from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
28-inch men's touring bike,
here: lugged diamond frame
with double top tube
Ramon Casas i Pere Romeu en un tàndem , painting by Ramon Casas i Carbó from 1897

A bicycle , or wheel for short , in Switzerland Velo (from French le vélo , short form for vélocipède 'Schnellfuß' ; Latin velox 'fast' and pes 'foot' ), is an at least two-wheeled, usually single-track, land vehicle that can only be driven by muscle power befindlicher on it persons by stepping of pedals is driven or winches. When the steering wheel is deflected, the caster creates a torque which is counteracted as a restoring torque . This means that the rolling vehicle automatically steers back to (almost) the straight-ahead position. The gyroscopic forces also stabilize the bike while riding, depending on the moment of inertia and the speed. In addition, other factors such as the mass distribution have an influence on the driving stability of single-lane vehicles (see also: Driving physics (bicycle) ).

A unicycle has only one impeller, over which all tilting directions must be balanced. The tandem bike is a special form that allows two or more people to take their own seat and use their own muscle power. Special forms such as tricycles for children or senior citizens and three-wheel recumbent bicycles have three wheels and are three-lane. Bicycle rickshaws (such as bicycle taxis ) can be either three-wheeled or four-wheeled ( two-lane ). Another special form are experimental bicycles, which have a large number of balance bikes or other muscle-powered drive forms.

There are specific legal regulations in each country for using a bicycle on public roads (see bicycle traffic ).


The word bicycle was introduced by the German cycling clubs in 1885 as the German equivalent of the English name bicycle ( English from French : le vélocipède bicycle = "the two-wheeled velocipede"). In everyday language usage, the new expression increasingly appeared alongside the established term velocipede, which was borrowed from French . In the end, it was able to prevail when, during the Weimar Republic, French was increasingly rejected as the language of the nobility. The words cyclists (colloquially: cyclists) and cycling also come from German cycling associations. By the mid-1920s, the term bicycle had been used more to refer to motorcycles , and their motor was often called the bicycle motor .

Regional names are Fietse in Low German (similar to "Fiets" in Dutch) and Leeze in the special language Masematte in parts of the Münsterland . In some German dialects, the bicycle is referred to as a variation of the velocipede , such as in the Solinger Platt Flitzepie or in the Sauerland Flitzepääd . German-speaking Switzerland kept the abbreviation Velo as the abbreviation vélocipède to this day. In Bavaria and Austria it is usually called “Radl” for short.

Common joke names for bicycles are bicycle and steel horse .

International days of action or remembrance

On the last Friday of each month, there is a worldwide demonstration in the form of Critical Mass bike tours (“ Critical Mass ”) for better cycling conditions. Special forms are the World Naked Bike Ride , in which people ride more or less unclothed, and now the Kidical Mass ("child mass"), in which primarily children and young people ride.

Every year on June 3, the “ World Bicycle ” proclaimed by the United Nations on April 12, 2018 as an official UN Day of Awareness of the Societal Benefits of Bicycle Use and, since 1998, the “ European Bicycle Day ” is celebrated.

The Ride of Silence ("Silent Bicycle Ride ") is held on the 3rd Wednesday of May each year , at which cyclists remember and commemorate their colleagues who have had an accident or who have died in traffic, in 2020 at almost 140 locations in seven countries worldwide ( As of May 18).


Muscle vehicles were already in use in the Middle Ages, mostly as little carts with foot-operated lackeys in manorial gardens. Carriages for the handicapped were an exception, of which the arm-moved car of the paraplegic watchmaker Stephan Farfler is the best known.


In 1817, the Baden forestry officer Karl Drais presented his single-track running machine (later called the Draisine ) as an alternative to the riding horse. During these years there were crop failures due to the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Tambora in April 1815, so that many horses had to be slaughtered for lack of feed.

His impeller was copied many times, but not further developed and finally forgotten and in some cases also banned because of the risk of collision with pedestrians. Later the first railways could cover greater distances. It was only in the course of high industrialization in the second half of the 19th century that walking machines emerged again, which were soon equipped with a pedal drive and developed into the bicycle we know today by the end of the century.

Pedal drive

Initially, the wheel sizes around 60 cm in diameter, which were taken over from the draisine, and which, thanks to gyroscopic forces, made balancing driving possible - with small steering corrections - even at low speeds with a relatively heavy construction.

In 1853, Philipp Moritz Fischer from Schweinfurt built the first safely occupied bicycle with a crank drive . The pedal was on the axle of the front wheel.

The pedal crank drive (1861), presumably used by the French Pierre Michaux and his compatriot Pierre Lallement (US patent from 1866), who emigrated to the USA, also worked directly on the axle of the front wheel of a trolley.

Penny farthing

Pedaling at an angle to the front creates steering forces and makes balancing difficult while driving. Because there was no stepping forward, which is necessary with the running machine, the sitting position could be moved further forward (and higher), so that the pedaling forces act more from above and the front wheel is turned less. In particular, this enabled higher speeds to be achieved because a greater distance was covered with one turn of the pedals. In doing so, it was accepted that the ground could no longer be reached with the tiptoe of the saddle, that one had to climb and descend using a footrest at the back of the frame. This enabled the diameter of the drive wheel to be increased two to three times (greater deployment ) and faster pedaling. The penny farthing was born.

