1817         Draisine / Laufmaschine (running machine) by Karl von Drais, Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg, southwest    

                Germany. H.E. Lessing suggests that 1816, the year without summer due to the eruption of Mount Tambora that

                caused a European crop failure and the death of many horses led to Drais's invention.

1861- 66   Vélocipède à pédale. Pedal bicycle conceived and produced by both Pierre Lallement and Pierre and Ernest  

                Michaux, Nancy and Paris, France. Lallement files first patent for Velocipede in 1866, U.S.A.     


1868 - 76   Chain drive transmissions first developed during Velocipede era. These machines were basically prototypes,

                 needing 20 years of development to evolve into Safety Bicycles ('Bike Cult' D.B. Perry, 1995). Examples


                 Thomas McCall’s (Scotland) rear-drive treadle bicycle (‘Bicycle’ Herlihy, 2004 p68); André Guilmet and  

                 Meyer’s chain driven rear wheel drive bicycle (1868); Frederick Shearing’s Norfolk bicycle with belt-drive  

                 (1869) (Perry, p25); H.L. Bate’s Flying Dutchman and Thomas Shergold’s homemade chain driven bicycle  

                 (1876) (Perry p25).

                  J.F. Tretz deploys a chain drive to propel large front wheel of a ‘high wheeler’.

1870 - 92    High Wheeler/ Ordinary Bicycles developed from Eugène Meyer’s 1869 tension wheel and James Starley’s  

                  and William Hillman's Ariel (1870).

1876-84      Early Safety Bicycles: First Safety Bicycle (1876), designed by Henry J. Lawson; rear wheel treadle drive.  

                  Lawson subsequently develops the Bicyclette (1879), which rivals Shergold’s (1878) claim to be the first

                  safety with chain driven rear wheel. Other early Safeties include McCammon’s (1884) and the Humber


1885          Rover Safety Bicycle, John Kemp Starley,  Coventry, UK. Design combines rear wheel chain drive, near equal

                  sized wheels, diamond frame, direct steering. These remain the essential design components of many modern

                  bicycles today.


1888          John Dunlop (Scotland) re-invents the pneumatic bicycle tyre.

1890's        Bicycle industry's biggest boom

mid 20C -    Bicycle No1 form of personal transport

Combined with Dunlop’s pneumatic tyre, J.K. Starley‘s Rover Safety Bicycle triggered an unprecedented world-wide demand that led to the bicycle’s biggest boom (1890’s) (Wiki bicycle craze, and Herlihy). By the mid 20th Century the bicycle was the most important form of personal transport in the world (Herlihy).

The Rover Safety Bicycle's key design features are still used for the majority of bicycles today - especially in the 'developing world', where John Kemp Starley's simple, efficient and natural design is appreciated.


Bicycle evolution like natural evolution is forever ongoing. The interesting thing about the 1885 Rover Safety Bicycle is that it was a tipping point for the bicycle industry. For the first time, a bicycle design gave people a practical, everyday and safe means of personal transport.