A bicycle, also called a cycle or bike, is a human-powered or motor-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A bicycle rider is called a cyclist, or bicyclist.
Bicycles were introduced in the late 19th century in Europe, and by the early 21st century, more than 1 billion were in existence at a given time. These numbers far exceed the number of cars, both in total and ranked by the number of individual models produced. They are the principal means of transportation in many regions. They also provide a popular form of recreation, and have been adapted for use as children's toys, general fitness, military and police applications, courier services, bicycle racing and bicycle stunts.
The basic shape and configuration of a typical upright or "safety bicycle", has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. However, many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for many types of cycling.
The bicycle's invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets and tension-spoked wheels.
The word bicycle first appeared in English print in The Daily News in 1868, to describe "Bysicles and trysicles" on the "Champs Elysées and Bois de Boulogne". The word was first used in 1847 in a French publication to describe an unidentified two-wheeled vehicle, possibly a carriage. The design of the bicycle was an advance on the velocipede, although the words were used with some degree of overlap for a time.
The "Dandy horse", also called Draisienne or Laufmaschine, was the first human means of transport to use only two wheels in tandem and was invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais. It is regarded as the modern bicycle's forerunner; Drais introduced it to the public in Mannheim in summer 1817 and in Paris in 1818. Its rider sat astride a wooden frame supported by two in-line wheels and pushed the vehicle along with his or her feet while steering the front wheel.
The first mechanically-propelled, two-wheeled vehicle may have been built by Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith, in 1839, although the claim is often disputed. He is also associated with the first recorded instance of a cycling traffic offense, when a Glasgow newspaper in 1842 reported an accident in which an anonymous "gentleman from Dumfries-shire... bestride a velocipede... of ingenious design" knocked over a little girl in Glasgow and was fined five shillings.
In the early 1860s, Frenchmen Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallement took bicycle design in a new direction by adding a mechanical crank drive with pedals on an enlarged front wheel (the velocipede). This was the first in mass production. Another French inventor named Douglas Grasso had a failed prototype of Pierre Lallement's bicycle several years earlier. Several inventions followed using rear-wheel drive, the best known being the rod-driven velocipede by Scotsman Thomas McCall in 1869. In that same year, bicycle wheels with wire spokes were patented by Eugène Meyer of Paris. The French vélocipède, made of iron and wood, developed into the "penny-farthing" (historically known as an "ordinary bicycle", a retronym, since there was then no other kind). It featured a tubular steel frame on which were mounted wire-spoked wheels with solid rubber tires. These bicycles were difficult to ride due to their high seat and poor weight distribution. In 1868 Rowley Turner, a sales agent of the Coventry Sewing Machine Company (which soon became the Coventry Machinists Company), brought a Michaux cycle to Coventry, England. His uncle, Josiah Turner, and business partner James Starley, used this as a basis for the 'Coventry Model' in what became Britain's first cycle factory.
The dwarf ordinary addressed some of these faults by reducing the front wheel diameter and setting the seat further back. This, in turn, required gearing—effected in a variety of ways—to efficiently use pedal power. Having to both pedal and steer via the front wheel remained a problem. Englishman J.K. Starley (nephew of James Starley), J.H. Lawson, and Shergold solved this problem by introducing the chain drive (originated by the unsuccessful "bicyclette" of Englishman Henry Lawson), connecting the frame-mounted cranks to the rear wheel. These models were known as safety bicycles, dwarf safeties, or upright bicycles for their lower seat height and better weight distribution, although without pneumatic tires the ride of the smaller-wheeled bicycle would be much rougher than that of the larger-wheeled variety. Starley's 1885 Rover, manufactured in Coventry is usually described as the first recognizably modern bicycle. Soon the seat tube was added, creating the modern bike's double-triangle diamond frame.
Further innovations increased comfort and ushered in a second bicycle craze, the 1890s Golden Age of Bicycles. In 1888, Scotsman John Boyd Dunlop introduced the first practical pneumatic tire, which soon became universal. Willie Hume demonstrated the supremacy of Dunlop's tyres in 1889, winning the tyre's first-ever races in Ireland and then England. Soon after, the rear freewheel was developed, enabling the rider to coast. This refinement led to the 1890s invention of coaster brakes. Dérailleur gears and hand-operated Bowden cable-pull brakes were also developed during these years, but were only slowly adopted by casual riders.
The Svea Velocipede with vertical pedal arrangement and locking hubs was introduced in 1892 by the Swedish engineers Fredrik Ljungström and Birger Ljungström. It attracted attention at the World Fair and was produced in a few thousand units.
In the 1870s many cycling clubs flourished. They were popular in a time when there were not cars on the market and the principal mode of transportation was horse-drawn vehicles, such the horse and buggy or the horsecar. Among the earliest clubs was The Bicycle Touring Club, which has operated since 1878. By the turn of the century, cycling clubs flourished on both sides of the Atlantic, and touring and racing became widely popular. The Raleigh Bicycle Company was founded in Nottingham, England in 1888. It became the biggest bicycle manufacturing company in the world, making over two million bikes per year.
Bicycles and horse buggies were the two mainstays of private transportation just prior to the automobile, and the grading of smooth roads in the late 19th century was stimulated by the widespread advertising, production, and use of these devices. More than 1 billion bicycles have been manufactured worldwide as of the early 21st century. Bicycles are the most common vehicle of any kind in the world, and the most numerous model of any kind of vehicle, whether human-powered or motor vehicle, is the Chinese Flying Pigeon, with numbers exceeding 500 million. The next most numerous vehicle, the Honda Super Cub motorcycle, has more than 60 million units made, while most produced car, the Toyota Corolla, has reached 35 million and counting.
