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History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jun 03 2007 12:13pm
by Lock
Thought some here might enjoy history. As they say, often stranger than fiction... or is that truth? whatever...

This is a story I wrote for my neighbours back in Jan,2005.

It explains how the bicycle came about originally because of global environmental collapse. The Year There Was No Summer, or, Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.

It was written for a Canadian audience, but the US and countries around the world were also hit hard...

Along the way it introduces power assist - the first hub motor patent from 1895, etc.

In truth, much of it is a cut-and-paste job from the web, never intended for public consumption, and I regret not providing proper credits.

Hope some here might enjoy.



Two wheels, a tsunami in Canada… and PEVs

The other day my friend Al remarked that we don't get as many sunny
days anymore as we used to.

I wonder if other gardeners in the neighbourhood feel the same...

The current issue of Discover magazine has an article entitled 'Man-
Made Particles Dim Sun'.

A study by climatologists has found dropping global water evaporation rates, and suspicions fall on 'solar dimming'.

Theories blame aerosols like smoke from human habitation,
particulates from volcanic eruptions, and increased cloudiness as
possible causes...

Tiny chemical particles thrown into the atmosphere reflect sunlight
back into space. The particles may also contribute to cloud

Agricultural scientists are concerned that solar dimming will adversely affect crop productivity.

Recently we have been humbled by a show of natural forces, as a
tsunami swept across Pacific oceans with large damage and loss of

In 1986, scientists tracked a Chernobyl 'tsunami' as a radioactive
wave of dust circling the globe in northern atmospheres.

In 1883, the volcanic eruption of Krakatau affected sunsets around
the world for several years.

But go back to the eruptions of Soufriére and St. Vincent in 1812, then Mayon and Luzon in the Philippines during 1814, and finally Tambora in Indonesia a year later in 1815.

The Tambora eruption was almost twenty times larger than Krakatua...

Overall, about 92,000 people died as a direct consequence of Tambora. Indirectly a similar number died worldwide as a result of starvation and disease.

The following year was nicknamed the "Year Without A Summer",
or 'Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death'.

New Englanders and eastern Canadians were hard hit.

In May of 1816, frost killed off much of the crops that had been planted, and in June two large snowstorms resulted in many human deaths as well.

In July and August, ice formed on some lakes in Canada.

Some reports from Canada:

The Quebec Gazette observed that on June 8, "the whole of the surrounding country was in the same state, having...the appearance
of the middle of December."

On the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, banks of snow reached
the axletrees of the carriages.

Great numbers of birds and newly shorn sheep perished in the cold.

Gardens and wild fruit trees which had come to blossom suffered

The Quebec Gazette warned:

"Under circumstances so unfavorable to the productions of the earth
throughout so great an extent of country, precautions against scarcity cannot be too strongly recommended.... Nothing which may provide sustenance for man or beast ought to be neglected..."

Severe frosts struck Quebec again on June 28 and 29th.

From Montreal, came accounts of a middling crop of vegetables and
fair wheat crop, leaving the fear that many parishes in Quebec must
inevitably be in a state of famine before winter set in.

The Halifax Weekly Chronicle noted: "great distress prevails in many
parishes throughout [Quebec] Province from a scarcity of food...
many of them have no bread."

In December 1816, the paper lamented: "It has been given us from the
most authentic sources, that several parishes in the interior part
of [Quebec] are already so far in want of provisions, as to create
the most serious alarms among the inhabitants."

What made the Summer of 1816 so unusual was the extreme nature of
several consecutive months.

Reports from northern Europe indicate similar impacts on crops and the population.

Europe, still recuperating from the Napoleonic Wars, suffered from food shortages.

Food riots broke out in Britain and France and grain warehouses were

Switzerland declared a national emergency.

Some historians believe the famine begun in 1816 created conditions
conducive for the typhus epidemic that killed millions from 1817-1819.

In Germany, starvation, the slaughtering of horses and a sky-high
price of oats impaired transportation, whereupon Baron Karl von Drais came out with his two-wheeled Laufmaschine (running machine) in Mannheim, Germany, on June 12, 1817.

In 1818, the machine was exhibited in France and came to be known as
the Draisienne.

The fear of balancing by his contemporaries prevented von Drais and
other mechanics from providing pedals.

After a good harvest in autumn 1817 riding on sidewalks was
forbidden (nicknamed hobbyhorses, they could not use the rutted
carriageways), stopping the idea of personal transport for fifty

Karl's Draisine design had two same-size in-line wheels, the front one steerable, mounted in a frame which you straddled.

