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Screen capture of Victorian era gentleman riding a 'hobby horse.'
Screen capture of Victorian era gentleman riding a 'hobby horse.'

How We Got the Bicycle

In 1937, British Pathé collected together the predecessors of the modern 'safety' bike to show filmgoers the evolution of the bicycle from the wooden hobby horse to the penny farthing. I thought readers would enjoy this nearly 80-year old clip.

Quick quiz: How many bicycles are there in the world?

Answer: As of 2010, six years ago, it was estimated at 1 billion. That's about the same as the estimated size of the global motor vehicle fleet - cars and trucks - on the road. So, in terms of sheer numbers, bike owners should have as much political clout as car owners. Oddly, they don't, especially since it was the bicycle that made the automobile possible in the first place.

But enough with the soapbox. My friend and colleague, Graham Hill came across this delightful British Pathé film from 1937 showing the evolution of the bicycle from the wooden hobby horse of Victorian England to the peculiarly perilous penny farthing. The producers pulled these museum pieces out from their dusty displays, dressed some actors in period costume, and let them show how they worked way back when. I thought it worth sharing given the fact that the very first 'automobile' was an electric-powered tricycle, a curious confluence that would reappear 135 years later in the form of the modern electric-assist bicycle.

Addendum

This video, produced in Britain just after World War Two, shows how a 'good English' bicycle is made. Fascinating if you've not seen the process. Presumably, robotics and technology have cleaned up the process some since then.

Posted By: Bill Moore [04-Jan-2016]

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