Because the driver was sitting very high and far in front - i.e. only a little behind the front contact point - falls from braking or small obstacles on the ground were frequent and led to relatively serious injuries, including to the head. The high wheel, which was badly developed in terms of safety, was soon abandoned after the invention of the low wheel.


A Rover from 1886. It already has many of the design features of today's bicycles.

The English term safety bicycle for the later low bike reminds of the danger of falling when using a high bike . As a remedy against the risk of falling, two solutions were tried:

  • The American "Kangaroo" (1884) with a front wheel half the size and a high-speed drive consisting of pedals and paired chains mounted on both sides of the large wheel remained a curiosity.
  • The high-speed chain drive for the rear wheel with a pedal crank between the front and rear wheel, introduced at the same time (1879/1884), became the standard design for the pedal drive of the bicycle with the Rover II in 1885. The front wheel and the larger rear wheel ( French: "bicyclette"), which is much smaller than a penny- peg, approached the original wheel size of the draisine. The saddle was placed a little behind the center of the vehicle. By the end of the 1880s, the frame of the chain-operated low wheel was improved in statics and aesthetics to the diamond frame (from English "diamond" = rhombus ) that is still common today . As a result, other elements such as a lamp, mudguards, a bell and a luggage rack were added and became standard equipment for bicycles at the beginning of the 20th century.

In addition to the safety aspect, the triumph of the low wheel was also due to the fact that the low wheel was ultimately superior to the high wheel in terms of speed.

The early automobiles emerged from bicycle culture and technology of the 1880s to 1890s.

Use in the 20th century

Cycling map of 1920 with half the " fee-brand " the magistrate of the city of Celle , State of Prussia , the Police Directorate
Demonstration for the bicycle as an ecological means of transport (1990)
Overflowing bicycle parking lot at Göttingen train station
Rental bike

Because of its low price, the bicycle was the first mass-produced individual means of transport . In 1924, when the bicycle tax was reintroduced , there were 1.7 million bicycles in the Netherlands : one bicycle for every four inhabitants. In many other European countries, too, it became widespread in the first half of the 20th century, when it became affordable for workers who, as a result of industrialization and urbanization, used it to travel the increasingly long way to work. In 1936, for example, in German cities with over 100,000 inhabitants, between 43 and 61% of workers cycled to their workplaces. But the bicycle was also important for trips on vacation. In 1938 there were already over 10,000 km of cycle paths. In the interwar period, the bicycle became the most important means of individual transport in Europe; however, from the 1950s onwards it was increasingly replaced by the automobile.

By the 1960s, generalized prosperity had emerged in the industrialized world, with bicycles being replaced by motorcycles and eventually cars . In the poorer countries, the bicycle retained a similarly important role as it did in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, but even there it is increasingly being replaced by the car as the economy develops (for example in China ).

Only after the oil crises in the 1970s and growing ecological awareness did the bicycle regain greater importance in the industrialized countries of Europe - especially in urban transport  - and also public interest, which led to the improvement of the cycling infrastructure (e.g. the creation of cycle paths and bicycle parking spaces , Introduction of rental bike systems ) and increased the proportion of cyclists in the total traffic volume ( modal split ). Exemplary cities for this are Münster and Copenhagen , where the proportion of bicycle traffic is over 35%. This development is also due to the ever increasing car density, which has led to permanent traffic jams and parking problems in many cities since the 1980s, so that many destinations in cities can be reached more quickly by bike. The massive expansion of universities in the 1970s also led to a sharp increase in bicycle use in cities with mass universities, often with tens of thousands of students per university town, who move specifically to university and inner-city areas and appreciate short, bike-friendly routes. This trend has also been reflected in other young people since the 1990s, while in the previous decades there had been a flight from cities, especially of young families, to the suburbs and often very long journeys with a fixation on cars.

In the 21st century

A bicycle in Germany cost an average of 515 euros and around 600 to 650 Swiss francs in mid-2013. Around 1.65 million bicycles were produced in Germany in the first half of 2013, 2.4 percent fewer than in the same period of the previous year. Since many more bicycles are imported than exported, the number of bicycles sold in Germany is much higher. It was 4.3 million in 2019. Around 1.3 million of these are electric bikes. The trend towards electric bicycles increased steadily in the 21st century.

Importance as a means of transport

More than 50% of the distances covered in a city are less than five kilometers long, which means that they can easily be covered by bike. Public funding now also enables a combination of individual cycling and local public transport. Who does not want to go all the way or another daily commute has a leg can travel along with his bicycle in public transportation: especially in U- and S- or light rail , as well as buses. In some countries, bike racks are attached to buses ; in Germany, if permitted, it is common to take them with you in the vehicle. You can also park your bike in bike stations or bike parking garages at public transport stops. Public bicycles at bicycle rental stations are an offer in various cities to encourage use and to prevent theft.

There were already books about cycling trips at the end of the 19th century, but cycling tourism is only a consequence of the recently developing mass tourism, which is being promoted as an ecological holiday option through the creation of long-distance cycle paths and regional cycle route networks.

In 2010 the number of bicycles in Germany was around 69 million; Approx. 4 million new bicycles are sold annually. In recent years, there has been a partial shift towards bicycles with assisted electric drives ( pedelecs ).