From the beginning and still today, bicycles have been and are employed for many uses. In a utilitarian way, bicycles are used for transportation, bicycle commuting, and utility cycling. It can be used as a 'work horse', used by mail carriers, paramedics, police, messengers, and general delivery services. Military uses of bicycles include communications, reconnaissance, troop movement, supply of provisions, and patrol. See also: bicycle infantry.
The bicycle is also used for recreational purposes, such as bicycle touring, mountain biking, physical fitness, and play. Bicycle competition includes racing, BMX racing, track racing, criterium, roller racing, sportives and time trials. Major multi-stage professional events are the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, the Tour de Pologne, and the Volta a Portugal.
The bicycle has undergone continual adaptation and improvement since its inception. These innovations have continued with the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design, allowing for a proliferation of specialized bicycle types, improved bicycle safety, and riding comfort.
Bicycles can be categorized in many different ways: by function, by number of riders, by general construction, by gearing or by means of propulsion. The more common types include utility bicycles, mountain bicycles, racing bicycles, touring bicycles, hybrid bicycles, cruiser bicycles, and BMX bikes. Less common are tandems, low riders, tall bikes, fixed gear, folding models, amphibious bicycles, cargo bikes, recumbents and electric bicycles.
A bicycle stays upright while moving forward by being steered so as to keep its center of mass over the wheels. This steering is usually provided by the rider, but under certain conditions may be provided by the bicycle itself.
The combined center of mass of a bicycle and its rider must lean into a turn to successfully navigate it. This lean is induced by a method known as countersteering, which can be performed by the rider turning the handlebars directly with the hands or indirectly by leaning the bicycle.
Short-wheelbase or tall bicycles, when braking, can generate enough stopping force at the front wheel to flip longitudinally. The act of purposefully using this force to lift the rear wheel and balance on the front without tipping over is a trick known as a stoppie, endo, or front wheelie.
The bicycle is extraordinarily efficient in both biological and mechanical terms. The bicycle is the most efficient human-powered means of transportation in terms of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance. From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10–15%. In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also an efficient means of cargo transportation.
A human traveling on a bicycle at low to medium speeds of around 16–24 km/h (10–15 mph) uses only the power required to walk. Air drag, which is proportional to the square of speed, requires dramatically higher power outputs as speeds increase. If the rider is sitting upright, the rider's body creates about 75% of the total drag of the bicycle/rider combination. Drag can be reduced by seating the rider in a more aerodynamically streamlined position. Drag can also be reduced by covering the bicycle with an aerodynamic fairing. The fastest recorded unpaced speed on a flat surface is 144.18 km/h (89.59 mph)
In addition, the carbon dioxide generated in the production and transportation of the food required by the bicyclist, per mile traveled, is less than 1/10 that generated by energy efficient motorcars.
The great majority of modern bicycles have a frame with upright seating that looks much like the first chain-driven bike. These upright bicycles almost always feature the diamond frame, a truss consisting of two triangles: the front triangle and the rear triangle. The front triangle consists of the head tube, top tube, down tube, and seat tube. The head tube contains the headset, the set of bearings that allows the fork to turn smoothly for steering and balance. The top tube connects the head tube to the seat tube at the top, and the down tube connects the head tube to the bottom bracket. The rear triangle consists of the seat tube and paired chain stays and seat stays. The chain stays run parallel to the chain, connecting the bottom bracket to the rear dropout, where the axle for the rear wheel is held. The seat stays connect the top of the seat tube (at or near the same point as the top tube) to the rear fork ends.
Historically, women's bicycle frames had a top tube that connected in the middle of the seat tube instead of the top, resulting in a lower standover height at the expense of compromised structural integrity, since this places a strong bending load in the seat tube, and bicycle frame members are typically weak in bending. This design, referred to as a step-through frame or as an open frame, allows the rider to mount and dismount in a dignified way while wearing a skirt or dress. While some women's bicycles continue to use this frame style, there is also a variation, the mixte, which splits the top tube laterally into two thinner top tubes that bypass the seat tube on each side and connect to the rear fork ends. The ease of stepping through is also appreciated by those with limited flexibility or other joint problems. Because of its persistent image as a "women's" bicycle, step-through frames are not common for larger frames.
Step-throughs were popular partly for practical reasons and partly for social mores of the day. For most of the history of bicycles' popularity women have worn long skirts, and the lower frame accommodated these better than the top-tube. Furthermore, it was considered "unladylike" for women to open their legs to mount and dismount—in more conservative times women who rode bicycles at all were vilified as immoral or immodest. These practices were akin to the older practice of riding horse sidesaddle.
Another style is the recumbent bicycle. These are inherently more aerodynamic than upright versions, as the rider may lean back onto a support and operate pedals that are on about the same level as the seat. The world's fastest bicycle is a recumbent bicycle but this type was banned from competition in 1934 by the Union Cycliste Internationale.
Historically, materials used in bicycles have followed a similar pattern as in aircraft, the goal being high strength and low weight. Since the late 1930s alloy steels have been used for frame and fork tubes in higher quality machines. By the 1980s aluminum welding techniques had improved to the point that aluminum tube could safely be used in place of steel. Since then aluminum alloy frames and other components have become popular due to their light weight, and most mid-range bikes are now principally aluminum alloy of some kind. More expensive bikes use carbon fibre due to its significantly lighter weight and profiling ability, allowing designers to make a bike both stiff and compliant by manipulating the lay-up. Virtually all professional racing bicycles now use carbon fibre frames, as they have the best strength to weight ratio. A typical modern carbon fiber frame can weighs less than 1 kilogram (2.2 lb).
Other exotic frame materials include titanium and advanced alloys. Bamboo, a natural composite material with high strength-to-weight ratio and stiffness has been used for bicycles since 1894. Recent versions use bamboo for the primary frame with glued metal connections and parts, priced as exotic models. 
The drivetrain begins with pedals which rotate the cranks, which are held in axis by the bottom bracket. Most bicycles use a chain to transmit power to the rear wheel. A very small number of bicycles use a shaft drive to transmit power, or special belts. Hydraulic bicycle transmissions have been built, but they are currently inefficient and complex.
