Graeme Obree has dedicated his cycling career to making the cycling position as aerodynamic as possible. Rather than lying further and further back, like fast recumbents do, he went the other way and moved more and more horizontal with his head at the front. Prone, in other words. His latest attempt has been a fully prone and fully faired racer, which he planned to race at the Battle Mountain speed contests.
He is not the first to try the prone position, as shown in this 1907 prone bicycle design. This looks like it hurts to ride it, but its not so different in concept from Obree’s prone racer.
Charles Mochet of France first set out to build a four wheel bicycle, because his wife (just a tad overprotective, are we?) thought that bikes of the day (the 1930s) were way too dangerous for her precious baby boy. So Charles made a little 4 wheeled car that his son could not fall off of. However, he found that the little car was very fast, and son George was leaving the other kids on their bikes in the dust. That observation started Charles on his next project. The first was to make more pedal cars, and there was a mini craze over pedal cars.
From the childs pedal car, Mochet went on to improve a recumbent bike design to a world speed record setting form.
Inventor Charles Mochet designed a recumbent bicycle, and in 1933 the design was compete enough that he thought it was ready to enter a race against professional cyclists, in the home of professional cycling, France. His rider was Francois Faure, who was not a top cyclist of the day. Riding against professional cyclists, Faure set a new world record that day for distance covered in one hour. The old record was 44.247 km, and the new record set that day was 45.055 km. Later races on recumbents in the same year raised the record to 49.99, and that was set by a 43 year old.
The international governing body of bicycle racing, the same one that had earlier banned metal rims and derailluers, decided within a year that the recumbents should not compete against “real” bikes. They also revoked the records set by the recumbents the previous year. Their ban has stood for 70 years, and essentially remains in place. Don’t they realize that with a recumbent, a French cyclist might be able to beat Lance Armstrong? More recumbent related items at Bent Rider Online, Bent Stuff, and Mochet Velocar Racing, and http://www.wisil.recumbents.com/wisil/. Photo from Mochet Velocar Racing, with all the sites listed above maintained by Warren Beauchamp.
An earlier recumbent was patented in 1902.
August Schrader immigrated from Hanover, Germany, to New York in 1843. Within a few years he started a small company making brass fittings for the rubber industry, which had been started only a few years before.
In l890, pnuematic tires were in use on the bicycle racing circuit, and soon bikes with pnuematic tires began winning the races. A tire manufacturer asked Schrader to design a better air valve than the one they were using, and Schrader did so. Schrader and his son George applied for a patent on their design in 1893, and made many improvements over the years. Every car today uses Schrader valves to keep the air in the tire, whether tube or tubeless tires. Most bicycles today use Schrader valves, with certain tubes using an alternative valve, the Presta valve. The Schrader valves used today are very similar to the 1893 version.
Which was invented first, the bicycle or the tricycle? That depends on what you count as the first bicycle, and the first tricycle. If you say the Lallament version was a bicycle, it was patented before the tricycle below. If you count the John Starley Rover as the first bike, then the tricycle was first. If you count the Cugnot steam vehicle as a tricycle, it was before Lallament. Here is a very early tricycle, which looks very similar to Lallament’s bicycle, but inclues a verion that is in the tricycle format.
Twist grip speed control started with the first motorcycle, a steam powered oddity made by Sylvester Roper in 1869. His motorcycle was controlled by a twist grip throttle. The twist grip for control of bicycle derailleurs was first popularized in the 1960s by the Sturmey-Archer company, famous for their internally geared hub shifters. Other makers followed with their own twist shifters, a notable one being the 1990 the Campagnolo twist-grip shifter below.
Here is one method of front suspension for a bicycle that came out in 1889! This was patented by J. S. Copeland. When the front wheel hits a bump, it can travel up in relation to the frame. It also has a cool spoon brake, which was the norm before caliper brakes were invented.
It is the same idea as shown in the Softride shock absorber stem above, which is also a parallelogram with a strong spring, to cushion some shock from hard bumps. But in the Softride version, the wheel doesn’t travel up, the handlebars travel down. My friend Kurt inUtah really likes his Softride stem, and has used it for years.
Here is a nifty front end suspension for a bicycle, from 1889. In this design, when the front wheel hits a bump the front wheel and handlebars move up in relation to the frame. Thus the rider is not really protected from shock, it seems to me. Am I seeing how this works incorrectly?
A strong rival to derailluers for gear changing on bicycle was the Sturmey Archer three speed hub. The SA Hub had internal gears, which were selected using a lever on the handle bars. They are reliable, sturdy, and trouble free.
The Sturmey Archer hub was designed in 1902 by a schoolmaster, Henry Sturmey, and an engineer, James Archer. Both of these men had designed earlier internally geared hubs, and were brought together by Frank Bowden, inventor of the Bowden cable in 1894, and owner of Raleigh Bicycles. Raleigh favored use of Sturmy Archer hubs, which left the French to develop and popularize the derailleur. The story of the development of the derailleur is told in the wonderful book “The Dancing Chain”, by Frank Berto and Daniel Rebour.
Tony Hadland has written a book on the Sturmey Archer Story that has the complete history of SA Hubs. As usual, Sheldon Brown of Harris Cyclery has detailed information about Sturmey Archer hubs, the various models, and repairing them.
Around the turn of the century there were a number of bicycle designs which did not use chains, but instead had a drive shaft with bevel gears. This bicycle is from 1891 and uses four bevel gears and a drive shaft for propulsion. This idea was later taken to motorcycles, such as the BMW shaft drive motorcycle some 50 years later.