Police electric bike in southern Lower Saxony

Bicycles are also used for business purposes. Areas of application for company bicycles are industry, deliverers , authorities ( police , medical services) and services (mobile services, e.g. care for the elderly). Other terms are: works bike, industrial bike, company bike.

In Germany, the local road traffic regulations are not binding for use exclusively on company premises. Safety measures are to be defined on site based on the risk identified ( Industrial Safety Ordinance (BetrSichV) § 3 Paragraph 3 in conjunction with Appendix 2). The intended mode of operation and the operational traffic route situation are essential factors. There can therefore be differences between road safety and operational safety (e.g. dispensability of lighting equipment).

The most ecological means of transport

The person driving moves on their own and does not need any other devices or fuels other than their own food. Most of the body weight is rolled and not carried - unlike, for example, when running.

The bicycle with pedal drive, chain and gearshift has an efficiency of 90 to 98 percent (1st gear / direct translation), the joint movement efficiency of humans is 84 percent. The required kinetic energy (0.6  joules per gram and kilometer) is not as low in any type of locomotion (humans or animals) as when cycling. The net efficiency of cycling is 20–28 percent (similar to running), swimming is 3–6 percent. The rolling resistance for normal cycling (15 km / h) is 61 percent, the air resistance is given as 16 percent.


Bicycles (excluding motorization) with a total value of around 7.8 billion euros were traded worldwide in 2018. China was the most important international export country in terms of export value, ahead of Taiwan and the Netherlands. Looking at the ten most important export countries, it becomes clear that the majority of bicycles traded across borders worldwide come from East Asia and EU countries.

Exports of bicycles by export value (2018)
# country Exports (in € million)
1 China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 2,781
2 TaiwanRepublic of China (Taiwan) Taiwan 1,265
3 NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 634
4th GermanyGermany Germany 518
5 CambodiaCambodia Cambodia 386
6th PortugalPortugal Portugal 256
7th ItalyItaly Italy 199
8th BelgiumBelgium Belgium 176
9 SpainSpain Spain 140
10 PolandPoland Poland 139


Types of bicycles

A detailed list can be found in the article Bicycle types .


Components and supplementary parts of a bicycle with a modified diamond frame (sloping frame)
Dimensions on the bike

The essential components of a bicycle include:

If necessary, the functionality is supplemented by the following components:

Prototype styled by Luigi Colani

The frame is comparable to the chassis of other types of vehicles. It carries the driver and connects all other components, fixed or movable, with one another. In the head tube, the fork and the stem with the handlebar are rotatably mounted against the frame via the headset . The seat tube carries the seat post with the saddle . The bottom bracket shell is usually the connection point between the seat tube, down tube and rear strut. The axles of the two wheels are clamped into the rear struts and the front fork. Between the chainring of the bottom bracket and the sprocket of the rear hub, a roller chain transmits the power from the cranks to the rear wheel. Brakes today are mostly rim brakes that are mounted on the front fork or on the upper rear strut. Depending on the type of bicycle, disc brakes are also widespread. The rear wheel used to have a coaster brake that worked by stepping back on the cranks. The coaster brake is now considered technically out of date and unsafe, hardly effective and in many cases difficult to adjust. The hub can overheat on long descents, which can lead to bearing damage from molten, leaking grease. Since the 1990s, suspension and damping elements for the front and rear wheels or on the seat post have been more common.

Modern bicycle technology allows repairs by the user less and less. Detailed knowledge and special tools are required to assemble many components. Since around 1990, practically all bicycles have been offered equipped with gears. Repairs to hub gears are almost impossible for laypeople, the adjustment of derailleur gears is no small matter in most cases. For a few years now there has been a renaissance of the single-speed bike , usually referred to as single speed . A large part of the otherwise required maintenance work is no longer necessary, but the majority of buyers still value a bike with as many gears as possible. The increasingly widespread spring elements require knowledgeable maintenance. Many parts on modern bicycles are now subject to far greater wear than a few decades ago, which requires regular inspection, as is the case with cars or motorcycles. Some gear hubs require annual oil changes , high-quality suspension forks require regular inspection.

Development history of the drive by the driver

1665: Stephan Farffler in his hand-drive muscle car ( hand bike )

Car propulsion by the muscle power of passengers

Wagons were originally pulled or pushed by draft animals or humans. Only in the 17th century does it seem that people-driven cars existed. They were mainly used for representation purposes (triumphal chariot). The paraplegic watchmaker Stephan Farfler is said to have built himself a three-wheeled vehicle at that time, on which he could move while sitting by driving it with hand cranks.

In the 18th century there were four-wheel carts in stately parks that were driven by the staff on pedals. These muscle cars required a lot of strength because of their large mass, so they did not catch on for general use. That only changed with the invention of the single-track impeller by Karl Drais . Due to the much smaller mass of the later bicycle and the restriction to the driver's own locomotion, his working capacity was sufficient for a relatively low-fatigue alternative to walking or running.

Two-wheel principle: The Drais balance bike

Impeller of Drais , drawing 1817
Replica from around 1820 with changes to the Drais invention. (Kurpfälzisches Museum Heidelberg)

The breakthrough to a vehicle for a driver that can drive himself came with the single-track impeller, which was invented in Mannheim in 1817 by Karl Drais from Karlsruhe (born baron and convinced democrat lost his title of nobility in 1849 ) . The two-wheeler principle with a steerable front wheel was an essential part of this invention. Drais called his wooden vehicle "walking machine" , but it was soon called " Draisine " in public . The driver sat between the wheels and pushed his feet on the ground.