Since cyclists' legs are most efficient over a narrow range of pedaling speeds, or cadence, a variable gear ratio helps a cyclist to maintain an optimum pedalling speed while covering varied terrain. Some, mainly utility, bicycles use hub gears with between 3 and 14 ratios, but most use the generally more efficient dérailleur system, by which the chain is moved between different cogs called chainrings and sprockets in order to select a ratio. A dérailleur system normally has two dérailleurs, or mechs, one at the front to select the chainring and another at the back to select the sprocket. Most bikes have two or three chainrings, and from 5 to 11 sprockets on the back, with the number of theoretical gears calculated by multiplying front by back. In reality, many gears overlap or require the chain to run diagonally, so the number of usable gears is fewer.
An alternative to chaindrive is to use a synchronous belt. These are toothed and work much the same as a chain—popular with commuters and long distance cyclists they require little maintenance. They can't be shifted across a cassette of sprockets, and are used either as single speed or with a hub gear.
Different gears and ranges of gears are appropriate for different people and styles of cycling. Multi-speed bicycles allow gear selection to suit the circumstances: a cyclist could use a high gear when cycling downhill, a medium gear when cycling on a flat road, and a low gear when cycling uphill. In a lower gear every turn of the pedals leads to fewer rotations of the rear wheel. This allows the energy required to move the same distance to be distributed over more pedal turns, reducing fatigue when riding uphill, with a heavy load, or against strong winds. A higher gear allows a cyclist to make fewer pedal turns to maintain a given speed, but with more effort per turn of the pedals.
With a chain drive transmission, a chainring attached to a crank drives the chain, which in turn rotates the rear wheel via the rear sprocket(s) (cassette or freewheel). There are four gearing options: two-speed hub gear integrated with chain ring, up to 3 chain rings, up to 11 sprockets, hub gear built into rear wheel (3-speed to 14-speed). The most common options are either a rear hub or multiple chain rings combined with multiple sprockets (other combinations of options are possible but less common).
The handlebars connect to the stem that connects to the fork that connects to the front wheel, and the whole assembly connects to the bike and rotates about the steering axis via the headset bearings. Three styles of handlebar are common. Upright handlebars, the norm in Europe and elsewhere until the 1970s, curve gently back toward the rider, offering a natural grip and comfortable upright position. Drop handlebars "drop" as they curve forward and down, offering the cyclist best braking power from a more aerodynamic "crouched" position, as well as more upright positions in which the hands grip the brake lever mounts, the forward curves, or the upper flat sections for increasingly upright postures. Mountain bikes generally feature a 'straight handlebar' or 'riser bar' with varying degrees of sweep backwards and centimeters rise upwards, as well as wider widths which can provide better handling due to increased leverage against the wheel.
Saddles also vary with rider preference, from the cushioned ones favored by short-distance riders to narrower saddles which allow more room for leg swings. Comfort depends on riding position. With comfort bikes and hybrids, cyclists sit high over the seat, their weight directed down onto the saddle, such that a wider and more cushioned saddle is preferable. For racing bikes where the rider is bent over, weight is more evenly distributed between the handlebars and saddle, the hips are flexed, and a narrower and harder saddle is more efficient. Differing saddle designs exist for male and female cyclists, accommodating the genders' differing anatomies and sit bone width measurements, although bikes typically are sold with saddles most appropriate for men. Suspension seat posts and seat springs provide comfort by absorbing shock but can add to the overall weight of the bicycle.
A recumbent bicycle has a reclined chair-like seat that some riders find more comfortable than a saddle, especially riders who suffer from certain types of seat, back, neck, shoulder, or wrist pain. Recumbent bicycles may have either under-seat or over-seat steering.
Bicycle brakes may be rim brakes, in which friction pads are compressed against the wheel rims; hub brakes, where the mechanism is contained within the wheel hub, or disc brakes, where pads act on a rotor attached to the hub. Most road bicycles use rim brakes, but some use disk brakes. Disc brakes are more common for mountain bikes, tandems and recumbent bicycles than on other types of bicycles, due to their increased power, coupled with an increased weight and complexity.
With hand-operated brakes, force is applied to brake levers mounted on the handlebars and transmitted via Bowden cables or hydraulic lines to the friction pads, which apply pressure to the braking surface, causing friction which slows the bicycle down. A rear hub brake may be either hand-operated or pedal-actuated, as in the back pedal coaster brakes which were popular in North America until the 1960s.
Track bicycles do not have brakes, because all riders ride in the same direction around a track which does not necessitate sharp deceleration. Track riders are still able to slow down because all track bicycles are fixed-gear, meaning that there is no freewheel. Without a freewheel, coasting is impossible, so when the rear wheel is moving, the cranks are moving. To slow down, the rider applies resistance to the pedals, acting as a braking system which can be as effective as a conventional rear wheel brake, but not as effective as a front wheel brake.
Bicycle suspension refers to the system or systems used to suspend the rider and all or part of the bicycle. This serves two purposes: to keep the wheels in continuous contact with the ground, improving control, and to isolate the rider and luggage from jarring due to rough surfaces, improving comfort.
Bicycle suspensions are used primarily on mountain bicycles, but are also common on hybrid bicycles, as they can help deal with problematic vibration from poor surfaces. Suspension is especially important on recumbent bicycles, since while an upright bicycle rider can stand on the pedals to achieve some of the benefits of suspension, a recumbent rider cannot.
Basic mountain bicycles and hybrids usually have front suspension only, whilst more sophisticated ones also have rear suspension. Road bicycles tend to have no suspension.
The wheel axle fits into fork ends in the frame and fork. A pair of wheels may be called a wheelset, especially in the context of ready-built "off the shelf", performance-oriented wheels.
