By Bill Dobbins


There are millions of bicycle riders all over the world – riding all sorts of bikes including those equipped with complex multi-gears, cruisers, BMX bikes, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes, bicycles-built-for-two and nowadays an increasing number of electric bikes.

But while the idea of two-wheel transportation goes back centuries, when the early ancestors of the modern bicycle were introduced in the 19th century, very soon riding a bike turned into a cultural craze and even a lifestyle.  In an era in which personal transportation was limited to horses and carriages, suddenly anyone would just jump on a bicycle and get from place to place, at no additional cost, at up to 20 miles per hour or more.

People joined bicycle clubs.  They went on bicycle excursions.  The invention of the “girl’s bike” allowed women, even wearing long skirts, to get in on the fun.

History of the Bicycle

Text contributed by

Before the creation of today’s modern bicycle, there were several examples of simpler bicycle transport devices. It all started in the 16th century with the discovery of 1493 Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches, which included simple designs for a bicycle. Some historians claim that either his student Gian Giacomo Caprotti made this drawing or that is altogether fake. That design was never produced into a working model and in following four hundred years horses remained only affordable means of transport on a public road.

The German Baron Karl von Drais invented precursor to the modern bicycle during the early 19th century. This velocipede named “Laufmaschine” consisted of two wheels that were held together with one central bar. The driver of that vehicle had to walk and run to gather the needed speed and then raise his legs and continue to cruise until his momentum faded. Design of Von Drais was improved in England with the commercially successful “Dandy Horse”.

Lots of designs were tried before the modern bicycle was invented. Source:
Before bicycles with gears and chain drives were invented, you needed a very big wheel to get going at any speed. But the dangers of this kind of bike are obvious. | Source:

That design remained in use for almost 40 years until two French carriage makers came to the idea that would revolutionize the bicycle world. Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallemen saw how “Dandy Horse” is used and they devised the plan to attach the pedals to the front wheel, and install the driving seat on the support beam.

Altering the frame to allow for wearing skirts, encouraged riding a bike to be very popular with women. | Source:
three on bikes
A transitional design between the big wheel bicycle and the latter kind with chain drive and gears. | Source:

In 1864, they made their first model that proved to be very efficient and easy to produce. Four years later, they gathered the funds for mass production and begun improving their initial design into what will become known as “Boneshaker”. Bicycle frame was made from Iron instead of wood, and soon they started including rubber tires and ball bearings. One of the most popular designs of that time was the bicycle model with a larger front wheel. Created in 1869 by the Frenchmen Eugene Meyer and mass-produced by Englishman James Starley, high-wheel bicycle improved several aspects of its use (more comfortable than “boneshaker”, higher speeds and lighter frame) but it added few disadvantages (difficult downhill and uphill riding). First high wheel models become available during the 1870s in England, where they were received in a good light.

| Source:

After those first few years of high wheel bicycle popularity, in 1885 Englishman John Kemp Starley created his first “safety bicycle”. Today that invention is regarded as one of the most important moments in bicycle history. It had featured chain that connected pedals to the rear wheel and steerable front wheel. This device (called Rover) ignited the era known today as “Golden Age of Bicycles”. Since that time, bicycle design and equipment became standardized across the world and they satisfied all four basic aspects – safety, speed, comfort, and steering. They all had the basic diamond shape made from metal, pneumatic rubber tires, roller chain, one gear, coaster brakes and more. Golden Age of Bicycles lasted from the 1900s to 1950s in which bicycles became one of the primary means of public road transportation. Early bicycle clubs popularized recreational driving across America and Europe. During the years their manufacturing costs came down significantly, which increased their use all over the world.

The classic bicycle – although this one seems to have no front brake, and that’s where most of the force of braking comes from. | Source:
The bicycle built for two is not a new idea. | Source:
If two on a bike is good, why stop there? | Source:

The modern age of bicycles started in the 1960s and 70s with the increase of North American consciousness of the benefits of exercise and energy efficient transport. In 1975, over 17 million riders started driving a new sort of much lighter and cheaper bikes. Since then racing bikesmountain bikes and BMX became the standard for the bicycle drivers all around the world, with the recent addition of hybrid commuter bikes (specialized for city use with a wide range of equipment taken from mountain and speed bicycles). Standard materials from which modern bicycle frames are made is aluminum and carbon fiber.

In 2010, worldwide production of bicycles is in the range of 125 to 130 billion.

Any time a new kind of vehicle is invented, there are those who want to have a race. | Source:
Modern bicycles have become so efficient, that competitors in an event like the Tour de France are able to cover many hundreds of miles over a period of weeks, including riding up the sides of mountains. | Source:
In many countries with less ownership of automobiles, bicycles are basic transportation for millions. | Source:


Bill Dobbins Sarah Lyons dressing room-SMALL-1

Bill Dobbins is a professional photographer, videographer and writer based in Los Angeles.  His work has been exhibited as fine art in two museums, a number of galleries, and he has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Taschen)






Mountain bikers with machines designed to take a lot of punishment are able to traverse extremely rough trails and terrain. | Source:
Take a bicycle, add an engine and you have a motorcycle. It didn’t take long to come up with this idea. The first Indian was old to a customer in 1902. | Source:
maxresdefault (7)
There have been bikes with small electric motors around for decades. But nowadays we see a variety of very powerful, expensive, high-tech electric bikes. Unlike motorcycles, you still pedal these machines – you just dial in as much or a little help from the motor as you like. | Source:
Previous articleHyères 2019: Photography award winners announced
Bill Dobbins
Bill Dobbins THE BODY PHOTOGAPHER became well known for his male and female physique photos - images of the aesthetic, athletic body. Using the same distinctive personal style, characterized by strong graphics and a classic look in both color and BW, Bill Dobbins has also developed a body of work featuring fashion, beauty and glamor photos In a world in which so many images create a level of "noise" that makes it hard for advertisers to be noticed, Bill's work cuts right through the confusion and grabs the eye. Bill has created two art photos books: The Women: Photographs of the Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan) and Modern Amazons (Taschen) and his fine art work has appeared in two museums and several galleries. WEBSITES BILL DOBBINS PHOTOGRAPHY BILL DOBBINS ART THE FEMALE PHYSIQUE WEBZINE/GALLERY EMAIL: