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.
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.
I found that I needed to replace my factory bearings at 5 years of all weather commuting on my Catrike speed. I opted for a set of 4 cartridge bearings, rather than using the teflon bushings for the upper bearings. A great place to get these is Utah Trikes, who know exactly the size that is needed for Catrike bearings. The teflon bushings were made available to eliminate shimmy problems that certain models of Catrikes were having at certain speeds. I just never had the shimmy problem, so decided to keep the ball bearing type cartridge bearings. These are available from Utah Trikes for $10 each, for a total of $40.
To replace the headset bearings, you loosen and remove the top cap bolt and top cap, and loosen the handlebar clamp. When that is removed the steerer tube (the tube inside the head tube) can drop out of the head tube, so keep a grip on it to guide it out. Remove the top bearing, then remove the steerer tube from the head tube. You don’t have to disconnect the tie rod in order to remove the steerer tube from the head tube. When the steerer tube is free of the head tube, remove and replace the bottom bearings. Put the steerer tube back in the head tube, and replace the top bearing. Put the bearings in oriented the same way as they were when you removed them.
To cinch the bearings together on the steerer tube, put the handlebar on the top of the steerer tube, but don’t tighten the bolts. Put the top cap and top cap bolt on the steerer tube, and begin tightening. The top bolt engages a star nut inside the steerer tube to tighten up the assembly. At first there will be a lot of play in the steering tube in the head tube, but as the top cap nut is tightened, there will be less and less play. The top cap bolt will be “tight” when there is no “tick of play” and the bearings still allow the steerer tube to turn freely. When that point is reached, tighten the handlebar bolts. Its really the handlebar bolts that hold the steerer tube in place at the proper tightness. Check to be sure there is no “tick of play” in the bearings. If any play develops in the steerer tube, loosen the handlebar bolts, tighten the top cap bolt, and then tighten the handlebar bolts.
Once the handlebar is secured, you can remove the top cap bolt if need be to install or remove the front fenders on a Catrike.
Thomas Traylor’s 1982 design patent for a front wheel drive two wheeled recumbent, very similar in design to a Cruzbike Silvio. Considering Maria Parker’s new 12 hour record, set on a Cruzbike, maybe Traylor was ahead of his time!
Here is a rear suspension bike from 1891 which used springs in a tube to give some give to the rear wheel.
James Starley’s Rover of 1885 was the first successful bike in which pedals and a crank drove the rear wheel with a chain, but he was not the first with that design. In 1879 Englishman Harry Lawson designed and patented a version of a large front wheeled bike with a smaller rear wheel driven by cranks and a chain. Lawson’s bike was not very well received, and he went on to design bikes using levers for power transmission. The Bicyclette was a commercial failure, but he had hit upon a superior design feature.
This artwork of the Bicyclette is a version featured on cigarette cards. This and other bicycle art is found at bicyclegifts.com. Framed versions of these beautiful cigarette cards, posters , cards, and other bicycle art recognize that brilliant design is art.
Here is another candidate for the first rear suspension bicycle design, from 1891. Its modern counterpart is shown below.
Here is a very early version of front suspension on a bike. In this patent from 1891 there is a spring in the headset, and the fork assembly can move back and forth to absorb road shock.
This was not the first recumbent bike, but it is certainly an early one. I have no information that this was ever built, but it sure was ahead of its time. It is very similar to long wheel base recumbents on the road today.
The crank is such a simple device that one could assume it is as ancient as the wheel. The function of the crank was performed in the ancient world by handspikes which would be inserted in holes to move a capstan, and moved periodically to new holes around the cylinder of the capstan.
In about the first century AD cranks were used on Roman medical devices, but it was not until 850 AD that proof of a crank in Europe is found, in a picture of a man sharpening a sword on a grindstone turned by a crank. Other references show the crank in use in certain regions by about 1100 AD, and use in a variety of tools in Europe was widespread by 1600 AD. Of course, the Chinese had used the crank since 100 BC.
The Frenchmen Pierre and Ernest Michaux added cranks and pedals to the existing form of the bicycle, by adding them to the front wheel in 1861. Some people believe that this modification of the Dandy Horse makes the Michaux brothers the inventor of the bicycle. However, the version made by John Starling was much closer to the modern version of the bicycle, and most people credit him with the invention of the modern form of the bicycle. Other contenders for earliest bicycle invention include Kirkpatrick MacMillan in 1839.
The Michaux brothers partner was Pierre Lallement, who may also have been the original inventor or collaborator in the crank powered bicycle. Lallement immigrated to the U.S. and got a patent on his crank powered bicycle, which was the first U.S. patent on a bicycle, in 1866.