According to a scientific theory, the impetus for the invention of the bicycle by Drais goes back to the lack of oats and the subsequent death of horses as a result of the eruption of the Tambora volcano and the year without summer 1816 that it triggered .

A prerequisite for the usability of the walking machine were roads with a sufficiently solid, leveled surface ( macadam ), which in the area of ​​the German Confederation only existed in the extreme southwest at that time.

As a result of the steerable front wheel, the rolling wheel can be kept in balance without the feet coming into contact with the ground. Drais also took advantage of the fact that the gyroscopic forces of the wheels stabilized the position of the two-wheeler. However, the driver first had to learn the unusual way of balancing in the interplay of walking and steering.

Shortly thereafter, the first, partly iron running bikes or velocipede were built in England , which earned the nickname hobby horse ( hobby horse ). In 1819 there were first races in Ipswich ; in Germany it was only reported from Munich in 1829 .

Today, the two-wheeler without pedal drive is enjoying new popularity as a children's balance bike. In the 2000s, all of the major children's bicycle manufacturers added children's balance bikes to their ranges.

Push rod drive

An intermediate stage to the later indirect drive via the wheels is the push rod drive in the Künzelsau push rod wheel from 1850. The driver pushed himself off the ground with two parallel side sticks. He used his feet to steer the front wheel while using a mechanism to move the push rods with his arms and hands.

Pedal crank drive on the front wheel

Michaux-Rad Vélocipède

The Michaux-Rad Vélocipède

The first indirect drive was with cranks on the front wheel. Its inventor is controversial: either Pierre Michaux or Pierre Lallement . While Lallement received a US patent for it in 1866, Michaux supposedly adopted the drive principle from the grindstone as early as 1861 . Michaux and the sons of the manufacturers, Olivier, marketed the crank wheel in France with ever increasing demand. In the rest of Europe it only attracted attention when Michaux promoted it at the 1867 World's Fair in Paris. The drive works via pedal cranks that are rigidly attached to the front wheel axle, which means that the distance covered during one revolution of the pedals is equal to the circumference of the front wheel.

Penny farthing. Photo from 1886

The penny farthing

In order to be able to drive higher speeds with the pedal cranks acting directly on the driven front wheel, this was increased. This is how the high wheel was created in 1870 . In many cities, high-speed cycling was immediately banned because of its possible high fall height; in Cologne it was still allowed until 1894.

Cycling up high required a lot of skill, especially when getting on and off. Due to the high center of gravity (the saddle was around 1.5 meters above the ground and just a little behind the front axle), high-level cyclists were in danger of rolling over when braking or on bumpy roads. Fatal head falls were not uncommon; the penny farthing was a dead end in the development of the bicycle and was not further developed.

McCall on his pole velocipede in 1869


A pedalo is a piece of play equipment that, because of the direct translation of muscle power to the axes and because of the lack of free-wheeling, only enables balancing and slow driving.

Rear wheel drive with crank rods

Rear-wheel drive was introduced for bicycles with "normal" sized wheels (Michaux type).

The first drives had rods that led from pedal cranks on the front wheel axle to rear wheel cranks. For stable three- and four-wheel wagons, such drives had been around since 1814, for example that of Franz Kurtz . A British grain merchant dated Thomas McCall's pole velocipede in a press campaign in the 1890s to 1839 and blamed it on a relative, the Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan. In Germany there were z. B. 1870 a patent from Johann Friedrich Trefz for the rod drive.

Rear-wheel drive with cranks between the two wheels

Chain drive to the rear wheel

Together with the chain drive , the arrangement of the pedal cranks between the two wheels was finally introduced. The principle of transmission for the bicycle drive was also adopted by means of differently sized sprockets on the crank and wheel axle . With one turn of the crank, the impeller could be turned several times, depending on the gear ratio. This innovation first led to the "Kangaroo", a moderate high-performance bike with chain drive on both sides on the front wheel. But it was not until the unilateral chain drive of the rear wheel, introduced in 1878, that it really caught on - the design was simpler and more stable, the bike was easier to ride due to the decoupling of drive and steering, and the seating position between the front and rear wheels ensured significantly safer handling.

Shaft for torque transmission on a bicycle, swinging rear wheel, no cardan joint

Cardan shaft drive to the rear wheel

The drive transmission from the pedal cranks between the two wheels to the rear wheel by means of a shaft is still used occasionally today. A bevel gear of a bevel gear is located at both ends of the shaft . This drive is commonly referred to as a cardan drive , although there are no cardan joints in it .

Toothed belt drive

Rear hub with toothed belt pinion. The dropout is slotted for tensioning the belt. To insert the belt, the connection between the dropout and seat stay is released.

Bicycles with toothed belt drives have been around since the early 1980s . The advantage of the light, clean, low-maintenance and quieter operation is offset by the sensitivity to foreign bodies and inaccurate alignment (alignment) of the front against the rear toothed belt pulley. Because the belt cannot be split like a chain, the rear section of the bicycle frame is opened for assembly (custom-made). There are no shifts with a change to other belt pulleys or pinions (similar to chain shifts) because of the large belt width and because the belt run must be aligned between the front and the rear. Hub gears or bottom bracket gears are used . A small-stage circuit, analogous to the chain circuit, was implemented with the help of an "expandable pinion" (several radially extendable rods, each with a small pinion at the outer end), but was not commercially available. A toothed belt drive is also a little more inefficient than a chain drive, sometimes up to 35% less efficient than a chain drive, which means only about 1% higher losses during normal cycling, assuming an average power of 100 watts.

