A bicycle is a two-wheeled device that can be steered by the rider, who stands on the seat and pushes on the pedals. Millions of people worldwide use bicycles for fun, exercise and transportation, as well as for sport (called cycling).
Bicycles have a frame with handlebars for steering, a seat and two pedals. The cranks (arms) are connected to the back wheel by a chain, and when the rider presses on the pedals, the back wheel turns, moving the bicycle forward. The bicycle is a great way to get around, and it is also a work of mechanical art.
The first modern bicycles appeared in the 19th century. The inventor, German-born Karl Drais (1785-1851) created a wooden prototype called a draisine in 1817. In France, blacksmiths made metal versions of the draisine with a front wheel up to 60 inches (152.4 cm) in diameter. They were known as boneshakers because of their harsh ride.
In the 1860s, James Starley of Coventry improved the design of the French bicycle with the use of tangent spokes and a larger front wheel. This improved the ride and allowed for faster speeds. During this time the bicycle became popular in America, and a large number of small manufacturers started operations to meet demand. Inventors experimented with different methods of transmitting power from the rider’s legs to the bicycle, but none could match the efficiency and cost of the chain drive.
Inventors also worked to improve the comfort of bicycles by adding ball bearings and a solid rubber tire. Those improvements, combined with the chain drive, led to the development of the modern bicycle as we know it today.
In recent decades, the popularity of bicycles has surged in many countries, especially in developing nations. This has been largely due to their effectiveness as a means of both transportation and recreation. A bicycle can travel much farther than a human can walk or run in the same amount of time, and it requires less energy to operate than a motor vehicle. In addition, a bicycle provides an excellent form of exercise, which strengthens muscles and increases cardiovascular fitness.
If a news story mentions a bicycle, it is usually in the context of a negative event or act. For example, if a person is caught dropping litter or stealing a bike, the reporter will probably make sure to include a picture of the offending bicycle in the article. This is done to imply that the bicycle was somehow responsible for the crime.
A bicycle is the most popular mode of mechanized transport in the world. In China, the country’s largest manufacturer of bicycles is called Flying Pigeon, and a bicycle in the home is considered an indicator of prosperity. Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who launched economic reforms in the 1970s, once claimed that a bicycle in every household is one of the keys to economic success. However, there is a downside to bicycles: they are not environmentally friendly and can lead to health problems such as obesity and muscle injuries.