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2 wheels - 200 years: The history of the bicycle

2017 is a very special year for cycling enthusiasts...

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...for the bicycle, adored and appreciated as a means of transport by so many people, is celebrating its 200th birthday! This jubilee is a great opportunity for us to cast a quick glance into the history of the bike.


The first bicycle – the invention of the ‘Draisine’ in 1817


Picture a forest manager from Mannheim in 1816 called ‘Karl Freiherr von Drais’ puzzling over and refining a vehicle which will revolutionise traffic. However there is disagreement amongst experts regarding his motives to create an innovative means of transportation. The question whether his invention was supposed to be an alternative means of transport or just a sporty curiosity can hardly be clarified entirely in this day and age.

The maiden voyage of the ‘running machine


Anyhow it all happened in 1817: Karl Freiherr von Drais had developed the first ‘running machine’ and embarked on a maiden voyage through Mannheim. It was then named after the inventor as ‘Draisine’ and is considered the predecessor of the bicycle and people riding this innovative means of transportation were called ‘Draisine-riders’. The reason why it was called a ‘running machine’ is due to the fact that initially this vehicle was not moved via pedals and a crank but by both human muscle power coming from the feet and skilled balance. Which means the ‘Draisine’ worked exactly like the current running bikes used by small children. They are great for teaching balance and are a terrific tool for learning how to ride a bike.

The final breakthrough of the bicycle

In Europe the final breakthrough of the bicycle only happened towards the end of the 19th century. Construction was suitably altered and cranks were attached to the front wheel.  Due to increasing demand production increased and consequently this vehicle became a mass phenomenon revolutionising mobility of the individual. Nevertheless the creator was not meant to witness the success, since Karl Drais had already passed away in December 1851.

A tribute to the bicycle – the Jubilee-Song

For the 200-year jubilee of the bicycle the city of Mannheim naturally assigned no less a figure than the ‘Sons of Mannheim’ and Xavier Naidoo to compose a song for the jubilee. Have a listen, the ‘Sons of Mannheim’ have released a terrific song in honor of the bicycle!

Our Holiday tip to the bicycle’s place of origin

If you fancy visiting Mannheim – the town where the maiden voyage of the bicycle happened – in style as part of a cycling holiday, then we recommend our cycling tour along the ‘Rhine-Cycling path from Straßbourg to Mainz. As part of the stage Heidelberg-Worms this cycling tour leads you amongst others through the beautiful birth place of the bicycle, which is also called the ‘city of short paths’.