The "safety bicycle"

First rover bike

The "safety bicycle" or "safety" (German: "Sicherheit") was so called because it was safer than the penny-pinchery due to the lower sitting position of the driver. In addition, it was faster and also more convenient than the penny farthing that had been established up until then. The name has been used since 1876, but bicycles of this design have been around since 1868. The most famous representative of this design was the "Rover" offered by John Kemp Starley since 1885.

After the sewing machine , the bicycle in this design became the second technical serial product.

Since 1884 the first usable ball bearings from the "Velociped cast steel ball factory" founded by Friedrich Fischer were available in Germany, which drastically reduced the frictional resistance in the hubs and bottom brackets.

The Ljungström brothers were very creative and typical inventors of the 19th century. They not only invented the type of turbine named after them, but also an early form of the bicycle. It already had the frame shape known today, but was driven completely differently. The brothers used piano wire and eccentrics instead of bicycle chains and rear sprockets. Your Svea free-wheeling bicycle was mass-produced from 1892 and was able to hold its own in the market for around ten years until the technical problems in the manufacture of bicycle chains were overcome. In the history of the bicycle, alternatives to chain drives have been invented and tested again and again - from cardan shafts to belt drives to highly complicated lever mechanisms. But none of these developments has been able to compete with the chain in the long term.

Development steps of some components of the bicycle

Diamond frame and steel tube

Diamond frame

The diamond frame appeared around 1880 , a truss construction made of a trapezoid for the main part and a double triangle for the rear structure ("diamond" is a wrong translation of the English diamond , which means diamond and roughly describes the shape of the frame). On some of today's bicycles, the top and bottom tubes touch the steering head at the same point, so that the trapezoid has also become a triangle here.

Before the diamond frame, the cross frame was common, with which the development of the low wheel began. It essentially consisted of a strut from the steering head to the rear axle (forked in the rear part) and a second, crossing strut from the saddle to the bottom bracket. With a diamond frame, the struts are almost only subjected to tension or compression and hardly any bending - therefore it is much more stable than a cross frame. Today the cross frame is used in full suspension bicycles.

Frame made of seamless drawn tubular steel

Opel bicycle, 1935

The frames of earlier bicycles were made of solid steel or hollow steel and were correspondingly heavy. In 1885 the Mannesmann brothers patented a process for producing seamless steel tubes . With this steel tube, which has been available since 1890, the frame material was finally found, which until recently dominated high-quality bicycle construction and is now partly replaced by aluminum and, in cycling, also by carbon fiber reinforced plastic (colloquially carbon). In mass production, however, the cheaper, longitudinally welded steel pipes were common.

The “Rover” made of tubular steel with a diamond frame became the prototype of the modern bicycle. In Polish, the bicycle is still called a “rower” today.

The highest quality drawn steel tubes for bicycle frames are manufactured by Columbus and Reynolds . They are called Columbus SLX or Reynolds 531 .

Ladies bikes

Ladies bike with gooseneck frame from the 1990s

A slightly different frame geometry is common for ladies' bikes. The top tube runs - instead of directly from the head tube horizontally to the upper end of the seat tube - here partially curved and parallel to the down tube down where it meets the seat tube above the bottom bracket. In the sportier versions it is not curved and connects roughly the middle of the seat tube with the head tube.

Such frames are in principle less stable. They are less rigid in the horizontal axis and less torsionally rigid overall.

Women's bikes were not developed for anatomical reasons, but to enable women who wear a skirt to get on and ride. It was not until around 1920 that the wearing of women's trousers began to become socially acceptable .


The bicycle saddle is the part of the bicycle that gives the rider support and enables him to sit in different positions while cycling. The shape depends on the intended use of the bike and on the physical characteristics of the rider. Bicycle saddle technology has changed significantly in recent years. In the early days of the bicycle, there were saddle models made entirely of wood or even metal. However, these were replaced early on by leather saddles, which were borrowed from the horse saddle. Plastic has been used increasingly since the early 1990s. Today, plastic saddles with padding and synthetic leather cover (PVC) are the most common design. The world market leader in bicycle saddles has been the Italian company Selle Royal since around 2000 .


"Emergency jacket" made of screw compression springs

In 1888 the Scottish veterinarian John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tire for the second time after Robert William Thomson , which for the first time enabled practicable cushioning and more reliable traction. Until then, bicycles were equipped with iron tires or, since 1865, with solid rubber tires.

The Michelin brothers invented the first removable pneumatic tire in France in 1890. The pneumatic tire initially met with great skepticism; the breakthrough came only with success in racing ( see also: bicycle valve , bicycle tires ). When there was a shortage of rubber during the First World War , “emergency coats” were developed as a retrofit kit and produced in series, with the wheel running on coil springs .