Tires vary enormously depending on their intended purpose. Road bicycles use tires 18 to 25 millimeters wide, most often completely smooth, or slick, and inflated to high pressure in order to roll fast on smooth surfaces. Off-road tires are usually between 38 and 64 mm (1.5 and 2.5 in) wide, and have treads for gripping in muddy conditions or metal studs for ice.
Some components, which are often optional accessories on sports bicycles, are standard features on utility bicycles to enhance their usefulness, comfort, safety and visibility. Mudguards, or fenders, protect the cyclist and moving parts from spray when riding through wet areas and chainguards protect clothes from oil on the chain while preventing clothing from being caught between the chain and crankset teeth. Kick stands keep bicycles upright when parked, and bike locks deter theft. Front-mounted baskets, front or rear luggage carriers or racks, and panniers mounted above either or both wheels can be used to carry equipment or cargo. Pegs can be fastened to one, or both of the wheel hubs to either help the rider perform certain tricks, or allow a place for extra riders to stand, or rest. Parents sometimes add rear-mounted child seats, an auxiliary saddle fitted to the crossbar, or both to transport children. Training wheels are sometimes used when learning to ride.
Toe-clips and toestraps and clipless pedals help keep the foot locked in the proper pedal position and enable cyclists to pull and push the pedals. Technical accessories include cyclocomputers for measuring speed, distance, heart rate, GPS data etc. Other accessories include lights, reflectors, mirrors, racks, trailers, bags, water bottles and cages, and bell. Bicycle lights, reflectors, and helmets are required by law in some geographic regions depending on the legal code. It is more common to see bicycles with bottle generators, dynamos, lights, fenders, racks and bells in Europe. Bicyclists also have specialized form fitting and high visibility clothing.
Bicycle helmets can reduce injury in the event of a collision or accident, and a suitable helmet is legally required of riders in many jurisdictions. Helmets may be classified as an accessory or as an item of clothing.
Bicycles can also be fitted with a hitch to tow a trailer for carrying cargo, a child, or both.
A number of formal and industry standards exist for bicycle components to help make spare parts exchangeable and to maintain a minimum product safety.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has a special technical committee for cycles, TC149, that has the scope of "Standardization in the field of cycles, their components and accessories with particular reference to terminology, testing methods and requirements for performance and safety, and interchangeability".
The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) also has a specific Technical Committee, TC333, that defines European standards for cycles. Their mandate states that EN cycle standards shall harmonize with ISO standards. Some CEN cycle standards were developed before ISO published their standards, leading to strong European influences in this area. European cycle standards tend to describe minimum safety requirements, while ISO standards have historically harmonized parts geometry.
Maintenance of adequate tire inflation is the most frequent and troublesome concern for cyclists and many means and methods are employed to preserve pneumatic integrity. Thicker tires, thicker tubes, tire liners (of a number of rather impenetrable devices installed between the tire and tube), liquid sealing compounds squeezed into the tube, and automotive-style patch kits are all used to reliably contain the typical tire pressures of 40 to 60 pounds per square inch that are required for bicycle operation. Thin, light bicycle tires are particularly vulnerable to penetration and subsequent deflation caused by goat's heads and other burs, colloquially known as stickers. Inflation of bicycle tires to pressures higher than typical for automotive use requires special pumps. The complexity of bicycle tire maintenance and repair may cause many to not consider the bicycle for transport or leisure.
Some bicycle parts, particularly hub-based gearing systems, require considerable torque for dis-assembly and may thus need professional services. Self-service and assisted-service maintenance and repair may be available.
There are specialized bicycle tools for use both in the shop and on the road. Many cyclists carry tool kits. These may include a tire patch kit (which, in turn, may contain any combination of a hand pump or CO2 Pump, tire levers, spare tubes, self-adhesive patches, or tube-patching material, an adhesive, a piece of sandpaper or a metal grater (for roughing the tube surface to be patched), Special, thin wrenches are often required for maintaining various screw fastened parts, specifically, the frequently lubricated ball-bearing "cones". and sometimes even a block of French chalk.), wrenches, hex keys, screwdrivers, and a chain tool. There are also cycling specific multi-tools that combine many of these implements into a single compact device. More specialized bicycle components may require more complex tools, including proprietary tools specific for a given manufacturer.
The bicycle has had a considerable effect on human society, in both the cultural and industrial realms.
Around the turn of the 20th century, bicycles reduced crowding in inner-city tenements by allowing workers to commute from more spacious dwellings in the suburbs. They also reduced dependence on horses. Bicycles allowed people to travel for leisure into the country, since bicycles were three times as energy efficient as walking and three to four times as fast.
In built up cities around the world, urban planning uses cycling infrastructure like bikeways to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. A number of cities around the world have implemented schemes known as bicycle sharing systems or community bicycle programs. The first of these was the White Bicycle plan in Amsterdam in 1965. It was followed by yellow bicycles in La Rochelle and green bicycles in Cambridge. These initiatives complement public transport systems and offer an alternative to motorized traffic to help reduce congestion and pollution. In Europe, especially in the Netherlands and parts of Germany and Denmark, bicycle commuting is common. In Copenhagen, a cyclists' organization runs a Cycling Embassy that promotes biking for commuting and sightseeing. The United Kingdom has a tax break scheme (IR 176) that allows employees to buy a new bicycle tax free to use for commuting.
In the Netherlands all train stations offer free bicycle parking, or a more secure parking place for a small fee, with the larger stations also offering bicycle repair shops. Cycling is so popular that the parking capacity may be exceeded, while in some places such as Delft the capacity is usually exceeded. In Trondheim in Norway, the Trampe bicycle lift has been developed to encourage cyclists by giving assistance on a steep hill. Buses in many cities have bicycle carriers mounted on the front.
