Each day on a bicycle tour, I can’t wait to throw my leg over the top tube, sit on the saddle and pedal my bicycle. Once astride Condor, every cell in my body charges ahead in a coordinated effort to move this stunningly simple machine forward. So, where did the bicycle originate? Who invented the bicycle?
(Condor in full load capacity, about 70 pounds of gear, 10 pounds of water, 185 pounds of rider.)
In 1790, a Frenchmen Comte Mede de Sivrac invented an early bicycle called a celerifere. It had no steering and no pedals but the celerifere did look somewhat like a bicycle. It featured a seat and four wheels. A rider powered it forward by using his-her feet for a walking/running push-off and then glide on the celerifere.
German Baron, Karl Drais von Sauerbronn invented an improved two-wheeled version of the celerifere, called the laufmaschine, a German word for "running machine". The steerable laufmaschine, constructed with wood, featured no pedals; a rider pushed his/her feet against the ground to make the machine go forward. Drais exhibited his machine in Paris on April 6, 1818.
Historians said that Pierre and Ernest Michaux, the French father and son team of carriage-makers, invented the first bicycle during the 1860s. Historians disagree since there is evidence that the bicycle and bicycle-like vehicles are older than that. Historians do agree that Ernest Michaux invented a bicycle with a pedal and rotary cranks in 1861.
However, they disagree if Michaux made the very first bike with pedals.
The Penny Farthing also known as the "High Wheeler" with one huge wheel and a smaller trailing behind, made its debut in 1871 by British engineer, James Starley. The Penny Farthing came after the development of the French "Velocipede", and other versions of early bikes. However, the Penny Farthing became the first really efficient bicycle.
The first safety bicycle
In 1885, British inventor John Kemp Starley designed the first "safety bicycle" with a steerable front wheel, two equally-sized wheels and a chain drive to the rear wheel.
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure at heart.” - Iris Murdoch
As with all inventions, the bicycle moved through a series of bumps and grinds until it became the finely tuned machine of the 21st century. Today, I run Condor through three chain rings of 24 Granny, 38 and 50 on the front derailleur. I run 7 speeds with a rear derailleur at 11 to 34 for the Granny. I use the 24 Granny front chain ring to a 34 rear free wheel for maximum spinning and power for mountain grade inclines. I run on two 26 inch tandem Sun rims with pneumatic 1.75 Schwalbe Marathon Touring Plus tires, Phil Wood sealed bearing hubs and 40 spoke wheels to keep them true in foreign countries where I cannot afford to see my spokes blow out. I ride with drop bars and Aero bars for comfort.
Condor’s shifters remain on the down tube where I also carry four water bottles on the down and seat tubes. I carry an air pump right alongside the water bottles on the down tube. I run a front rack with top shelf for my sleeping bag and rear Blackburn racks. A rear kickstand keeps Condor balanced while I load him each morning if no fence or wall keeps him upright. I carry fenders on both wheels. Also, I feature a blinking red back light and front “Led” light that blinks or throws a huge glow to let people know I am on the road. However, I rarely travel at night. I use the lights and blinkers during rainy times. Additionally, I carry a compass with bell on the front handlebars. I have found the most comfortable seat in a Serfas Hybrid from www.REI.com I love that seat that anatomically cradles my butt in comfort. Forty years ago, I suffered numbness, pain and discomfort from the early saddles without a groove or any fit to my butt whatsoever.
In 2013, Condor hit 23 years and 70,000 miles. He still looks great because I polish him and keep him well oiled at all times. Before my custom-made Condor by the Franklin Frame Company www.FranklinFrame.com , I ran one mountain bike into the ground and two other skinny touring bikes where the frames broke. Condor features a chom-moly steel frame. He weighs about 28 pounds. You might call him the Hummer of bicycle frames. Tough, strong, enduring!
I carry four panniers, one internal frame backpack and a daypack.
Also, a small handlebar bag carries my cameras, video, spoon, lip balm, sunscreen, Swiss Army Knife and reading glasses. Off my left handlebars, I sport a rear view mirror to keep an eye on everything coming up behind me. When I see danger, I exit the road when two big trucks pass each other with me as the extra guy on the road. I never argue with trucks or cars that out-speed and out-weigh me by many tons.
On the back of my bike, I feature a vertical 8 foot fiberglass three color flag system of orange, lime-green and white and 20 inch orange-white flags flapping out to the traffic side to make sure folks don’t skim me. The flags catch everyone’s attention from 100 yards away whether they text, yell at their kids or change channels on the radio. So far, so good.
Part 11 features meeting up with two of the funniest men I have ever met while they toured coast to coast across America. You say the Irish can be funny? Gerry and Dave turned out to be funnier than Robin Williams and George Carlin put together. I woke up laughing in my sleep.
Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents - from the Arctic to the South Pole - as well as eight times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. In 2012, he bicycled coast to coast across America. In 2013, he bicycled 2,500 miles, climbed 150,000 vertical feet and five states from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide with 19 pass crossings. He presents “The Coming Population Crisis facing America: what to do about it.”
www.frostywooldridge.com . His latest book is: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, copies at 1 888 280 7715/ Motivational program: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, click: www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com
Live well, laugh often, celebrate daily and enjoy the ride,
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
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