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Bicycle Mechanics

History

Bicycles have been said to be the most efficient means ever devised to turn human energy into propulsion. The first successful bicycle was built in Scotland around 1839. It, like the bicycles built for many years afterward, had a large front wheel that was pedaled and steered, and a smaller wheel in back for balance. In time, advances in design and technology improved the ease with which riders could balance, steer, brake, and get on and off bicycles. The first modern-looking bicycle, with equal-sized front and rear wheels and a loop of chain on a sprocket drive, was built in 1874. By the early 1890s, pneumatic tires and the basic diamond-pattern frame made bicycles stable, efficient, and fairly inexpensive. Bicycle riding became a popular recreation, and, in some countries around the world, a major form of transportation. In the 20th century, bicycle performance was further improved by lightweight frames with new designs and improved gear mechanisms, tires, and other components.

After automobiles became the dominant vehicles on American roads, bicycles were usually considered children's toys in the United States. However, due to the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and the concerns with pollution and fossil fuels, bicycles saw a resurgence in their popularity among adults that has continued to this day. With the increasing costs associated with cars and environmental concerns, more people are using bikes, not only for exercise, racing, or touring, but also for short trips to the store, to visit friends, or to go to work.