In cities where bicycles are not integrated into the public transportation system, commuters often use bicycles as elements of a mixed-mode commute, where the bike is used to travel to and from train stations or other forms of rapid transit. Some students who commute several miles drive a car from home to a campus parking lot, then ride a bicycle to class. Folding bicycles are useful in these scenarios, as they are less cumbersome when carried aboard. Los Angeles removed a small amount of seating on some trains to make more room for bicycles and wheel chairs.
Some US companies, notably in the tech sector, are developing both innovative cycle designs and cycle-friendliness in the workplace. Foursquare, whose CEO Dennis Crowley "pedaled to pitch meetings ... [when he] was raising money from venture capitalists" on a two-wheeler, chose a new location for its New York headquarters "based on where biking would be easy". Parking in the office was also integral to HQ planning. Mitchell Moss, who runs the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management at New York University, said in 2012: "Biking has become the mode of choice for the educated high tech worker".
Bicycles offer an important mode of transport in many developing countries. Until recently, bicycles have been a staple of everyday life throughout Asian countries. They are the most frequently used method of transport for commuting to work, school, shopping, and life in general. In Europe, bicycles are commonly used. They also offer a degree of exercise to keep individuals healthy.
Bicycles are also celebrated in the visual arts. An example of this is the Bicycle Film Festival, a film festival hosted all around the world.
Experiments done in Uganda, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka on hundreds of households have shown that a bicycle can increase a poor family's income as much as 35%. Transport, if analyzed for the cost-benefit analysis for rural poverty alleviation, has given one of the best returns in this regard. For example, road investments in India were a staggering 3–10 times more effective than almost all other investments and subsidies in rural economy in the decade of the 1990s. What a road does at a macro level to increase transport, the bicycle supports at the micro level. The bicycle, in that sense, can be an important poverty-eradication tool in poor nations.
The safety bicycle gave women unprecedented mobility, contributing to their emancipation in Western nations. As bicycles became safer and cheaper, more women had access to the personal freedom that bicycles embodied, and so the bicycle came to symbolize the New Woman of the late 19th century, especially in Britain and the United States. The bicycle craze in the 1890s also led to a movement for so-called rational dress, which helped liberate women from corsets and ankle-length skirts and other restrictive garments, substituting the then-shocking bloomers.
The bicycle was recognized by 19th-century feminists and suffragists as a "freedom machine" for women. American Susan B. Anthony said in a New York World interview on February 2, 1896: "I think it has done more to emancipate woman than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.":859 In 1895 Frances Willard, the tightly laced president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, wrote A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle, with Some Reflections by the Way, a 75-page illustrated memoir praising "Gladys", her bicycle, for its "gladdening effect" on her health and political optimism. Willard used a cycling metaphor to urge other suffragists to action.
Bicycle manufacturing proved to be a training ground for other industries and led to the development of advanced metalworking techniques, both for the frames themselves and for special components such as ball bearings, washers, and sprockets. These techniques later enabled skilled metalworkers and mechanics to develop the components used in early automobiles and aircraft.
They also served to teach the industrial models later adopted, including mechanization and mass production (later copied and adopted by Ford and General Motors), vertical integration (also later copied and adopted by Ford), aggressive advertising (as much as 10% of all advertising in U.S. periodicals in 1898 was by bicycle makers), lobbying for better roads (which had the side benefit of acting as advertising, and of improving sales by providing more places to ride), all first practiced by Pope. In addition, bicycle makers adopted the annual model change (later derided as planned obsolescence, and usually credited to General Motors), which proved very successful.
Early bicycles were an example of conspicuous consumption, being adopted by the fashionable elites. In addition, by serving as a platform for accessories, which could ultimately cost more than the bicycle itself, it paved the way for the likes of the Barbie doll.
Bicycles helped create, or enhance, new kinds of businesses, such as bicycle messengers, traveling seamstresses, riding academies, and racing rinks. Their board tracks were later adapted to early motorcycle and automobile racing. There were a variety of new inventions, such as spoke tighteners, and specialized lights, socks and shoes, and even cameras, such as the Eastman Company's Poco. Probably the best known and most widely used of these inventions, adopted well beyond cycling, is Charles Bennett's Bike Web, which came to be called the jock strap.
They also presaged a move away from public transit that would explode with the introduction of the automobile.
J. K. Starley's company became the Rover Cycle Company Ltd. in the late 1890s, and then simply the Rover Company when it started making cars. Morris Motors Limited (in Oxford) and Škoda also began in the bicycle business, as did the Wright brothers. Alistair Craig, whose company eventually emerged to become the engine manufacturers Ailsa Craig, also started from manufacturing bicycles, in Glasgow in March 1885.
In general, U.S. and European cycle manufacturers used to assemble cycles from their own frames and components made by other companies, although very large companies (such as Raleigh) used to make almost every part of a bicycle (including bottom brackets, axles, etc.) In recent years, those bicycle makers have greatly changed their methods of production. Now, almost none of them produce their own frames.
Many newer or smaller companies only design and market their products; the actual production is done by Asian companies. For example, some 60% of the world's bicycles are now being made in China. Despite this shift in production, as nations such as China and India become more wealthy, their own use of bicycles has declined due to the increasing affordability of cars and motorcycles. One of the major reasons for the proliferation of Chinese-made bicycles in foreign markets is the lower cost of labor in China.
In line with the European financial crisis, in Italy in 2011 the number of bicycle sales (1.75 million) just passed the number of new car sales.
