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 pretty well developed full suspension bike patented in 1890, a year before McGlinchey’s full suspension velocipede, and 32 years before telescoping forks of Sage. As far as I know, Becker is the first inventor of the full suspension bicycle
Here is a rear suspension bike from 1891 which used springs in a tube to give some give to the rear wheel.
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 front suspension seems to be the precursor to early springer motorcycle forks. The beefy springs allowed the front wheel and forks to move upward and absorb some road shocks.
Those old bike designers tried a lot of ways to cushion the ride of the safety bike on the rough roads found at the end of the 19th century. Here is a different way to employ springs on the front forks to cushion the ride.
This appears to be a front suspension bike, patented in 1891. The seat and cranks are attached solidly to the rear wheel, but if the front wheel hit a bump it would be allowed to raise up against the spring located near the crank. Interesting. Many other early suspension designs are in the Bicycle Technology section of the Patent Pending blog. In the top version of this bike, steering is by handles by the saddle, which is connected to the front wheel by cables. There is no traditional handlebar. I think the inventor was trying to allow the rider to sit upright and not have to lean forward to steer the front wheel. That might really relieve some back strain.
Here is a good way to have multiple speeds on a bike without using a derailleur. This bike has two gears on either side of the front sprocket, and a driveshaft for each of them. One driveshaft would be disengaged while the other was engaged. the driveshafts engage bevel gears on the rear wheel. This might be a little heavy, but should work just fine.
Other driveshaft drives were patented in 1897 with a transmission and a gear shift knob and in 1891 with a single drive shaft. Alexander Pope also patented a driveshaft bike.
Here is an interesting and early (1890) front suspension bike, using a spring in the fork assembly to soften the rough roads of the day.