Oat-prices and the Bicycle

02009-04-13 | Bicycle | 0 comments

Feb. 17, 1818: Proto-Bicycle Gets Things Rolling
Bad weather in 1812 caused oat crops to fail, and horses starved as a result. That got von Drais thinking about how you could get around quickly without a horse. His first attempt was a four-wheeled vehicle with a treadmill crankshaft between the rear wheels. He demonstrated it to the Congress of Vienna (the peace confab that ended the Napoleonic wars).

That invention went nowhere, but the eruption of Indonesia’s Tambora volcano in 1815 gave Europe a snowy summer in 1816. Oats were scarce and expensive again, horses died, and von Drais got back to work.

This time, he invented a two-wheeler on a frame that looks much like a modern bicycle frame with a seat and front-wheel steering. It didn’t have a chain drive, and it didn’t even have pedals. You drove the thing with your feet, much like a scooter. You stopped it with your feet, too: no brakes.


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