogne.” The word was first used in 1847 in a French publication to describe an unidentified two-wheeled vehicle, possibly a carriage. The design of the bicycle was an advance on the velocipede, although the words were used with some degree of overlap for a time.
Other words for bicycle include “bike”,”pushbike”, “pedal cycle”, or “cycle”.
Making New Year’s resolutions to save money, get healthy, or cut your carbon footprint in 2015? You could hit all three by simply riding your bike to work. Here are 5 reasons you should consider making it a new habit this year:
Not only does biking have the potential to improve individuals’ health, wealth, and standard of living, but the combination of more cyclists and fewer cars on the road could give the entire country a much-needed boost.
It would make cycling safer for everyone.
Research shows that unlike cars, the more bicycles on the road, the safer it becomes for cyclists.
“It’s a virtuous cycle,” Dr. Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from the University of New South Wales, says. “The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.”
It is vastly cheaper than driving.
Due to rising fuel costs and tire upkeep, the cost of owning a car increased nearly 2% in 2012 to $US8,946, according to AAA.
It costs just $US308 per year to keep bikes in shape — nearly 30 times less than cars, according to the
Sierra Club. It says: “If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $US4 per gallon, total savings would be $US7.3 billion a year.”
It’s a free gym on wheels.
On average, bicycle commuters lose 13 pounds in their first year of cycling alone.
“[Bike commuting] can be a very effective cardiovascular benefit,” says Lisa Callahan, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “If you’re overweight and start an exercise program, sometimes it’s harder on your joints because you are overweight, so something like swimming or biking that’s not pounding on the joints can be a good thing.”
You won’t miss morning traffic jams.
Americans spend upwards of 25 minutes per day commuting to work and more than $700 per year simply burning fumes in traffic
Cycling could help you get there faster for a lot less.
“Half of the working population in the U.S. commutes five miles or less to work, with bike trips of three to five miles taking less time or the same amount of time as commuting by car,” writes Kiplinger editor Amanda Lilly.
You don’t even have to own a bike.
There’s been a wave of new bike share programs in major cities like Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Miami, which typically allow riders 30 to 45 minutes of transportation for a small annual fee.
When New York City’s bike share launched in May, annual memberships
cost $US95 — about $US10 less than subway commuters spend per month.
Bicycle law is the parts of law that apply to the riding of bicycles. It varies from country to country, but in general, cyclists’ right to the road has been enshrined in international law since 1968, with the accession of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Under that treaty, bicycles have the legal status of vehicles, and cyclists enjoy the legal status of vehicle operators. There are over 150 contracting parties to the treaty, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Ireland, almost all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and China. In countries that are contracting parties, the treaty has the force of law, and its provisions have been incorporated into national law.
The position of British cyclists was first established by the Local Government Act in August, 1888. It removed the right of local councils to treat cyclists among the “nuisances” it could ban and defined them as “carriages”.
International varieties of bicycle law
Bicycle laws in the Mainland China
Laws may exist, but they are almost universally ignored. When asked, bicyclists in Shenzhen seem only to be aware of the law that makes electric bicycles illegal except for licensed delivery or tradesmen, but nobody worries about it because the cops almost never stop you. The unwritten rules of the road are roughly as follows: Ride on the right, unless there is a truck, car or bike, delivery trike or motorcycle heading toward you on the wrong side of the street. This happens every 2 minutes or so on most city streets. When this happens, ride either on the sidewalk, the middle of the road or on the other side of the road facing traffic. There are seemingly no laws or conventions about which side of the road or sidewalk to ride on. Approximately half of the bicyclists ride the wrong way on one way streets or in the lane reserved for oncoming traffic. The most common practice for turning left on a 2 lane street is do so from the wrong side of the road, against oncoming bike and vehicular traffic, forcing your way around the oncoming cars until you find an opening, then turn left into oncoming traffic and fight your way across onto your own side of the road. The rest of the people use a less predictable approach. Bicycles (and pedestrians) never have the right of way. Motorized vehicles never the yield the right of way unless it is almost certain that the cyclist will be killed. In fact, if a motorist or motorcyclist thinks there is any chance that allowing you to pass would require them to slow down, they will deliberately overtake you and cut you off. On a typical 20 minute commute, this will happen at least 2 or 3 times. There are also no conventions about what to do when two cyclist meet head-on on a sidewalk (where about 70% of cyclists travel). An equal number pass on the right as on the left, with frequent collisions.
