The first means of transport with 2 wheels was the German Draisine, the dandy-horse, dating back to 1817. With no pedals it worked by the rider pushing him or herself along on the ground much like the ones children learn on today. One drawback of this design was it had to be made to measure, taking in the height and weight of the rider, meaning it was only accessible to the upper classes.
By the 1860’s the French invented the velocipede “bicycle” by attaching rotary cranks and pedals, various designs including the “bone shaker” so called because of it’s uncomfortable ride – it’s wheels were wood and tyres were iron!
In the 1870’s the “High Wheeler” or as it became known later the Penny Farthing was developed in the UK with it’s typical large front wheel and small back one. It was named after the monetary coins of the day the penny and the farthing one much bigger than the other.
It was short lived but became the symbol of the Victorian era and radically introduced the need for women to wear trousers. It also was the birth of cycling as a popular sport.
The cycling craze took off here in the UK in the 1850’s, Bushy Park the old hunting ground of Henry VIII, was opened to the public by Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV attracting many cyclists even the women!
Enjoy our Hampton Court Palace Bike Ride thankfully on more comfortable bikes than the “Bone Shaker”
How biking empowered women- check out Brain Pickings the great website by Maria Popova