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The Origins of the Bicycle – Part 2

Several designs began to spring out of Pierre Lallement’s new creation, naturally some failed and some succeeded. A number of these designs reworked the pedal system of the vehicle, instead using connecting rods to attach the pedals to the rear wheel, the best known example being that of Thomas McCall’s which was created in 1969. He was a Scotsman who was born in Penpont and later moved to Kilmarnock and there has been claims that his designs were in fact not his own by none other than James Johnston. Yes, Johnston claimed that these designs were in fact originally made by Kirkpatrick MacMillan earlier in 1939. Despite this claim McCall created two separate versions of the velocipede, one of which (his first model) can still be seen today in Dumfries Observatory.

Mass Production

A huge step in bringing the bicycle into every day life wasn’t just a new design but also the means of production, and in 1868 the vehicle would take its biggest steps yet in achieving this. It was three wealthy brothers, René, Aimé and Marius Olivier, better known simply as the Olivier Brothers, who first saw the potential in the bicycle, having used one to travel from Paris to Avignon and taking only taking eight days to do so. They formed a partnership with a French mining engineer named Georges de la Bouglise and Pierre Michaux, another man who has a claim in that of inventor of the first pedal powered bicycle, this partnership was named ‘Michaux et Cie’. Together these men began mass producing Michaux’s design save for one change, instead of the wooden frame which was at this time standard, a cast iron frame was used. It wasn’t long until Aimé enlisted the help of a mechanic named Gabert in Lyon to further improve the design creating a single piece frame made from wrought iron, making them both stronger and easier to construct. These bold moves would begin the worlds first bicycle craze as more blacksmiths began concentrating on bikes, mass producing them all over the Western world.

Over the newly paved boulevards and avenues of Paris riders experienced a fairly smooth ride however not everywhere had this luxury, it wasn’t long until the velocipede began to be known more commonly as a ‘Bone Shaker’ overseas. The design was essentially a streamlined carriage, the solid wheels in particular would ensure that you’d feel ever cobble you come across long after your ride. It was time for improvement, something to soften the rickety ride that had become synonymous with the product. The blows would be cushioned by the instalment of solid rubber tyres on each wheel and the friction of the wheel would be decreased thanks to the addition of ball bearings. With a smoother ride at the ready it was time to find a way to improve the speed, this meant something of a change in the design of the velocipede, a design that would go on to become one of the most iconic bikes in history.