Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
About four years ago, we did a Q&A with Josh Matthew of Power Meter City, an online business specializing in Power Meters. That story was titled Why Use a Power Meter? It’s still a helpful primer for anyone considering adding a power meter to their bike. Here’s a link in case that’s you: Why Use a Power Meter? And, here’s the PowerMeterCity e-store: https://powermetercity.com/.
That article is how I was introduced to Power Meter City. So I was surprised to open an email from them the other day containing nothing related to training devices – but something entirely unrelated.
Bikes Through History
What was in their message is what I think is an impressive historic bicycle morph. They created it and gave us permission to share it. They attribute the images to the following sources: Timetoast, Smithsonian, The Online Bicycle Museum, The Powerhouse, V.O.F. Yesterdays, Velocipede Gallery, National Clustered Spires High Wheel Race, Science Museum Group, Bicycling, The Cabe, Ray Dobbins Bicycle Photo Gallery, and Yamaha Bicycles.
Here’s the show. See how many bicycles you can identify – or just go for the approximate date they appeared – and then look at the timeline below to see how you did.
- 1790 – Celerifere
- 1817 – Draisienne or Laufmaschine
- 1818 – Johnson’s Ladies Walking Machine
- 1820 – Reproduction of Draisienne
- 1866 – Serpentine Velocipede
- 1869 – Michaux Velocipede/Boneshaker
- 1871 – Penny Farthing (AKA Ordinary, Highwheeler)
- 1879 – Lawson Bicyclette
- 1885 – Starley Rover
- 1942 – B.S.A. Folding Bicycle
- 1960 – Schwinn Panther III
- 1988 – Schwinn Paramount – 50th Anniversary Limited Edition
- 2008 – Yamaha PAS (Power Assist System) Brace Electric Bike
A Few Thoughts
When you watch the bikes change, notice that by the 9th one shown, the Starley Rover, we already had something that closely resembles what we ride today. And that was 1885. So you could argue that not much has changed in the basic design of mainstream bicycles in 137 years.
Some folks don’t consider bicycles bicycles until they had steering and a drive mechanism. That would knock the first four bikes from this animation. And, while the fifth bike, the Michaux Boneshaker has its fans, there are other bike historians that argue that it was one of Michaux’s workers, Pierre Lallement who actually first put pedals on a bicycle – and first patented the invention in the United States, too. It’s a fascinating controversy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Lallement.
The tenth bike, the 1942 B.S.A. (Birmingham Small Arms Company) is best known as the Paratrooper. These bikes were folded and strapped to the backpack of soldiers who parachuted and then pedaled to where they were needed in World War II. They must have made lots of them because I’ve seen many examples. Here’s a pretty good history with some great photos: https://bsamuseum.wordpress.com/1942-1945-bsa-airborne-bicycle-para-bike/.
Lastly, I’m not sure an ebike quite fits the theme of the animation, and especially as the newest or highest-tech bike. Electric two-wheel vehicles appeared about the same time as electric cars, which was about 1895. Instead, I would like to have seen a recumbent bicycle, maybe the Avatar that hit the road in about 1979 and was significantly different than standard bicycles: http://avatar2000.com/~avatartw/. Recumbents deserve respect, too, because they’re the only type of bike some riders can use.
If the point of the ebike being the last one shown was for bikes to morph into something even more, then I’d have gone with one of pedal powered helicopters, like the Atlas. It’s amazing what’s possible with pedal power.
I’d be interested to hear what historic bikes you’d add.
10,263 Daily Rides in a Row
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.