Bicycle laws in the United States
For at least the past 60 years, bike safety rules and cycling laws have been drummed into the head of children, such that good cycling habits and etiquette is pretty much ingrained into the minds of the populous. The vast majority of motorized vehicles will automatically give you the right way. Similarly, the vast majority of bicyclists travel on the right hand side of the road, and almost always yield for pedestrians. The few cyclists travelling on sidewalks are mostly children or families with children. Everyone knows that riding on the sidewalk is illegal for an adult, but generally people have enough respect for the law to ride on the right hand side of the sidewalk most of the time, and yield for pedestrians.
Be a smart and well – equipped cycler. Before you purchase a bicycle, think about the type of cycling you plan to do. Pick and choose from the myriad of options to find the combination of features that best suits you and your goals.
You might be tempted to buy everything available for your bicycle. In the beginning, you may not need a bicycle computer, GPS, and heavy winter gear. As your experience and skill level improve, you can add items to your gear collection.
If you plan on a combination of road and mountain biking, pick a hybrid. Road bikes are for the road and mountain bikes are for off-road use.
The most important part of bicycle shopping is finding the right frame size. A frame that is too small will place unnecessary strain on your joints. A frame that is too large will decrease the level of control you have over your bike. If the frame is not properly fitted to your body, your center of gravity will be greatly compromised.
When choosing your bicycle, pick the best combination of features for the type of cycling you plan to do. For example, don`t put off-road tires on a road bike.
Many road bikes along with mountain bikes include clipless pedals to which special shoes attach, via a cleat, permitting the rider to pull on the pedals as well as push.
The right cycling shoes will support your foot on the pedal. This can reduce cramping and foot fatigue as you ride. The shoe you pick will depend on the type of pedal you plan to use with your bicycle.
Helmets offer essential protection while cycling. Modern designs are sleek and lightweight. There is no longer a question of style when choosing to wear a helmet. Helmets are proven to save lives and prevent life altering injuries from having their full effect. A good helmet will cost you at least US$50 and the best helmets can cost hundreds of dollars.
Dress for the weather. Lightweight, breathable fabrics are excellent for keeping the body cool and dry in warm weather. Moisture-wicking, heat retaining fabrics like fleece are best for winter riding. Gloves, glasses, socks, and extra outer layers are important regardless of season.
In general, fabrics suited for most outdoor sports will be appropriate for cycling. However, avoid loose fitting clothing as these clothes may get caught in your spokes, chain, or handlebars.
Your bike is a mess? We can give you some easily done basic bicycle care steps that’ll rejuvenate most well-ridden two-wheelers. And the same tips can keep a new bike running and looking new for as long as you want.
Pump It Up
Probably, the number one reason bikes fall apart is because people ignore the tires. Here’s what happens: Bicycle tires have very little air in them. And bicycle tubes, which are made of butyl rubber, are porous enough to allow air to seep out.
The result is tires softening over a period of about a week for road bikes and about a month for mountain bikes (though it depends some on tire size).
When the tires get soft, bad things happen. Some folks decide to stop riding the bike because they think they have flat tires and they put off getting the flat fixed because it means loading the bike in the car and dragging it down to the bike shop.
Lube It or Lose It
A bicycle is made up of a bunch of moving metal parts, many of which are meshing with each other. In order to keep these parts from grinding each other to dust as you pedal merrily along, they should be lubricated.