Freewheel and gearshift

Sprocket set and rear derailleur with long rocker arm on the rear wheel of an off-road bike

The freewheel , patented by AP Morrow in the United States in 1889, was initially very controversial among cyclists. The opponents of freewheeling in cycling had just as weighty arguments as its proponents. The dispute, which had been decided earlier in the USA, was only ended in Germany after 1900 with the successful market launch of the torpedo freewheel hub from Fichtel & Sachs with an integrated coaster brake .

In 1907 the first 2-speed gear hub was brought onto the German market by Fichtel & Sachs, based on a patent from Wanderer-Werke. It had a planetary gear and also a coaster brake.

In contrast to a derailleur , the hub gear is characterized by the low maintenance requirements and thus high suitability for everyday use. The disadvantage is the higher weight and the somewhat lower efficiency compared to a derailleur - with the exception of the direct gear, in which the power is transmitted without the use of a gearbox.

The derailleur system, which is very common today, comes from the Nieddu brothers. Its “Vittoria Margherita” circuit was driven in 1935 by Gino Bartali as the first professional. After the then well-known French “Super Champion” gearshift (1937), the first Campagnolo gearshift appeared in 1946 , which, unlike its predecessors, found worldwide distribution.

The hub gears have been continuously developed. There are newer developments u. a. from Shimano with the 8-speed Nexus gear hub or the slightly longer 9-speed gear hub from SRAM , as well as the Rohloff company with the 14-speed Speedhub 500/14 gear hub , in which there are three planetary gears in one hub . The 3- and 5-speed hubs still produced by SRAM are still very popular, especially for Dutch bikes . The flat topography of the Netherlands makes low gear ratios unnecessary.

The currently only bicycle hub with a continuously variable planetary gear is the NuVinci N360. Their weight is 2.5 kg, the translation bandwidth is 360%.

The bottom bracket gears should also be mentioned as exotic , for example the historical Mutaped bottom bracket gears. The bottom bracket 2-speed gears from the Swiss company Schlumpf can be combined with all hub gears.

Further development

The inventions made in connection with the bicycle pioneered the development of the motorcycle and the automobile around 1900, as well as the fight against driving bans by the authorities.

The further development of the bicycle was based on the concept of the Niederrad - only with variations in construction and materials. First, major advances were made in gears and brakes. Corresponding impulses came from the development of the mountain bike (MTB) in the USA. Since the 1990s, bicycles have increasingly been fitted with bicycle suspension. In the 1980s and 1990s in particular, there was a lot of experimentation with alternative designs, but these did not catch on. This is currently partially repeated in the field of mountain bikes, where new and unusual frame constructions can be seen again and again. In road, track and cross bike racing, however, the diamond frame remains the standard.

With the environmental movement , special forms such as tricycles , recumbents and velomobiles have been rediscovered and further developed since the 1980s , but are not supported by the bicycle trade as much as the forms commonly used in cycling . Such bikes were banned for this sport by the World Cycling Association UCI as early as the 1920s.

Hercules Cavallo

The Cavallo was developed with a view to promoting health and holistic exercise of the body . It is a type of bicycle that should realize a new concept with its drive . The bicycle was not driven with the feet via pedals , but by body movements via a construction with four joints of the frame and the bicycle saddle . Two frame tubes acted as connecting rods on the crank arms of the drive gear. The movements required for locomotion were reminiscent of riding a horse , which gave the vehicle its name (Cavallo is Italian for horse).

Today bicycle frames are largely made of steel and aluminum , often with a larger tube diameter. Frames made of carbon are also used in cycling .

Milestones at the turn of the millennium were the invention of smooth-running hub dynamos and rear lights with light-emitting diodes . A few years later, powerful headlights and capacitors were added that store energy while driving and keep the lamps on for several minutes when the vehicle is stationary. With proper assembly and wiring, these inventions enabled a reliable, almost maintenance-free and permanently operational lighting system for the first time.

Statutory Regulations

According to the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of November 8, 1968 , bicycles in the sense of road traffic are "any vehicle with at least two wheels that is driven exclusively by the muscle power of people on it, in particular with the help of pedals or hand cranks" . According to Art. 44 of the Convention, a braking system, a bell and a lighting device are required for international traffic. Unicycles are therefore not regarded as bicycles, but, from a legal point of view, as toys.

Bicycles that are to be used on public roads must meet minimum legal requirements. Often, however, bicycle dealers also sell bicycles that do not meet these standards. These must be retrofitted before they are moved on roads or bike paths . The driver is generally responsible for compliance with the regulations. Violations are punished as administrative offenses.

In many countries there are specific regulations on the technical requirements for using a bicycle on public roads. These usually complement the legal provisions on cycling . The legally stipulated technical requirements differ from country to country, also in the German-speaking countries:


Noise limits

Euro 4, valid for new registrations from 01/2016:

  • for bicycles with drive system: 63 dB (A)


In Germany, the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO) regulate the operating rules for bicycles.

