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Vintage Bicycle Ride

We continue to celebrate "The Ways We Move" today with a look at bicycles! The style of bicycle we know and used today was first produced by John Kemp Starley in 1885 and known as the Safety Bicycle. Bikes were used as a common type of transportation to visit neighbors, go to work, make small deliveries and for recreation, much like today. Enjoy watching Gail as she rides a historic rotary tricycle around our Village Green today. .

A Bit of Bicycle History
Bicycles became popular in Ohio during the late nineteenth century. On a good surface, a rider in good physical condition could average a speed of 17 to 18 mph. Young people especially enjoyed the freedom a bike gave them and they created many bicycle clubs where people could enjoy this common interest.

For many people, bicycles were for recreational use. Bikes were also used as a common type of transportation to visit neighbors, go to work, or make small deliveries. For city dwellers who did not own an automobile, the bicycle allowed them to escape in the countryside. Both urban and rural cycle enthusiasts could explore the wider world often in the company of friends.

Some Americans believed that the bicycle, since nearly everyone could use one, would eventually replace horses since they were less expensive than horses, did not require daily care or maintenance, and did not “dirty” the roadways. As roads improved, they provided a comfortable ride. Some historians suggest that complaints from bicyclists helped prompt state and local governments to improve roadways.

Wooden Bicycle Rims and Wheels for Pneumatic Tires
Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, bicycles were equipped with wood rimmed wheels. These rims were light, strong, resilient and usable with air-inflated or pneumatic tires. In the early 1900s, metal rims replaced wood rims due to the increase popularity of rim style brakes. On the wood rims brakes bit into the rim and destroyed the edge of wooden rims. Track racing continued to use wooden rims into the 1940s until outlawed for competition due to their tendency to shatter and split when damaged in a race. Metal rims were safer since they collapsed ad folded as once piece in an accident.

The Safety Bicycle
John Kemp Starley produced the first Safety Bicycle in 1885 and is the style of bicycle we know and use today. Considerably safer than the high-wheeler, the safety bike allowed the rider’s feet to always touch the ground which made a fall much less dangerous. Most accidents were limited to torn trousers and skinned knees and palms.

The Safety Bicycle was the first such vehicle that was practical and affordable for the common person. It quickly became a standard means of transportation in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Propelled by a chain running between two sprockets, the larger front sprocket at the pedals allowed the rear wheel to rotate faster than the rider pedaled.

Early models of the Safety Bicycle had a wooden frame and hard rubber tires. Later models were made of tubular steel and had inflatable, pneumatic rubber tires that gave them a smoother and more comfortable ride.

Down on the Farm
Hands-on History
Explore the Outdoors
In the Kitchen
What Is It?
People from the Past