Spinning parts containing bearings, such as the wheels, pedals, bottom bracket (what the crankset is mounted to), and headset (the mechanism that connects the fork to the frame and allows steering), come from the manufacturer packed with grease. About once a year, these components should be dismantled, checked and regreased. But, because special tools are needed and the work is required only occasionally, you may prefer to leave this job to a bike shop mechanic.
Keep It Clean
Mountain bikers, especially those who ride in the mud, should keep a cleaning kit in the corner of the garage ready for use at ride’s end. All that’s needed is a bucket with some sponges and dishwashing detergent and a nearby hose.
When you return from a ride, prop the bike up and spray off the majority of the mud and muck with the hose. It’s crucial to not blast the water sideways at the bike. Doing so may force the water into the pedals, hubs and bottom bracket, which may compromise the grease and bearings inside these components. Instead, spray water only from above and don’t ever direct it toward greased parts.
I tell everyone to store bike(s) inside. It’s the best way to keep them running and looking like new. And it doesn’t take much in the way of space or supplies. The only item needed is a bike hook. These are shaped like question marks and coated with vinyl so as not to scratch the wheel when you hang the bike on the hook.
Install the hook in a stud in a wall or a rafter or beam; anywhere where the bike can hang vertically is fine. I’ve seen bikes stored in stairwells, bathrooms, bedrooms—anyplace you can find dead space is fine. It’s also possible to use two hooks and hang the bike horizontally, one wheel on either hook.
Whether you are racing in competitions or just riding around with friends, this can be an extremely fulfilling hobby which is easy to get started in. Cycling offers entertainment, exercise, and an excellent way to just get around town.
Perfect Your Pedaling
It’s normal to hop on a bike and push down on the pedals. But, if that’s all you do, you’ll never develop a smooth, efficient pedal stroke. Practice this instead: When the pedals reach 3 o’clock on the pedal stroke, pull back with a swiping motion as if you are wiping mud off the bottom of your shoes. You’ll notice an immediate boost in power, especially on hills. And, if you focus on this technique for only a few rides, your pedal stroke will smooth out and become far more efficient. In time, you’ll do it automatically.
Two nerves run through your palms and they can become painfully numb from cycling. In fact, my high-school chum Bruce Holden once lost the feeling in both hands for six weeks after a ride we took into the White Mountain of New Hampshire. What’d he do wrong? He made three serious mistakes: 1 He rode without gloves (always ride with comfortable, nicely padded cycling gloves because they save your hands and also provide palm protection if you crash); 2 He gripped the bars too tightly (relax your grip); and 3 He didn’t move his hands around to different parts of the handlebars (every 10 minutes move your hands and grip in a different place). Avoid these mistakes and you should avoid palm problems.
One of the most common mistakes is riding while you’re too tight in the upper body. If you see someone riding and you see locked shoulders and straight, stiff arms, you’re looking at someone who’s probably going to have a sore neck and arms at the end of the ride and someone who’s tiring out muscles for no good reason. Relax when you’re riding. Keep nice, loose, bent arms. Drop your shoulders and get comfortable. Train yourself to relax by, every 15 minutes or so, shrugging your shoulders to get them to drop and relax. Bring your elbows down and closer together and shake your arms to relax them. Bend your elbows. Exhale. Think about letting all that tension leave your neck, shoulders and arms. You’ll feel a whole lot better and have a lot more control of your bike if you can learn to ride comfortably like this.
Hook Your Thumbs
An important safety measure is always keeping at least one of your thumbs beneath the handlebars. If you can do this, you’ll avoid crashing due to your hands slipping off the bars. This can happen if you hold onto the tops with all your fingers over the handlebars. In this position, if you hit a bump and aren’t prepared, your hands can slip off causing a crash. This common accident can be prevented by simply keeping your thumbs in the right place.