  • Bicycles must have two independent brakes. Both brakes may be on one of the wheels.
  • Bicycles must be equipped with at least one bright-toned bell. It is not defined what lighter means.
  • A white headlight and a red tail light are required as lighting. Headlights and tail lights may only be switched on together. However, this does not apply to battery lights and the parking lights, in which the rear lights glow for a few minutes when the vehicle is stationary.
  • Furthermore, a red reflector must be attached to the stern between 25 and 120 cm above the road. A white reflex reflector is mandatory for forward-looking vehicles. There are also yellow reflectors on the pedals and side reflectors in the spokes. Instead of the latter, tires or rims with ring-shaped reflective strips as well as reflective spokes and spoke sleeves are also permitted. Bicycle lights
  • According to DIN EN 14764 (and the outdated DIN 79100), bicycles only have to be designed for a total weight of 100 kg. The total weight refers to the sum of the bike's own weight, the rider's clothing, the weight of the luggage and the rider's weight. Drivers with a dead weight of more than 80 kg should pay attention to an explicitly stated higher permissible total weight.


In Austria, in addition to the StVO, there is the Bicycle Ordinance , which stipulates which technical requirements are placed on bicycles (the "placing on the market") in order to use them in public transport. It should be noted that the Bicycle Ordinance only regulates the use of bicycles, but not the minimum equipment with which the bicycles must be sold by the dealers: On October 9, 2013, the first amendment to the Bicycle Ordinance came into force.

  • When racing bicycles are that are a maximum of 12 kg, a drop bars and narrow tires (rim diameter min. 630 mm, max rim width. 28 mm).
  • Bicycles must have two independent brakes, with which an average braking deceleration of 4 m / s² from an initial speed of 20 km / h is achieved on dry roads.
  • Bicycles must be equipped with a device for issuing acoustic warning signals ( bell , horn, etc.). Racing bikes are excluded from the regulation.
  • A white or light yellow headlight with at least 100 cd and a red tail light with at least 1 cd are required as lighting  . According to the additional document “Aim of the Bicycle Ordinance”, headlights and taillights that are worn on the body (and accordingly not on the helmet) are not permitted. In daylight and with good visibility, bicycles may be used without this equipment.
  • For passive lighting, a white reflector at the front and a red reflector with a 20 cm² illuminated area must be attached. Furthermore, yellow reflectors must be attached to the pedals or equivalent devices, as well as laterally acting reflectors on the spokes. Instead of the latter, white or yellow stripes connected in a ring are also permitted. Racing bikes are excluded from the regulation.

Most important additions through the amendment of the Bicycle Ordinance (October 9, 2013)

  • Reflective adhesive films are allowed as retro-reflectors.
  • Transporting children on the cargo bike is permitted.
  • Racing bikes are allowed to pull trailers.


In Switzerland, the operating regulations for bicycles can be found in the Ordinance on the Technical Requirements for Road Vehicles (VTS).

  • An easily identifiable, individual number must be stamped on the frame of the bike and the name of the manufacturer or a brand must be indelible. The obligation to affix an insurance vignette no longer applies as of January 1, 2012.
  • Bicycles must have two powerful brakes, one on the front and one on the rear.
  • Bicycles must be equipped with an easily audible bell. Other warning devices are prohibited. Bicycles under 11 kg are excluded from the regulation.
  • Bicycles must be provided with an anti-theft device.
  • A white headlight and a red tail light, which are visible from at least 100 m, are required as lighting. The equipment can be fixed or detachable.
  • For passive lighting, a white reflector must be attached at the front and a red reflector with a 10 cm² illuminated area each. In addition, yellow reflectors must be attached to the pedals.


Some organizations that are committed to cycling as a means of transport are:

in Europe
in Germany
in Austria
in Switzerland

See also

  • Portal: Fahrrad  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of bicycles


  • Werner Aidn : Diamond. Bicycles, motorcycles, cycling. Maxime, Leipzig 2010, ISBN 978-3-931965-25-9 .
  • Peter Appeltauer : The fine print when cycling. Physical background of your everyday cycling. Maxime, Leipzig 2013, ISBN 978-3-931965-41-9 .
  • Richard Ballantine, Richard Grant: Richard's Bicycle Repair Manual. Dorling Kindersley, 1994.
  • Béatrice Couzereau: Technical dictionary of two- wheel technology / Two Wheeler Technical Dictionary. German English French. BVA, Bielefeld 1990, ISBN 3-87073-054-4 .
  • Pryor Dodge: The Bicycle. Flammarion, 1996
  • Florian Freund: velo evolution - bicycle history. Development - Design - Backgrounds. Maxime, Bern 2014, ISBN 978-3-931965-26-6 .
  • Michael Gressmann: Bicycle Physics and Biomechanics. Technology - formulas - laws. Moby Dick, Kiel 1987; 9th revised and supplemented edition: Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 2005, ISBN 978-3-7688-5222-7 .
  • Heinrich Horstmann : My bike tour around the world. The report of the first German bicycle world traveler in 1895. Biographical epilogue by Hans-Erhard Lessing . Maxime, Leipzig 2007, ISBN 978-3-931965-06-8 .
  • Jesús Ilundáin-Aguruzza, Michael W. Austin & Peter Reichenbach (eds.): The philosophy of cycling. Mairisch-Verlag, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-938539-26-2
  • Hans-Erhard Lessing : automobility. Karl Drais and the incredible beginnings. Maxime, Leipzig 2003, ISBN 3-931965-22-8 .
  • Hans-Erhard Lessing (Ed.): "I love cycling so much ..." Stories of happiness on two wheels. dtv, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-423-20985-4 .
  • Hans-Erhard Lessing: Karl Drais. Two wheels instead of four hooves. Braun, Karlsruhe 2010, ISBN 978-3-7650-8569-7 .
  • Hans-Erhard Lessing: The bicycle. A cultural story. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-608-91342-2 .
  • Wehrmacht High Command : The troop bike. Mittler, Berlin 1942 (at the same time: service regulations M.Dv 571 and L.Dv 406).
  • Gustav Steinmann: The Velocipede, its history, construction, use and distribution , afterword by Hans-Erhard Lessing. Hyperion, Neufahrn 2008, ISBN 978-3-89914-018-7 .
  • E. Walter, Y. Achermann Stürmer, G. Scaramuzza, S. Niemann, M. Cavegn: Bicycle traffic . bfu safety dossier No. 08. Ed .: bfu - Advice center for accident prevention . Bern 2012, ISBN 978-3-908192-53-4 ( [PDF; 3.5 MB ] Produced on behalf of the Swiss Road Safety Fund (FVS).
  • Fritz Winkler, Siegfried Rauch: Bicycle technology. Construction, manufacture, repair. Bielefelder Verlagsanstalt, Bielefeld 1980; 10th, revised and updated edition, ibid. 1999, ISBN 3-87073-131-1 .