One of the profound economic implications of bicycle use is that it liberates the user from oil consumption.(Ballantine, 1972) The bicycle is an inexpensive, fast, healthy and environmentally friendly mode of transport. Ivan Illich stated that bicycle use extended the usable physical environment for people, while alternatives such as cars and motorways degraded and confined people's environment and mobility. Currently, two billion bicycles are in use around the world. Children, students, professionals, laborers, civil servants and seniors are pedaling around their communities. They all experience the freedom and the natural opportunity for exercise that the bicycle easily provides. Bicycle also has lowest carbon intensity of travel.
|Year||production (M)||sales (M)|
|Country||Production (M)||Parts||Sales (M)||Avg||Sales (M€)|
|The Netherlands||.850||85 M€||1.051||844||887|
|Czech Republic||.333||85 M€||.333||150||50|
|Great Britain||.052||34 M€||3.630||345||1252.4|
|EU 28||11.939||1662 M€||20.234||392||7941.2|
Early in its development, as with automobiles, there were restrictions on the operation of bicycles. Along with advertising, and to gain free publicity, Albert A. Pope litigated on behalf of cyclists.
The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of the United Nations considers a bicycle to be a vehicle, and a person controlling a bicycle (whether actually riding or not) is considered an operator. The traffic codes of many countries reflect these definitions and demand that a bicycle satisfy certain legal requirements before it can be used on public roads. In many jurisdictions, it is an offense to use a bicycle that is not in a roadworthy condition.
In most jurisdictions, bicycles must have functioning front and rear lights when ridden after dark. As some generator or dynamo-driven lamps only operate while moving, rear reflectors are frequently also mandatory. Since a moving bicycle makes little noise, some countries insist that bicycles have a warning bell for use when approaching pedestrians, equestrians, and other cyclists, though sometimes a car horn can be used when a 12 volt battery is available.
Some countries require child and/or adult cyclists to wear helmets, as this may protect riders from head trauma. Countries which require adult cyclists to wear helmets include Spain, New Zealand and Australia. Mandatory helmet wearing is one of the most controversial topics in the cycling world, with proponents arguing that it reduces head injuries and thus is an acceptable requirement, while opponents argue that by making cycling seem more dangerous and cumbersome, it reduces cyclist numbers on the streets, creating an overall negative health effect (fewer people cycling for their own health, and the remaining cyclists being more exposed through a reversed safety in numbers effect).
Bicycles are popular targets for theft, due to their value and ease of resale. The number of bicycles stolen annually is difficult to quantify as a large number of crimes are not reported. Around 50% of the participants in the Montreal International Journal of Sustainable Transportation survey were subjected to a bicycle theft in their lifetime as active cyclists. Most bicycles have serial numbers that can be recorded to verify identity in case of theft.
The worlds longest bicycle was created by Santos and University of South Australia. It measures at 41.42 m (135 ft 10.7 in) long.
Coaster brakes were invented in the 1890s.
Okay, fine, so maybe there are a few bikes without serial numbers, but this is rare and typical only on hand made bikes or really old bicycles.
BMX, an abbreviation for bicycle motocross or bike motocross, is a cycle sport performed on BMX bikes, either in competitive BMX racing or freestyle BMX, or else in general on- or off-road recreation. BMX began when young cyclists appropriated motocross tracks for fun, racing and stunts, eventually evolving specialized BMX bikes and competitions.Bicycle-sharing system
A bicycle-sharing system, public bicycle system, or bike-share scheme, is a service in which bicycles are made available for shared use to individuals on a short term basis for a price or free. Many bike share systems allow people to borrow a bike from a "dock" and return it at another dock belonging to the same system. Docks are special bike racks that lock the bike, and only release it by computer control. The user enters payment information, and the computer unlocks a bike. The user returns the bike by placing it in the dock, which locks it in place. Other systems are dockless. For many systems, smartphone mapping apps show nearby available bikes and open docks.Bicycle Thieves
Bicycle Thieves (Italian: Ladri di biciclette; sometimes known in the United States as The Bicycle Thief) is a 1948 Italian drama film directed by Vittorio De Sica. The film follows the story of a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle, without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family.
Adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, and starring Lamberto Maggiorani as the desperate father and Enzo Staiola as his plucky young son, Bicycle Thieves is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Italian neorealism.
It received an Academy Honorary Award (most outstanding foreign language film) in 1950 and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine's poll of filmmakers and critics; fifty years later the same poll ranked it sixth among the greatest-ever films.
It is also one of the top ten among the British Film Institute's list of films you should see by the age of 14.Bicycle wheel
A bicycle wheel is a wheel, most commonly a wire wheel, designed for a bicycle. A pair is often called a wheelset, especially in the context of ready built "off the shelf" performance-oriented wheels.
Bicycle wheels are typically designed to fit into the frame and fork via dropouts, and hold bicycle tires.Cycle sport
Cycle sport is competitive physical activity using bicycles. There are several categories of bicycle racing including road bicycle racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, mountain bike racing, track cycling, BMX, and cycle speedway. Non-racing cycling sports include artistic cycling, cycle polo, freestyle BMX and mountain bike trials. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) is the world governing body for cycling and international competitive cycling events. The International Human Powered Vehicle Association is the governing body for human-powered vehicles that imposes far fewer restrictions on their design than does the UCI. The UltraMarathon Cycling Association is the governing body for many ultra-distance cycling races.
Bicycle racing is recognised as an Olympic sport. Bicycle races are popular all over the world, especially in Europe. The countries most devoted to bicycle racing include Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Other countries with international standing include Australia, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom and the United States.Cycling
Cycling, also called biking or bicycling, is the use of bicycles for transport, recreation, exercise or sport. People engaged in cycling are referred to as "cyclists", "bikers", or less commonly, as "bicyclists". Apart from two-wheeled bicycles, "cycling" also includes the riding of unicycles, tricycles, quadracycles, recumbent and similar human-powered vehicles (HPVs).
Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number approximately one billion worldwide. They are the principal means of transportation in many parts of the world.
Cycling is widely regarded as a very effective and efficient mode of transportation optimal for short to moderate distances.