If you suffer from a sore neck on rides and you’re satisfied with the fit of your bike, you should try adding sets of push-ups to your workout routine. Even if you only do them a few days a week, I think you’ll find that they make your neck pain go away. This happens because the push-ups strengthen the muscles that support the neck, which means they won’t tire on rides and get sore.
Bicycle manufacturing proved to be a training ground for other industries and led to the development of advanced metalworking techniques, both for the frames themselves and for special components such as ball bearings, washers, and sprockets. These techniques later enabled skilled metalworkers and mechanics to develop the components used in early automobiles and aircraft.
It was a pair of bicycle mechanics in Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright, who achieved the first powered flight in an aircraft. Their design owed much to knowledge gained from bicycles.
They also served to teach the industrial models later adopted, including mechanization and mass production (later copied and adopted by Ford and General Motors), vertical integration (also later copied and adopted by Ford), aggressive advertising (as much as 10% of all advertising in U.S. periodicals in 1898 was by bicycle makers), lobbying for better roads (which had the side benefit of acting as advertising, and of improving sales by providing more places to ride), all first practiced by Pope. In addition, bicycle makers adopted the annual model change (later derided as planned obsolescence, and usually credited to General Motors), which proved very successful.
Early bicycles were an example of conspicuous consumption, being adopted by the fashionable elites. In addition, by serving as a platform for accessories, which could ultimately cost more than the bicycle itself, it paved the way for the likes of the Barbie doll.
Bicycles helped create, or enhance, new kinds of businesses, such as bicycle messengers, traveling seamstresses, riding academies, and racing rinks. Their board tracks were later adapted to early motorcycle and automobile racing. There were a variety of new inventions, such as spoke tighteners, and specialized lights, socks and shoes, and even cameras, such as the Eastman Company’s Poco. Probably the best known and most widely used of these inventions, adopted well beyond cycling, is Charles Bennett’s Bike Web, which came to be called the jock strap.
They also presaged a move away from public transit that would explode with the introduction of the automobile.
J. K. Starley’s company became the Rover Cycle Company Ltd. in the late 1890s, and then simply the Rover Company when it started making cars. Morris Motors Limited (in Oxford) and Škoda also began in the bicycle business, as did the Wright brothers. Alistair Craig, whose company eventually emerged to become the engine manufacturers Ailsa Craig, also started from manufacturing bicycles, in Glasgow in March 1885.
In general, U.S. and European cycle manufacturers used to assemble cycles from their own frames and components made by other companies, although very large companies (such as Raleigh) used to make almost every part of a bicycle (including bottom brackets, axles, etc.) In recent years, those bicycle makers have greatly changed their methods of production. Now, almost none of them produce their own frames.
Many newer or smaller companies only design and market their products; the actual production is done by Asian companies. For example, some 60% of the world’s bicycles are now being made in China. Despite this shift in production, as nations such as China and India become more wealthy, their own use of bicycles has declined due to the increasing affordability of cars and motorcycles. One of the major reasons for the proliferation of Chinese-made bicycles in foreign markets is the lower cost of labor in China.
In line with the European financial crisis, in Italy in 2011 the number of bicycle sales (1.75 million) just passed the number of new car sales.
The dandy horse, also called Draisienne or laufmaschine, was the first human means of transport to use only two wheels in tandem and was invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais. It is regarded as the modern bicycle’s forerunner; Drais introduced it to the public in Mannheim in summer 1817 and in Paris in 1818. Its rider sat astride a wooden frame supported by two in-line wheels and pushed the vehicle along with his/her feet while steering the front wheel.
The first mechanically-propelled, two-wheeled vehicle may have been built by Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith, in 1839, although the claim is often disputed. He is also associated with the first recorded instance of a cycling traffic offense, when a Glasgow newspaper in 1842 reported an accident in which an anonymous “gentleman from Dumfries-shire… bestride a velocipede… of ingenious design” knocked over a little girl in Glasgow and was fined five shillings.
