How it Began
Cycling history can be easily broken into sections following the style of the Bike that came forward at the time.
In 1817 Baron von Drais invented a walking machine that would help him get around the royal gardens faster: two same-size in-line wheels, the front one steerable, mounted in a frame which you straddled. The device was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground, thus rolling yourself and the device forward in a sort of gliding walk. The machine became known as the Draisienne or hobby horse. It was made entirely of wood. This enjoyed a short lived popularity as a fad, not being practical for transportation in any other place than a well maintained pathway such as in a park or garden.
The next appearance of a two-wheeled riding machine was in 1865, when pedals were applied directly to the front wheel. This machine was known as the velocipede ("fast foot"), but was popularly known as the bone shaker, since it was also made entirely of wood, then later with metal tires, and the combination of these with the cobblestone roads of the day made for an extremely uncomfortable ride. They also became a fad, and indoor riding academies, similar to roller rinks, could be found in large cities.
The Evolution Of Cycling
In 1870 the first all metal machine appeared. The pedals were still atttached directly to the front wheel with no freewheeling mechanism. Solid rubber tires and the long spokes of the large front wheel provided a much smoother ride than its predecessor. The front wheels became larger and larger as makers realized that the larger the wheel, the farther you could travel with one rotation of the pedals. You would purchase a wheel as large as your leg length would allow. This machine was the first one to be called a bicycle ("two wheel"). These bicycles enjoyed a great popularity among young men of means, with the hey-day being the decade of the 1880s.
While the men were risking their necks on the high wheels, ladies, confined to their long skirts and corsets, could take a spin around the park on an adult tricycle. These machines also afforded more dignity to gentlemen such as doctors and clergymen. Many mechanical innovations now associated with the automobile were originally invented for tricycles.
Improvements to the design began to be seen, many with the small wheel in the front to eliminate the tipping-forward problem. One model was promoted by its manufacturer by being ridden down the front steps of the capitol building in Washington, DC. These designs became known as high-wheel safety bicycles.
The further improvement of metallurgy sparked the next innovation, or rather return to previous design. With metal that was now strong enough to make a fine chain and sprocket small and light enough for a human being to power, the next design was a return to the original configuration of two same-size wheels, only now, instead of just one wheel circumference for every pedal turn, you could, through the gear ratios, have a speed the same as the huge high-wheel. The bicycles still had the hard rubber tires, and in the absence of the long, shock-absorbing spokes, the ride they provided was much more uncomfortable than any of the high-wheel designs. Many of these bicycles of 100 years ago had front and/or rear suspensions. These designs competed with each other, your choice being the high-wheel's comfort or the safety's safety, but the next innovation tolled the death of the high-wheel design.
The pnuematic tyre was first applied to the bicycle by an Irish veterinarian who was trying to give his young son a more comfortable ride on his tricycle. This inventive young doctor's name was Dunlop. Sound familar? Now that comfort and safety could be had in the same package, and that package was getting cheaper as manufacturing methods improved, everyone clamored to ride the bicycle.
Disciplines of Cycling
Downhill Mountain Biking
Downhill mountain biking (DH) is a time trial event held on a steep, rough terrain that often features jumps, rock gardens and other obstacles. Downhill bikes are heavy, strong, and feature front and rear suspension with over 8 inches (20 cm) of travel, to glide quickly over rocks and tree roots. A continuous course is defined on each side by a strip of tape. Riders have a single attempt to reach the finish line as fast as possible, while remaining between the two tapes designating the course. Riders must choose their line by compromising between the shortest possible line and the line that can be travelled at the highest speed. If a rider leaves the course by crossing or breaking the tape they must return to the course at the point of exit, unless they do not gain a time advantage form crossing the tape, in which case they can continue with their run. Riders start at intervals, often seeded from slowest to fastest. Courses typically take two to five minutes to complete and winning margins are often less than a second. Riders are timed with equipment similar to that used in Downhill skiing.
Cross-country (XC) cycling is the most common discipline of mountain biking. While less publicized than downhill cycling as it is more difficult to televise, it garners the highest levels of participation both recreationally and competitively. Cross-country cycling became an Olympic sport in 1996 and is the only form of mountain biking practiced at the Olympics. Cross-country cycling is defined by the terrain on which it is performed. XC courses and trails consist of a mix of rough forest paths and singletrack (also referred to as doubletrack depending on width), smooth fireroads, and even paved paths connecting other trails. Riding or racing is also only deemed cross-country if the technical complexity of the trails is easy or moderate.
Though originally denoting a bicycle intended for BMX Racing, the term "BMX bike" is now used to encompass race bikes, as well as those used for the dirt, vert, park, street, flatland and BMX freestyle disciplines of BMX. BMX frames are made of various types of steel, and (largely in the racing category) aluminum. BMX Freestyle is now one of the staple events at the annual Summer X Games Extreme Sports competition and the ETNIES backyard jam, held largely on both coasts of the United States. The popularity of the sport has increased due to its relative ease and availability of riding locations. At the games, Latvian Mris trombergs and Anne-Caroline Chausson of France were crowned the first Olympic champions in Men's and Women's BMX Racing, respectively.
Trials Mountain Biking
Mountain bike trials, also known as observed trials, is a discipline of mountain biking in which the rider attempts to pass through an obstacle course without setting foot to ground. Derived from motorcycle trials, it originated in Catalonia, Spain and is said to have been invented by the father of Ot Pi, a world champion motorcycle trials rider. Pi's father had wanted his son to learn motorcycle trials by practicing on an ordinary bicycle.
Trials riding is an extreme test of bicycle handling skills, over all kinds of obstacles, both natural and man-made. It now has a strong – though small – following worldwide, though it is still primarily a European sport. Skills taken from trials riding can be used practically on any bicycle for balance, for example controlled braking and track standing, or balancing on the bike without putting a foot down. Competition trial bikes are characterized by powerful brakes, wide handlebars, lightweight parts, single-speed low gearing, low tire pressures with a thick rear tire, distinctive frame geometry, and usually no seat.
Road bicycle racing involve both team and individual competition, and races are contested in various ways. They range from the one-day road race, criterium, and time trial to multi-stage events like the Tour de France and its sister events which make up cycling's Grand Tours.
The races typically take place from spring through to fall. Many riders from the northern hemisphere spend the winter in countries such as Australia, to compete or train. Professional races range from the three-week "Grand Tour" stage races such as the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España to multi-day stage races such as the Tour de Suisse and Tour of California, to single day "Classics" such as the Tour of Flanders and Milan – San Remo.
Track Cycling is a bicycle racing sport usually held on specially built banked tracks or velodromes using track bicycles. One appeal of indoor track racing was that spectators could be easily controlled, and hence an entrance fee could be charged, making track racing a lucrative sport. Early track races attracted crowds of up to 2000 people. Indoor tracks also enabled year-round cycling for the first time. The main early centres for track racing in Britain were Birmingham, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and London. Aerodynamic drag is a significant factor in both road and track racing. Frames are often constructed of moulded carbon fiber, for a lightweight design, although more traditionally frames are constructed from aluminium, or other metal alloys. More recently, track (and road) bikes have employed airfoil designs on the tubes of the frame, for decreased aerodynamic drag, allowing the rider to expend more energy to propel themselves, with less being wasted on drag.