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The Humble Bike: Serving Us Well Into The Future

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Published on February 15th, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie


The Humble Bike: Serving Us Well Into The Future


Humble Bike: Vintage Bicycles

The bicycle has been one of the mainstays of transportation for decades. The first chain-driven bike is credited as being invented in the year 1885. Since its invention the humble bicycle has caused a social revolution and given people access to cheap transportation and healthier lifestyles.

For over a century this mechanical marvel has perhaps been the greatest facilitator of personal freedom with its accessibility and relatively low-cost. So successful was the early design, that very little has changed. Though the materials are better, and the invention of gears has given the bicycle the capability to travel where they’re are no roads, the basic frame, seat and chain-driven wheels have endured.

The Woman’s Liberator

The bicycle was one of the contributing factors in the emancipation of women. Two-wheeled transportation enabled woman to free themselves from domestic drudgery and visit their friends and familial relations. Purged of their dependence upon their husbands, married women could independently form groups and reunite around causes.

Suffragettes Cycle to Meeting

Perhaps the most famous example being the suffragette movement. It was no coincidence that the women’s vote came shortly after the mass production of the bicycle.

The People’s Liberator

Mankind’s two-wheeled friend has been one of the core reasons why the financially less well-off could thrive in what would otherwise be a much harsher existence. Not only has the bicycle become a people transporter, it is also regularly used to transport food, water, firewood and children. However, what is often forgotten is how central the bicycle is to people’s livelihood.

Ice Cream Bike

Pass by markets and the chances are that you come across sellers that have delivered their wares via bicycles. From fruit to farmhouse eggs, fish to fridge-cooled hot dogs, bikes are our mechanical best friend.

Unusual Bike Designs

Nowadays people are very familiar with bicycles but here are some more unusual bicycle designs:

The Tandem
Despite the fact that many people have seen tandems, they are still quite a rarity on the streets. The person who steers a tandem is known as a captain, while the person drawing up the rear is known as the stoker.

Tandem Bicycle

The Triple Tandem
The triple tandem is much more exotic than a tandem and very few people will have seen one. For a family of three they are ideal.

Triple Tandem

Long, Long Multi Tandems

Why stop there though we you can can carry five (quint) or ten people.

Opel Quint Tandem Bicycle

Ten Person Tandem

The Bike Trailer

One of the problems with bicycles in comparison to cars is their lack of carrying capacity. However, bicycle trailers overcome this drawback. Now people can carry virtually the same amount of cargo as a typical car boot, if not more. Some more keener cycle advocates even move furniture and pianos on their bike trailers.

Heavy Duty Bicycle Trailer

The Recumbent
Though virtually unheard of in many countries, the recumbent is a much more comfortable type of bicycle. Instead of having the gears below you, a recumbent user sits back and pedals with his or her feet up.

Recumbent Bicycle

The seat is more comfortable than a regular bicycle. And because of the low position of the seat – they are more aerodynamic in windy conditions than regular bikes. Although in wet climates, rain does have a tendency to gather on the seat.

Bicycles with Rain Prevention
Besides the drawback of carrying capacity, which, as we have seen can be overcome with a trailer, one of the most obvious downsides of cycling is the lack of protection afforded from the elements. Rain can be problematic. But there is a solution. The bike canopy.

The Velomobile
For those who prefer to be more protected from the forces of nature, a velomobile is a great option. A velomobile is a bike, often in a three-wheeled format, with a fully enclosed waterproof shell surrounding the cyclist. The shell gives the cyclist maximum weather protection.

Velomobiles are also much faster than normal bicycles with a top speed recorded at 133 km/hr (83 mph) on a flat road. To give you an idea of how aerodynamically efficient these bikes are – 150 watts of pedaling effort (a very modest amount) will give you a speed of 25 km per hour (16 mph) on a normal bike while the same effort can give up to 60 kph on a specialised velomobile.


However, as these vehicles are quite rare, they are also very expensive. Some models, with their high-cost components, are nearly the same price as a small car. This is mainly because they are not mass-produced.

The Bike Caravan

Finally, they are cyclists who like to keep their homes close at hand!

How to change Gears Properly

On multiple geared bikes, ones that incorporate de-railleurs, incorrectly changing gears can often cause the chain to come off. Here is a straightforward guide to correct gear changes.

Bike Main Chainset

For day-to-day cycling the front gears, called the chainset, should be selected to the middle cog. All of the back gears can then be used. If you come across a steep incline and your lowest rear cog isn’t enough (the biggest cog) then you can select the lowest gear in the front (the smallest cog).

Please note that if you are using the lowest front gear you should never select any gear other than the lowest gear (largest cog) in the rear gears.

Rear Bicycle Cogs And Derailleur

If you want to go as fast as possible. You can select the highest gear in the front (largest cog). However, you should only use the highest gear (smallest cog) on the rear gears when using the highest gear in the front (largest cog).

Following these tips should minimise the amount of times that the chain falls off.

Mountain Biking Tips

Mountain bikes are perhaps the most popular form of bikes. Their many gears, tough frame and beefy tyres are well-suited for rough terrain and demanding rides. Here are some tips that should ensure maximum off-road effectiveness:

When descending slopes, the cyclist should have her or his feet flat, parallel to the ground – minimising the chances of the undergrowth catching on the pedals. Her posture should be relaxed, standing on the horizontal pedals, while her knees should be bent. The body should be backwards with the arms relaxed.

Downhill Bike Riding Connor Dawson

For jumping over obstacles such as logs or small rocks the following techniques should be employed.
Slow down when coming to the obstacle but don’t stop. The obstacle should be approached straight on, not at an oblique angle. Just before the obstacle the rider should push down on the handlebars hard while then immediately lifting the handlebars upwards as the front suspension recoils.

Using this technique clears obstacles easily and safely.

The Correct Set Up

For comfortable cycling it is very important to have the seat in the correct position. When the pedal is at the lowest point in the cycle your leg should be almost straight with a slight bend. But your toes should never feel overextended.

Similarly the length of the cranks (the levers that the pedals are attached to) is very important. Fit specialist Steve McGrath of Zinn Cycles maintains that the length of the crank should be 21 – 21.6 per cent the length of your inside leg. Therefore, tall people should have longer cranks than shorter people.

Bicycle Crank Photo By Andrew Dressel

The length is also important as pain and knee problems can result from using cranks that are too long.

Highly Recommended Get The Book Through Amazon

Check out Yellow Magpie’s Graeme Obree: The Turbulent Flying Scotsman

It’s All About The Bike: The Pursuit Of Happiness On Two Wheels is a highly recommended book that gives a good account of the powerful allure of the bicycle and the value of exercise.

You can obtain It’s All About The Bike here from Amazon.

For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom you can access It’s All About The Bike here.

For those living in Canada you can obtain It’s All About The Bike from here.

For Germany: It’s All About The Bike.

For France: It’s All About The Bike.

About the Author

3 Responses to The Humble Bike: Serving Us Well Into The Future

  1. Pingback: Graeme Obree: The Turbulent Flying Scotsman

  2. Pingback: Lithium Batteries: The Ideal Choice For Electric Bicycles

  3. Thanks for using my picture aha. 3rd last one.

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