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Exhibitions > 1885

 

The Bicycle Boom and the Rover Safety Bicycle

The dangers associated with riding the Penny-Farthing bicycle challenged inventors to create new and improved bicycle models. In 1876, the engineer Harry John Lawson invented the first "safety bicycle." This model had two wheels that were almost identical in height, and which enabled the rider's legs to touch the ground. The frame was made of iron tubing, the seat was located at the center of the bicycle, and it was equipped with a chain-driven rear wheel.

The transmission of power to the back wheel by means of pedals had previously only been used in tricycles. This technology allowed for a return to models featuring two similarly-sized wheels, and quickly came to compete with high-wheel bicycles. The commercial success of the Safety Bicycle, however, only began in 1885, with the appearance of John Kemp's Rover model, which enabled people of all ages to use bicycles as a means of transportation. The development of pneumatic tires by the Scottish veterinarian John Dunlop significantly improved the operation of bicycles, leading to the "Bicycle Boom" of the 1890s. The basic design of these bicycles is still in use today.

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