In the early 1860s, Frenchmen Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallement took bicycle design in a new direction by adding a mechanical crank drive with pedals on an enlarged front wheel (the velocipede). Another French inventor named Douglas Grasso had a failed prototype of Pierre Lallement’s bicycle several years earlier. Several inventions followed using rear-wheel drive, the best known being the rod-driven velocipede by Scotsman Thomas McCall in 1869. In that same year, bicycle wheels with wire spokes were patented by Eugène Meyer of Paris. The French vélocipède, made of iron and wood, developed into the “penny-farthing” (historically known as an “ordinary bicycle”, a retronym, since there was then no other kind). It featured a tubular steel frame on which were mounted wire-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires. These bicycles were difficult to ride due to their high seat and poor weight distribution. In 1868 Rowley Turner, a sales agent of the Coventry Sewing Machine Company (which soon became the Coventry Machinist Company), brought a Michaux cycle to Coventry, England. His uncle, Josiah Turner, and business partner James Starley, used this as a basis for the ‘Coventry Model’ in what became Britain’s first cycle factory.
The dwarf ordinary addressed some of these faults by reducing the front wheel diameter and setting the seat further back. This, in turn, required gearing—effected in a variety of ways—to efficiently use pedal power. Having to both pedal and steer via the front wheel remained a problem. J. K. Starley (nephew of James Starley), J. H. Lawson, and Shergold solved this problem by introducing the chain drive (originated by the unsuccessful “bicyclette” of Englishman Henry Lawson), connecting the frame-mounted cranks to the rear wheel. These models were known as safety bicycles, dwarf safeties, or upright bicycles for their lower seat height and better weight distribution, although without pneumatic tires the ride of the smaller-wheeled bicycle would be much rougher than that of the larger-wheeled variety. Starley’s 1885 Rover, manufactured in Coventry is usually described as the first recognizably modern bicycle. Soon the seat tube was added, creating the modern bike’s double-triangle diamond frame.
Further innovations increased comfort and ushered in a second bicycle craze, the 1890s Golden Age of Bicycles. In 1888, Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop introduced the first practical pneumatic tire, which soon became universal. Soon after, the rear freewheel was developed, enabling the rider to coast. This refinement led to the 1890s invention of coaster brakes.
Bicycles are legally considered “vehicles” on roadways. That means bicyclists must obey the rules of the road like drivers of any other vehicle and must be treated as equal users by all other vehicles. Here are some safety tips:
Obey traffic signs and signals – Bicycles must follow the rules of the road like other vehicles.
Never ride against traffic – Motorists aren’t looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. State law and common sense require that bicyclists drive like other vehicles.
Follow lane markings – Don’t turn left from the right lane. Don’t go straight in a lane marked “right-turn only.”
Don’t pass on the right – Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.
Scan the road behind you – Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
Keep both hands ready to brake – You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Allow extra distance for stopping in the rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet.
Wear a helmet and never ride with headphones – Always wear a helmet. Never wear a headphone while riding a bike.
Dress for the weather – In rain wear a poncho or waterproof suit. Dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes. Wear bright colored clothing.
Use hand signals – Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.
Ride in the middle of the lane in slower traffic – Get in the middle of the lane at busy intersections and whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.
Choose the best way to turn left – There are two choices: (1) Like an auto: signal to move into the left turn lane and then turn left. (2) Like a pedestrian: ride straight to the far side crosswalk. Walk your bike across.
Make eye contact with drivers – Assume that other drivers don’t see you until you are sure that they do. Eye contact is important with any driver which might pose a threat to your safety.
Look out for road hazards – Watch out for parallel-slat sewer grates, gravel, ice, sand or debris. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
Use lights at night – The law requires a white headlight (visible from at least 500 feet ahead) and a rear reflector or taillight (visible up to 300 feet from behind).
Keep your bike in good repair – Adjust your bike to fit you and keep it working properly. Check brakes and tires regularly. Routine maintenance is simple and you can learn to do it yourself.