Way back in 1817, Baron von Drais invented a walking machine that was basically a two wheel bike without pedals and made entirely of wood. If one wanted to meander the royal gardens more quickly than a walk, one hopped on this device (known as a hobby horse) and rolled oneself along like a baby on a scooter only with better clothes. In modern times, inventors proved that a walking machine needs tennis balls to work properly.
Fast forward to 1865 (when fast forward still hadn’t been invented) and some smarty pants decided to add pedals to the front wheel. However, this same smarty (being a nerd of the day) spent too much time indoors staring at the spot where his Nintendo wasn’t and didn’t taken into account the small problem of the streets still being made of cobblestones. Since the velocipede (as it was officially called) was not built with decent shock absorbers, it was popularly called a bone shaker and was suitable primarily for small boys who weren’t rich enough to own them anyway.
Later in the 19th century, solid rubber tires and HUGE front wheels were invented. According to http://www.pedalinghistory.com/PHhistory.html (where much of the factual information included here came from) the point of the big wheel was not only to get an early trademark on a children’s toy, but also because people figured out that the larger the wheel the farther the rider would travel on one rotation of the pedals. Other scholars (unnamed) think that the young men who purchased and rode these things may have been compensating. For something. Like not being given the keys to the horse and carriage.
- It was the first time such a contraption had been called a bicycle.
- Because the rider was perched high and the center of gravity of the bike clung to a spot closer to the ground, if the front wheel stopped suddenly (“Hello, it’s a rock!”) the rider went head-first into the cobblestones. This is where the term “taking a header” comes from. It may also be the origin of pet rocks.
You, my darling, learned to ride a tricycle (made of white plastic with teal foot pedals as I recall) when you were 1 ½ or so in the hall outside our apartment in NYC. You would ride as fast as you could to the end of the hall where you would stop by smashing into the wall. Then you would get off your bike, turn it around, rinse and repeat. You thought this was fabulous. Eventually you learned the concept of turning when you reached the ripe old age of 1 ¾ or thereabouts.
Enjoy your new bike. Pedal far and prosper.