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Evolution of the bicycle

Ortonville Community Historical Society

May 15, 2013 - From 7 to 8 p.m., May 22, the Ortonville Community Historical Society will host the "Evolution of the Bicycle" at the Old Mill, 366 Mill St., Ortonville. Don Wilson, from the Flushing Area Historical Society, presents an hour-long historical discussion on bicycles between 1800 to 1930.

"The first Velocipede (bicycle) did not have pedals and the front wheel was fixed in line with the rear wheel," he said. "Instead it was propelled by the rider's feet, and if the rider wanted to turn, he had to stop and reposition the machine in the desired direction. Needless to say, it was also very dangerous."

Wilson said the early bikes did not have brakes and it was not until the early 1800s that pedals were added to a very large front tire.

"Eventually, a mid-mounted crank and pedal assembly with a sprocket and chain to the rear wheel. Oddly, it took several years to invent an effective braking system. Bikes were very expensive, too—as much as six months pay for one. Things really took off for bicycles about the turn of the century."

According to an article on the Franklin Institute website, at least one-third of the patents filed at the U.S. Patent Office during the 1890s were related to bicycles.

"There were many improvements to bicycles after the turn of the century from hand brakes, cushioned seats and they were faster, lighter, made with more durable materials, such as aluminum piping, which were used for the bicycle frames," he said.

Bicycles were even used in the military during World War II, added Wilson.

Don has collected bicycle photos for several years and will share some of the more interesting ones, along with photos gleaned from the internet and other sources.

"These photos also give us a glimpse of what the fashionable rider of the era wore," he said.

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