Cycling has long been a pastime for the world, though its roots are distinctly European in nature. The bicycle was developed in fits and spurts between the English and the French. At first, it was seen as a daredevil’s contraption and there was a substantial amount of truth to that belief. Compared to today’s road bikes the first iterations were quite dangerous.
The very first bicycles did not have pedals. They were two wheels, one of which could be used to steer, and a seat. A rider would run straddling the bike, and then sit down and pick up his feet when he felt he was going fast enough. There were no modern conveniences, such as air filled tires, shock absorbers, lightweight metal frames, or really anything resembling modern bike parts. The initial models were wooden, with either pegs or nails holding them together. When combined with cobblestone roads, they were quite a rough ride.
The successor to these early bicycles featured pedals directly over the front wheel. This created some steering complications, since it’s hard to pedal and turn if you’re pushing on the wheel that is turning. The pedaling created instability during turns. To counteract that, inventors enlarged the front wheel and we ended up with the Hightower bicycle. It featured a seat and pedals over a wheel that was nearly as tall as the person riding it. From this precarious perch, riders faced a nasty fall that could break bones and even kill, if you landed head first.
During the Hightower’s heyday was when cycling’s reputation as a daredevil’s sport was at its peak. Into that climate stepped an inventor with a bold idea. He returned the wheels to equal size, moved the pedals to beneath the rider’s seat, which was itself moved to slightly in front of the rear wheel. The pedals were then attached by chain to the rear wheel, which allowed cyclists to steer with the front wheel while propelling themselves forward with the rear wheel.
This model has survived largely intact in the modern age. At the time, it was called the safety bicycle, but today we simply think of it as a bike, or a road bike to some. It has gone from a pleasure ride for the rich to a means of transportation for the masses. Around the world, cycling cultures have sprung up, with bike shops, races, and different styles of biking holding a place of preeminence in different areas. In much of China, bikes are seen as the primary means of transportation. By contrast, in suburban America, bikes are seen as a relaxation and a pleasant pastime.
Over the years, bicycle tyres has become more and more advanced using higher grade rubbers and so forth. In 1995, the majority of bike tyre rubber was mainly low grade and chunky, almost like mountain bike tyres but being used as a road bike! These were particularly heavy and resulted in a slower performance with the rider getting tired more quickly. Over the last few years we have been working with Mat Centre, a company who produces rubber matting, to see if they can help us produce lighter and strong rubber tyres. Mat Centre were able to put us in tough with manufacturers of rubber products, and it is here where we were able to start producing our high performance road bike quality rubber bicycle tyres.
The shift in emphasis between essential part of life and a pleasurable hobby also changes other things surrounding bikes. If you have to take your road bike that you ride on the weekends into the shop for a tune up, it’s not a big deal if they won’t have it back to you for a week. If however you need your bike to get to and from work the turnaround time for your bike shop becomes a very big concern indeed.