A bicycle is a two-wheeled human-powered land vehicle that gets people from Point A to Point B. It is also known as a pedal cycle, bike, or simply a bicycle. People ride them for fun, fitness, transport, and many other reasons. Some of them compete in races or other cycling events. Others use them to commute, deliver mail or packages, or get to work. Most modern bicycles are made from steel or aluminum alloys. Some are designed with suspension systems to help riders absorb bumps in the road. They can have one or two brakes, depending on the type of bicycle. Some have a chair-like seat that some riders find more comfortable than a saddle, especially for those with back, neck, or shoulder pain.
The modern bicycle evolved from a wooden device invented in 1817 by German Karl Drais. Drais’s two-wheeled device had a wooden frame, and it was called a draisine or Laufmaschine in Germany. French manufacturers began to make all-metal versions of the bicycle, called velocipedes, in the 1860s. These early all-metal velocipedes were also known as boneshakers because they had solid iron wheels with no tires, which gave them an extremely rough ride, particularly on country roads.
When the safer, more comfortable safety model of the bicycle came onto the market in the 1890s, its popularity contributed to rural modernization. This was because townsfolk used their bicycles to visit and explore the countryside, stimulating infrastructural improvements along popular routes, including cafes, inns, and information points. The more comfortable and safe bicycles also lowered the barriers to women’s participation in leisure activities, such as cycling, while also allowing older men to continue to enjoy their favourite pastime.
By the turn of the twentieth century, cycling had become a cultural icon in the Western world. For cycling associations, which sprung up across Europe and North America, the bicycle was a symbol of personal freedom, but it was also a vehicle of social responsibility and moral discipline. The proper attire, posture and pace of a cyclist was a matter of public concern. Cycling was an art that could be mastered in riding schools, and the correct appearance was a means of distinguishing members of society as reasonable and law-abiding citizens.
In the 21st century, bicycles are used by millions of people for a variety of purposes. In the United States, for example, the number of people riding bikes increased steadily from the 1950s to the 1980s, when it levelled off. In recent years, bicycle sales have risen slightly, but the trend is slowing. This is partly because of the rise of electric bicycles, which use an electric motor to help the rider move the bike forward. The emergence of these vehicles, along with a growing interest in cycling as a sport and form of exercise, has led to an increase in competitions such as the Tour de France and the Olympic Games.