A bicycle, often called a bike or cycle, is a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle, having two wheels attached to a frame, one behind the other. A bicycle rider is called a cyclist, or bicyclist.
Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century in Europe and, as of 2003, more than a billion have been produced worldwide, twice as many as the number of automobiles that have been produced.
They are the principal means of transportation in many regions. They also provide a popular form of recreation, and have been adapted for use as children’s toys, general fitness, military and police applications, courier services, and bicycle racing.
The basic shape and configuration of a typical upright, or safety bicycle, has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. But many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for many types of cycling.
The bicycle’s invention has had an enormous effect on society, both in terms of culture and of advancing modern industrial methods. Several components that eventually played a key role in the development of the automobile were initially invented for use in the bicycle, including ball bearings, pneumatic tires, chain-driven sprockets, and tension-spoked wheels.
“I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.”Lech Walesa
The word bicycle first appeared in English print in The Daily News in 1868, to describe “Bysicles and trysicles” on the “Champs Elysées and Bois de Boulogne.”
The dandy horse, also called Draisienne or Laufmaschine, was the first human means of transport to use only two wheels in tandem and was invented by the German Baron Karl von Drais.
From the beginning and still today, bicycles have been and are employed for many uses. In a utilitarian way, bicycles are used for transportation, bicycle commuting, and utility cycling. It can be used as a ‘work horse’, used by mail carriers, paramedics, police, messengers, and general delivery services.
The bicycle is also used for recreational purposes, such as bicycle touring, mountain biking, physical fitness, and play. Bicycle competition includes racing, BMX racing, track racing, criterium, roller racing, sportives and time trials. Major multi-stage professional events are the Tour of California, Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, and the Volta a Portugal.