Web links

Commons : Bicycles  - Collection of Images
Wiktionary: Fahrrad  - Explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Velo  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. § 63a Abs. 1 StVZO, Art. 2 No. 8 of the regulation of May 18, 2017 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 1282, 1283 )
  2. Pryor Dodge: The fascination of bicycles - history, technology, development .
  3. ^ Ludwig Löw von und zu Steinfurth , Das Automobil. 5th edition, CW Kreidel's Verlag, Berlin 1924, p. 163 f.
  4. Funny Solingen vocabulary., accessed on May 3, 2017 .
  5. Horst Ludwigsen Rüümestraote. Rhyming and inconsistent in Westphalian-Markish Platt. Second part. (PDF) Retrieved May 3, 2017 .
  6. ^ Ludwig Löw von und zu Steinfurth, Das Automobil. 5th edition, CW Kreidel's Verlag, Berlin 1924, p. 163 f.
  7. Kidical Mass - Home - Kidical Mass Children on the bike. Accessed on May 18, 2020 (German).
  8. ^ United Nations: World Bicycle Day. Retrieved May 18, 2020 .
  9. :: Ride of Silence :: International Locations. Retrieved May 18, 2020 .
  10. Search Result | It started with a fight ... Retrieved on May 18, 2020 (German).
  11. Helmuth Poll in: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, p. 61.
  12. Max JB Rauck, p. 30.
  13. Feldhaus, p. 274.
  14. arent Toncko Schuitema Meijer: Zó what Groningen, 1919-1939 . Niemeijer, Groningen 1967, p. 43.
  15. ^ Uwe Burghardt: Road traffic , in: Ullrich Wengenroth (Ed.) Technology and Economy , VDI-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1993, 399-417, p. 408.
  16. Christoph Maria Merki , Transport History and Mobility , Stuttgart 2008, p. 50.
  17. Bicycles have become more expensive . In: Handelsblatt . No. 165 , August 28, 2013, ISSN  0017-7296 , p. 25 .
  18. Books on cycling trips
  19. Current information and data on the bicycle and bicycle industry /
  20.  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Efficiency@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  21. Muscle performance and efficiency when cycling
  22. Max JB Rauck, p. 144.
  23. Ruhr-Uni Bochum p. 23
  24. Max JB Rauck, p. 144.
  25. Trade Map - List of exporters for the selected product (Bicycles and other cycles, incl. Delivery tricycles, not motorized). Retrieved February 7, 2020 .
  26. Why does the SPEEDHUB 500/14 not have a coaster brake? ( Memento from October 8, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) on
  27. Why are resignations being expanded?
  28. Stiftung Warentest: Bicycle technology at a glance: Getting started.
  29. Adjust derailleur system
  30. Guarantee for the Speedhub only when changing the oil ( Memento from October 8, 2016 in the Internet Archive )
  31. This term is often used to refer to the two-wheeled railroad trolley invented in Vienna in 1837 . Drais himself only tried out a four-wheeled railroad trolley with a foot drum drive in 1843.
  32. ^ Drais memorial by Sven Fink
  33. Paolo Faccinetti, Guido P. Rubino: Campagnolo - a company writes bicycle history ; Delius Klasing Moby Dick; 1st edition 2009; ISBN 978-3-7688-5275-3
  34. Euhus, Walther: Das Künzelsauer Schubstockrad , in the bone shaker . Magazine for lovers of historical bicycles , issue 31, 2/2004. Langenhagen 2004, p. 19.
  35. Holger Dambeck: Bicycle with toothed belt drive: The quiet of the asphalt at
  36. Toothed belt transmission enables 66 gears on bicycles , at
  37. Chain or belt drive: which is the most efficient? January 21, 2018, accessed on April 23, 2019 (German).
  38. ^ Bicycle: the History by David V. Herlihy
  39. Archived copy ( Memento of March 2, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  40. [1]
  41. history of the bicycle ,
  42. ^ History of Campagnolo
  43. ^ Contract text of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic
  44. Regulation (EU) No. 168/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 15, 2013 on the approval and market surveillance of two-, three-wheel and four-wheel vehicles , accessed on April 18, 2016
  45. Bicycle Ordinance Austria
  46. ^ First amendment to the Austrian Bicycle Ordinance