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Exhibitions > 1865

The Velocipede

The Velocipede was invented in Paris by Pierre and Ernest Michaux, and was the first bike equipped with pedals attached to the front wheel. Its form resembled that of the bicycles familiar to us today, and it is considered to be the first modern bicycle. This was the first model to actually be called a "bicycle" (a two-wheeler).

Earlier models of "riding machines" inflicted much wear and tear on the rider's clothes and on his shoes, which served as brakes - a problem that was mitigated by the invention of pedals. The handbrake added to bicycles at a later stage served to resolve this problem. Riders nicknamed the Velocipede "bone shaker," since it was made of iron and was equipped with wooden wheels and iron "tires." It was thus extremely heavy, and riding it was far from comfortable, especially on difficult roads. The weight of the iron wheels was also responsible for the velocipede's high price. In the United States, the Velocipede initially cost $125, at a time when workers earned approximately 25 cents per hour. In the late nineteenth century, six months of labor were required to save the money for a single bicycle. The price was later reduced significantly, down to $7.

Despite its obvious defaults, the Velocipede was a success both in Europe and in the United States. The French factory manufactured an average of 35 bicycles a day. As an article in the magazine Orchestra stated at the time, these bicycles were "models of perfection, but they cost as much as a horse." The International Velocipede and Loco-machine Exhibition, which took place at the Crystal Palace in 1869, featured more than 200 different models of bicycles made in Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United states.


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