The velocipede was a human powered vehicle and the precursor to the modern day bicycle. A two-wheeled variation powered by the rider pushing off with his/her feet was popular in Europe in the late 1810s. These devices were handy, but could not be ridden down hills because they relied on the riders legs for breaking (no pun intended). While the hobby was in its infancy there was much room for innovation and imagination.


A version of a velocipede below was used by railroad workers to inspect tracks (thanks Kansas State Historical Society).


In the 1860s, P. Lallement invented an upgrade with pedals attached to the front wheel, called a boneshakers, which was all the rage in France, and patented in the US in 1866. This type of device required the user to sit atop a saddle, which was an improvement for comfort, but the pedaling system was more cumbersome and slower than by modern standards.

In an evolutionary arms race, the front tire on the velocipede was enlarged to allow the rider to move at a faster pace. These bikes look laughable now, but were the bees knees for the end of the 1800s. Just imagine the skill and craftsmanship required to build a 5 ft. high rim, and the agility needed to climb aboard the thing.

to be continued…


4 responses to “velocipede

  1. Thanks for the interesting history of the bike

  2. Terminal Velocipede

    What were thee tyres made of? A wood of the deciduous variety?

    • that is a great question. I’m not sure, but probably a local variety that could be soaked and molded into wheels. can I refer you to a book–> Bicycle: The History
      By David V. Herlihy The answer is surely in there.

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