Bicycles provide numerous benefits in comparison with motor vehicles, including the sustained physical exercise involved in cycling, easier parking, increased maneuverability, and access to roads, bike paths and rural trails. Cycling also offers a reduced consumption of fossil fuels, less air or noise pollution, and much reduced traffic congestion. These lead to less financial cost to the user as well as to society at large (negligible damage to roads, less road area required).By fitting bicycle racks on the front of buses, transit agencies can significantly increase the areas they can serve.Among the disadvantages of cycling are the requirement of bicycles (excepting tricycles or quadracycles) to be balanced by the rider in order to remain upright, the reduced protection in crashes in comparison to motor vehicles, often longer travel time (except in densely populated areas), vulnerability to weather conditions, difficulty in transporting passengers, and the fact that a basic level of fitness is required for cycling moderate to long distances.Cycling infrastructure
Cycling infrastructure refers to all infrastructure which may be used by cyclists. This includes the same network of roads and streets used by motorists, except those roads from which cyclists have been banned (e.g., many freeways/motorways), plus additional bikeways that are not available to motor vehicles, such as bike paths, bike lanes, cycle tracks and, where permitted, sidewalks, plus amenities like bike racks for parking and specialized traffic signs and signals. Cycling modal share is strongly associated with the size of local cycling infrastructure.
The manner in which the public road network is designed, built and managed can have a significant effect on the utility and safety of cycling. The cycling network may be able to provide the users with direct, convenient routes minimizing unnecessary delay and effort in reaching their destinations. Settlements with a dense road network of interconnected streets tend to be viable utility cycling environments.Cycling team
A cycling team is a group of cyclists who join a team or are acquired and train together to compete in bicycle races whether amateur or professional – and the supporting personnel. Cycling teams are most important in road bicycle racing, which is a team sport, but collaboration between team members is also important in track cycling and cyclo-cross.Electric bicycle
An electric bicycle also known as an e-bike is a bicycle with an integrated electric motor which can be used for propulsion. Many kinds of e-bikes are available worldwide, from e-bikes that only have a small motor to assist the rider's pedal-power (i.e., (pedelecs) to somewhat more powerful e-bikes which tend closer to moped-style functionality: all, however, retain the ability to be pedalled by the rider and are therefore not electric motorcycles.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do more than 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.Depending on local laws, many e-bikes (e.g., pedelecs) are legally classified as bicycles rather than mopeds or motorcycles. This exempts them from the more stringent laws regarding the certification and operation of more powerful two-wheelers which are often classed as electric motorcycles. E-bikes can also be defined separately and treated under distinct Electric bicycle laws.
E-bikes are the electric motor-powered versions of motorized bicycles, which have been in use since the late 19th century. Some bicycle-sharing systems use them.Freight bicycle
Freight bicycles, carrier cycles, freight tricycles, cargo bikes, box bikes, or cycletrucks are human powered vehicles designed and constructed specifically for transporting loads. Vehicle designs include a cargo area consisting of an open or enclosed box, a flat platform, or a wire basket, usually mounted over one or both wheels, low behind the front wheel, or between parallel wheels at either the front or rear of the vehicle. The frame and drivetrain must be constructed to handle loads larger than those on an ordinary bicycle.History of the bicycle
Vehicles for human transport that have two wheels and require balancing by the rider date back to the early 19th century. The first means of transport making use of two wheels arranged consecutively, and thus the archetype of the bicycle, was the German draisine dating back to 1817. The term bicycle was coined in France in the 1860s, and the descriptive title "penny farthing", used to describe an "Ordinary Bicycle", is a 19th-century term.Law of triviality
Parkinson's law of triviality is C. Northcote Parkinson's 1957 argument that members of an organization give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Parkinson provides the example of a fictional committee whose job was to approve the plans for a nuclear power plant spending the majority of its time on discussions about relatively minor but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike shed, while neglecting the proposed design of the plant itself, which is far more important and a far more difficult and complex task.
The law has been applied to software development and other activities. The terms bicycle-shed effect, bike-shed effect, and bike-shedding were coined as a metaphor to illuminate the law of triviality; it was popularised in the Berkeley Software Distribution community by the Danish software developer Poul-Henning Kamp in 1999 and has spread from there to the whole software industry.List of bicycle brands and manufacturing companies
This page lists notable bicycle brands and manufacturing companies past and present. This article relates to pedal cycles. tricycles and power assisted cycles but does not include Motorcycles. For bicycle parts, see List of bicycle part manufacturing companies.
Many bicycle brands do not manufacture their own product, but rather import and re-brand bikes manufactured by others (e.g., Nishiki), sometimes designing the bike, specifying the equipment, and providing quality control. There are also brands that have, at different times, been manufacturers as well as re-branders: a company with manufacturing capability may market models made by other (overseas) factories, while simultaneously manufacturing bicycles in-house, for example, high-end models.Only brands or manufacturers that are notable as a bicycle brand should be included. If no page exists for the company or brand, then the page to be linked to should be created first or a reference provided as to its notability or the entry will probably be removed.Motorcycle
A motorcycle, often called a bike, motorbike, or cycle, is a two- or three-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycle design varies greatly to suit a range of different purposes: long distance travel, commuting, cruising, sport including racing, and off-road riding. Motorcycling is riding a motorcycle and related social activity such as joining a motorcycle club and attending motorcycle rallies.
In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first series production motorcycle, and the first to be called a motorcycle. In 2014, the three top motorcycle producers globally by volume were Honda, Yamaha (both from Japan), and Hero MotoCorp (India).In developing countries, motorcycles are considered utilitarian due to lower prices and greater fuel economy. Of all the motorcycles in the world, 58% are in the Asia-Pacific and Southern and Eastern Asia regions, excluding car-centric Japan.
