Bicycles are used in a variety of ways, including transportation, bicycle commuting, and for recreational cycling. They are also widely used by military personnel for reconnaissance, troop movement, and supply of provisions.
The word “bike” is derived from the Latin velocipede, meaning a horse-drawn carriage with pedals. However, historians disagree about the date of bicycle invention. Leonardo da Vinci is often credited with sketching a bicycle in 1492, but it was later discovered to be a forgery.
Regardless of the origin, the bicycle became a popular transportation and recreation device in Europe during the 19th century. It quickly became a symbol of women’s independence, and many women were encouraged to become cyclists to support their cause.
Modern bikes have a standardized design, with an upright seating position and a diamond frame. The bicycle’s front wheel, or crank, is connected directly to the bicycle’s chain and drives a pedal that rotates around the rear wheel, which is connected to a drivetrain via a gear set.
Early bicycles were designed for speed and handling on rough roads, so they were heavy and expensive. They were slowed by reverse pressure on the pedals or by lever-operated spoon brakes; severe braking or back-pedaling could pitch the rider forward.
In the 1880s, the invention of the pneumatic tire sped up bicycle development. These tires, which have little rolling resistance, made bicycles more comfortable and allowed them to handle rougher roads. The pneumatic tire also enabled the development of a front wheel with tension spoking, a feature that greatly increased the bicycle’s speed and stability on poor roads.
Other key features of a modern bicycle include a front fork that connects to the bicycle’s chain and a rear suspension fork that absorbs vibrations from the wheels. Some models have a saddle for the rider’s comfort.
Groupset, a term used to describe the components that make up a bike, includes the bicycle’s frame, fork, stem, and wheels. Some groupsetters may also include pedals, a handlebar, seat, headset, crankset and other parts.
Handlebars come in three basic styles, each with their own characteristic feel and function: Upright, which curve gently back toward the rider; drop, which “drop” as they curve forward; and aerodynamic “crouched,” or flat sections for increasingly upright positions. Upright handles offer a natural grip and an upright riding posture; drop bars “drop” as they curve forward, enabling the rider to hold a braking posture.
Some models of bicycles use a single, fixed gear for pedaling; others have multiple gears and ranges of speeds to match different terrains. The number and type of gears can be altered using a shifter, which allows the cyclist to alter the amount of effort needed for a given distance.
If you are new to bicycling, it’s best to start with a beginner’s model. These generally have lighter frames and lower weights, a narrower range of gears, and wider tires to absorb less bumpy terrain.
Eventually, most people move on to a bike with a better fit and more comfortable ride. Some types of bikes, such as mountain bikes, feature reclined seats that provide a more comfortable sitting position for the rider.