The device was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground, thus rolling yourself and the device forward in a sort of gliding walk.

It was made entirely of wood.

It was patented but the Baron spent the next few years fruitlessly
trying to collect royalties as others simply took his ideas and launched a craze for these "draisines".

The Draisine enjoyed a short-lived popularity as a fad, not being practical for transportation in any other place than a well-maintained pathway such as in a park or garden.

Here's a pop quiz...

What do the following have in common: a derailleur gear, an aluminum
frame, the freewheel, disk wheels, anatomical saddles, clipless
pedals, suspension, folding bikes?

Answer: they were all ideas that originated in the late 1800s...

During the glory days of cycling, over a century ago, many
variations, both aesthetic and mechanical, were produced.

Once interest was sparked in the United States, it spread like wildfire, prompting many innovations.

At the start of the 20th century there were two buildings in Washington DC that held every patent in the U.S.A.

One building held patents covering every type of product you can think of.

The other building was reserved specifically for bicycle patents.

During this time, the first self-propelled bicycles were made.

Inventors attempted to power bicycles with steam, compressed air,
electricity, and internal combustion engines.

Most of these early attempts met with little success.

The internal combustion engine proved the exception, eventually emerging in the form of the larger motorcycle.

In 1895, Ogden Bolton Jr. received one of the first patents for an electric bicycle.

His novel idea involved the use of a custom rear wheel, with the motor as an integral part of its hub.

It is interesting to note that over 100 years and 5 million patents
later, electric car conferences still include displays such as the "Electric Wheel TM".

In 1899, John Schnepf received a patent for an electric motor unit designed to be added to any standard bicycle.

In another patent issued just fourteen months later, Albert Hansel of Germany realized that the battery could be recharged anytime the rider desired to slow down by "employing the electric motor as a brake".

Since those early days, there have been periods of relative famine when it comes to dramatic improvements in bicycle or component design.

This was largely a result of two phenomena.

First was the rise of the automobile in the 1920s.

The second cause was rather more ominous, namely the perverse policy
of the Union Cycliste Internationale and other cycling organizations to ban radical or innovative bicycles from competing in their sanctioned events.

These prohibitions included derailleur gears, wheel rims made of
anything except wood and frames of a configuration other than the
standard diamond.

From history, we can see how a change in our climate brought about the invention of the two-wheeled vehicle.

Moreover, how development has been suppressed for decades by fear
and ignorance and vested interests.

Today's power-assisted bikes and electric scooters, pedal bikes, kick scooters and tricycles all share a common heritage in Karl von Drais' Draisine.

They can all run entirely on renewable energies, at greatly reduced
energy consumption, and produce recyclable waste that does not pour
out into our environment like the leaks and exhausts of the internal
combustion engine.

Yet the administration of one of Canada's largest urban park systems
is trying to ban the battery electrics.

With their mandate to protect our parks environment, their ban is naive and irresponsible.

Canadians are being denied options in safe, affordable and sustainable transportation.

I continue to hope and believe that anyone who takes the time to
consider all these issues that are wrapped up in the little power-assisted bikes and scooters will agree with me.

And that you will say so.

Help stop the same cycle of fear and ignorance that has impeded two-
wheeled development for almost two centuries! Help to end the tyranny of the four-wheeled vehicle!

Parks does not have the power to set Federal or Provincial law, but they can sure SEND A MESSAGE by not acting outside of their own By-Laws and banning power-assist.

The ban runs counter to key recommendations in the Toronto Environmental Plan.

To write Parks, use 'PEVs in the Parks' as your Subject line.

Just say that any barriers to power-assisted travel in Toronto should be dropped, and that Parks should not be discouraging these little vehicles.

Further, that Parks should lend its support to any initiatives that promote PEVs as an alternative to the automobile, for the sake of our health and the natural world around us.

And please copy our Mayor.

Thanks all

Lock Hughes
on the hard and scootin' by the bay

those email addresses again:

Mr. Joe Halstead
(Parks Commissioner): JHalste@...

Mr. Rob Watson
(Parks Manager for Quality Assurance): RWatson@...

Mayor David Miller: mayor_miller@...

