The Bicycle

It’s very easy to take the humble concept of a bicycle for granted; it’s so ubiquitous within our society.

Here is a breakdown of what a bike is and why they are so fabulous.

Why are bicycles so useful?


Bikes are so much faster than walking, for the same amount of physical input. This is the key to why bicycles are so amazing. Luggage can also be carried with a negligible amount of extra effort.


Cars are faster than bicycles (if there is no congestion!), BUT they burn fossil fuels. Also you need a licence, tax, MOT certificates and insurance before you can use one.

Apart from purchasing and sporadic maintenance, cycling is completely free!


Bikes are easy to use; many people learned to ride bicycles as a young child.

Repair and maintenance is easy. If you are mechanically minded and have good instruction via books or the Internet, most tasks are achievable in your own home. You can’t say the same for motorised vehicles!


The carbon footprint of a bicycle is relatively small compared to cars; they have less moving parts and are easier to make and transport.

In use, a bicycle is emission free, unlike automobiles or public transport.


Riding bicycles, whether on a road, off-road, to work or for leisure is an enjoyable experience. Bicycling for recreation has grown massively in recent years and cycling as a sport has a vast number of disciplines including track, road, downhill, cross-country and BMX racing.

Where did the bicycle come from?

The first bicycle to go on sale to the public was invented by German Baron Karl von Drais in 1817. It was wooden and was pushed along by the rider’s feet.

In the 1840’s the first driven bicycles appeared in Scotland with pushrods connected to the rear wheels.

In the 1860’s came the era of the boneshakers; so-called because of their solid wooden wheels, sometimes with metal tyres. Boneshakers typically had front wheel drive with cranks connected to the front axle.

The 1870’s saw the first high-wheelers (often called penny-farthings). These were an evolution of the boneshaker design with larger front wheels and lighter frames enabling higher speeds. However, the increased speed and height of the rider meant that high-wheel bicycles were dangerous to ride!

However, the vehicle we now recognise as the bicycle was not developed until 1885 when John Kemp Starley produced the first successful "safety bicycle” called the "Rover". Starley’s design featured equally sized wheels, a steerable front wheel, and geared chain drive to the rear.


In 1888, Veterinarian John Dunlop made history with the creation of the first pneumatic tyre for his son’s bicycle. He later patented the design and formed Dunlop Tyre Company.

This was the start of the bicycle as we know it today.

Return to our commuter guides.