According to the US Department of Transportation the number of fatalities per vehicle mile traveled was 37 times higher for motorcycles than for cars.Mountain bike
A mountain bike or mountain bicycle (abbreviated MTB) is a bicycle designed for off-road cycling. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bicycles, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain. These typically include a front or full suspension, large knobby tires, more durable wheels, more powerful brakes, straight handlebars, and lower gear ratios for climbing steep grades.Mountain bikes are generally specialized for use on mountain trails, single track, fire roads, and other unpaved surfaces, although perhaps the majority of them are never used off pavement, and it is common to find hybrid road bikes based on "mountain bike" frames for sale. This type of terrain commonly has rocks, roots, loose dirt, and steep grades. Many trails have additional TTFs (Technical Trail Features) such as log piles, log rides, rock gardens, skinnies, gap jumps, and wall-rides. Mountain bikes are built to handle these types of terrain and features. The heavy-duty construction combined with stronger rims and wider tires has also made this style of bicycle popular with urban riders and couriers who must navigate through potholes and over curbs.Since the development of the sport in the 1970s, many new subtypes of mountain biking have developed, such as cross-country (XC), all-day endurance, freeride, downhill, and a variety of track and slalom types. Each of these place different demands on the bike, requiring different designs for optimal performance. MTB development has led to an increase in suspension travel, now often up to 8 inches (200 mm), and gearing up to 27 speeds, to facilitate both climbing and rapid descents. Advancements in gearing have also led to a "1x" (pronounced "one-by") trend, simplifying the gearing to one chainring in the front and a cassette at the rear, typically with 9 to 12 sprockets.
The expressions "all terrain bicycle", "all terrain bike", and the acronym "ATB" are used as synonyms for "mountain bike", but some authors consider them passé.Penny-farthing
The penny-farthing, also known as a high wheel, high wheeler and ordinary, was the first machine to be called a "bicycle". It was popular in the 1870s and 1880s, with its large front wheel providing high speeds (owing to it travelling a large distance for every rotation of the legs) and comfort (the large wheel provides greater shock absorption). It became obsolete from the late 1880s with the development of modern bicycles, which provided similar speed amplification via chain-driven gear trains and comfort through pneumatic tyres, and were marketed in comparison to penny-farthings as "safety bicycles" due to the reduced danger of falling and the reduced height to fall from.The name came from the British penny and farthing coins, one much larger than the other, so that the side view resembles a penny leading a farthing. Although the name "penny-farthing" is now the most common, it was probably not used until the machines were nearly outdated; the first recorded print reference is from 1891 in Bicycling News. For most of their reign, they were simply known as "bicycles". In the late 1890s, the name "ordinary" began to be used, to distinguish them from the emerging safety bicycles; this term and "hi-wheel" (and variants) are preferred by many modern enthusiasts.Following the popularity of the boneshaker, Eugène Meyer, a Frenchman, invented the high-wheeler bicycle design in 1869 and fashioned the wire-spoke tension wheel. Around 1870 English inventor James Starley, described as the father of the bicycle industry, and others, began producing bicycles based on the French boneshaker but with front wheels of increasing size, because larger front wheels, up to 5 feet (1.52 m) in diameter, enabled higher speeds on bicycles limited to direct drive. In 1878, Albert Pope began manufacturing the Columbia bicycle outside Boston, starting their two-decade heyday in America.Although the trend was short-lived, the penny-farthing became a symbol of the late Victorian era. Its popularity also coincided with the birth of cycling as a sport.Road bicycle racing
Road bicycle racing is the cycle sport discipline of road cycling, held on paved roads. Road racing is the most popular professional form of bicycle racing, in terms of numbers of competitors, events and spectators. The two most common competition formats are mass start events, where riders start simultaneously (though sometimes with a handicap) and race to set finish point; and time trials, where individual riders or teams race a course alone against the clock. Stage races or "tours" take multiple days, and consist of several mass-start or time-trial stages ridden consecutively.
Professional racing has been most popular in Western Europe, centered historically on France, Spain, Italy and the Low Countries. Since the mid-1980s the sport has diversified with professional races now held on all continents of the globe. Semi-professional and amateur races are also held in many countries. The sport is governed by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). As well as the UCI's annual World Championships for men and women, the biggest event is the Tour de France, a three-week race that can attract over 500,000 roadside supporters a day.Trek Bicycle Corporation
Trek Bicycle Corporation is a bicycle and cycling product manufacturer and distributor under brand names Trek, Electra Bicycle Company, Gary Fisher, Bontrager, Diamant Bikes, Villiger Bikes and, until 2008, LeMond Racing Cycles and Klein. With its headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, Trek bicycles are marketed through 1,700 dealers across North America, subsidiaries in Europe and Asia as well as distributors in 90 countries worldwide. 99% of Trek bicycles are manufactured outside the United States, in countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan and China.Wire wheel
Wire wheels, wire-spoked wheels, tension-spoked wheels, or "suspension" wheels are wheels whose rims connect to their hubs by wire spokes. Although these wires are generally stiffer than a typical wire rope, they function mechanically the same as tensioned flexible wires, keeping the rim true while supporting applied loads. The term suspension wheel should not be confused with vehicle suspension.Wire wheels are used on most bicycles and are still used on many motorcycles. They were invented by aeronautical engineer George Cayley in 1808. Although Cayley first proposed wire wheels, he did not apply for a patent. The first patent for wire wheels was issued to Theodore Jones of London, England on October 11, 1826. Eugène Meyer of Paris, France was the first person to receive, in 1869, a patent for wire wheels on bicycles.Bicycle wheels were not strong enough for cars until the development of tangentially spoked wheels. They rapidly became well established in the bicycle and motor tricycle world but were not common on cars until around 1907. This was encouraged by the Rudge-Whitworth patented detachable and interchangeable wheels designed by John Pugh. These wheels owed their resistance to braking and accelerative stresses to their two inner rows of tangential spokes. An outer row of radial spokes gave lateral strength against cornering stresses. These wheels were deeply dished so that steering pivot pins might lie as near as possible to the center-line of the tires. Their second feature was that they were easily detachable being mounted on splined false hubs.
A process of assembling wire wheels is described as wheelbuilding.
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