The bicycle is one of the most popular means of transportation in the world. And its history has been eventful, to say the least! From the invention of the first bicycles, to the technological innovations of the last few years which have allowed the multiplication of the types of bicycles and the styles of practice which are linked to them, here is a small overview of the history of the bicycle, and its numerous evolutions...
The first wheels turns
The first bicycle models were invented in the early 19th century, but they didn't really start to be used until the end of that century. The first bicycle-like machines were called draisiennes, and essentially consisted of a wooden frame that you could ride on and use your leg strength to move forward.
However, in the 1860's modern bicycles similar to those we know today in their operation, began to be developed. First there was the "velocipede", which was a two-wheeled bicycle with fixed pedals on the front wheel, and then in 1885 the "safety bicycle", which was a two-wheeled bicycle with pedals on a chain that powered the rear wheel. This model was considered much safer and easier to use than the previous models, and paved the way for bicycle mechanics as we still know them today.
An efficient and populr way of transport
As the bicycle became functional and efficient, it became increasingly popular and began to be used for activities such as sports, recreation and even transportation.
In the 1900s, cycling became an Olympic sport and began to be used for professional races, such as the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy, which greatly increased its popularity, and encouraged the world to ride a bicycle in everyday life. At the beginning of the 20th century, the bicycle truly became a major mode of transportation, even the main means of travel for the working classes, especially in the cities. It was at this time that the first shops dedicated entirely to bicycles appeared in towns and villages. In 1915, Louis Quilicot opened the first Bicycles Quilicot store at the corner of Rachel and De Lanaudière streets, before moving to Dorchester Street. Shortly after the store opened, Louis Quilicot even created the first cycling club in Canada, the Quilicot Club.
Bicycles and the rise of the automobile industry
The rise of the automobile in the aftermath of the Second World War nevertheless led to a decline in the use of the bicycle as a primary means of transportation. Urban infrastructures and economic policies mainly favoring the car as a means of transport, the bicycle becomes more the prerogative of the youngest who are not old enough to drive, but also more and more a leisure instrument, used in particular on vacations, taking advantage of the development of tourism and the leisure society from the 1950s/60s. But bicycles are still very much in evidence on the streets for small daily trips.
From a technical point of view, the bicycle has known during this time many evolutions and innovations. If the geometry of the machine has not really changed since the beginning of the XXth century, the transmission systems have been perfected, with the appearance of multiple chainrings and sprockets, allowing to have more possibilities of gears on its mount. Towards the end of the 20th century, the development of new activities such as mountain biking led to the adaptation of disc brakes from the automobile world to the bicycle world. Similarly, professional competitions stimulated the search for performance, which led to the introduction of new technologies such as aluminum and carbon fiber frames or automatic pedals (which were adapted from the world of skiing).
A constant popularity revival
Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, the bicycle began to become a real means of transportation again, and new people began to be introduced to the world of cycling.
The explosion of a new sport, mountain biking, was one of the factors that helped bring in these new markets. Designed to be used on rough terrain and offering a more rugged riding experience than traditional bikes, they are creating interest in the world of cycling from new categories of people, looking for thrills in nature. The emergence of ecological and sustainable development issues has also curbed pro-automobile public policies, and has re-launched initiatives to promote the use of bicycles as a means of transportation.
The development of hybrid bikes, the appearance of fixies in big cities, but especially in recent years the rise of the electrically assisted bike, have been one of the biggest developments in the world of cycling. With this, the bicycle has truly regained its place in the heart of our cities. Equipped with an electric motor that helps the rider pedal, electric bikes are particularly useful for city trips and daily commutes, as they make getting around faster and easier. They also reach new people by making everyday cycling more accessible despite older age or health problems. The craze for electric bikes is such that in the 2010s no less than 30 million models are sold each year in the world! And this figure should increase considerably in the 2020s. There is no doubt that the electric bike is THE symbol of the future of cycling.
The world of cycling has also become more and more diversified. Within the major bicycle families, such as road and mountain bikes, and even hybrid bikes used in everyday life, there is now a wide variety of models, each designed to meet the specific needs of cyclists. In addition, bikes have also been adapted to meet the needs of people with different physical abilities to enjoy the freedom and mobility that cycling offers.
A bicentennial means of transportation... but more than ever of the future!
Overall, the history of the bicycle is a story of innovation and evolution. Over the years, the bicycle has evolved into an efficient means of transportation, a competitive sport, and a source of recreation and physical well-being. Today, the electric-assist bicycle offers an environmentally friendly alternative for daily commuting, while the variety of models available allows everyone to find a bike that suits their needs.
At almost 200 years old, the bike has a great future ahead of it! It's no wonder that Bicycles Quilicot blew out 100 birthday candles in 2015, and that we remain very ambitious for the future, with our heads full of great projects. With a growing interest and increasingly favorable policies, we are more than happy to accompany the growth of cycling in Quebec and around the world and to offer you our service in our 7 stores and on our website.
Cycling is more than just a mode of transportation or a recreational activity. Cycling is a way to connect with nature and the community, promote an active and healthy lifestyle, and contribute to a more sustainable future. Whether you are an avid cyclist or just an occasional user, cycling is a healthy and responsible lifestyle choice!
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