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 28 2011 11:40pm
by Lessss

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 12:19am
by spinningmagnets
Speaking of volcanic "nuclear winters" (no sun from extended dust/smoke in the air) the river Thames (London, England) was frozen on many occasions in the past. The winter of 1683-84 was especially bad.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 6:15am
by dogman dan
That was during the little ice age.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 7:05am
by Toorbough ULL-Zeveigh
whenever someone like safe comes on here claiming they're the 'first' to have done 'x'...
or slap 'prior art' over all their pix like draper,
i just shake my head at how ignorant they really are & would tell them you were born merely a hundred years too late.

in the forward to 'bicycle science' is where i think i read that just about every conceivable idea relating to bicycles has already been tried out & patented by 1895.
including some patents that have no useful application like the 5 wheel bicycle, or a mechanism for synchronizing the front & rear wheels to trace out a single path which someone felt that was important.

in fact i'd have to think long & hard exactly what would be a good example of an actual modern day bike innovation that isn't merely a variation of an old theme or a simple re-skin benefiting from modern materials.
is there even one?
how far back was the first epicyclic in the BB shell, schlumpf can't have been the first can it?
that would be my vote if it is & if not then why weren't any bikes ever made that way?

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 1:27pm
by LI-ghtcycle
Very interesting read!

Thanks for sharing it. :D

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 5:06pm
by spinningmagnets
how far back was the first epicyclic in the BB shell, schlumpf can't have been the first can it?
I don't know for certain the earliest, but I recall seeing a video of a bicycle museum (Australian?). Just before the safety bicycle with two similarly-sized wheel became popular, there was a "high wheeler" penny-farthing (huge diameter wheel up front, tiny wheel in back), and it had an epicyclic in the hub to increase the speed without having to increase the diameter of the pedaled wheel. I seem to recall the large diameter driven wheel in those were to provide a high top-speed, and the long spokes provided some primitive suspension.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 10:29pm
by Lock
Toorbough ULL-Zeveigh wrote:how far back was the first epicyclic in the BB shell, schlumpf can't have been the first can it?
Florian Schlumpf filed US Patent 5,609,071 in Feb, 1995 for a "Shiftable Pedal Bearing Gearing for a Bicycle or the Like"

His patent cites five prior patents from the 1970s-1990s, but also four patents from the 1890s.

Earliest patent referenced, US Patent 504168 filed December 1892 by Joseph L.Morris of Lawrence, Kansas for an "Adjustable-Speed Bicycle":

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Aug 29 2011 11:39pm
by John in CR
Yet we still have no mass produced 2 speed transmissions for reasonably powered ebikes. That's it...I'm going to use another oldie but a goodie and do a reasonably high powered retro-direct on a build before the end of this year.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jan 24 2015 7:54pm
by LockH

Yah, yah, I know, very old thread, but may interest some re "Climate Change"? Just that I was reminded of this thread just now having stumbled onto a BBC production on YT:

... and thought some might enjoy.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Apr 19 2015 9:12am
by LockH
Hehe... Tambora in the news again. Happy 200th Anniversary Everybuddy! Errrrrm... something like that. :lol:

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Sep 04 2016 6:21am
by LockH
Article "c. 1850-1920
The birth of the bicycle" posted now to Mashable site: ... 4xJGYegkqx

Stuff like "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife ride a tandem tricycle"

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jan 22 2017 11:33pm
by LockH
Germany celebrates the bicycle’s bicentennial: ... entennial/

The bicycle — make that the primitive contraption that got the bike trend rolling — turns 200 in 2017, and Mannheim, Germany, is ground zero for the celebration.

It was in this city in southwest Germany that, on June 12, 1817, Baron Karl von Drais first took his two-wheeled invention out for a spin to the suburbs.
Replicas of the running machine and other early bikes are on display at Mannheim's Technoseum, whose "2 Wheels — 200 Years" exhibit launched in November and will continue through June 25;

The exhibition traces the evolution of the modern-day bike, as well as the bicycle's decline in the 1950s during the automobile boom and its subsequent rise in popularity in the wake of the oil crisis in the 1970s. The exhibit also describes the emergence of mountain bikes in the '80s and how cycling evolved into a much-needed form of transportation in traffic-clogged cities.

Visitors to the technology-focused museum can ride a running machine replica and other bicycles, as well as learn how to change a flat tire — a skill that wasn't necessary with Drais' invention, which had to be built for customers by wainwrights.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jun 13 2017 10:41pm
by LockH
The bicycle, 200 years old today, was a timely response to an environmental crisis: ... risis.html

Article heading notes: Baron Karl von Drais needed a way to replace his horse; today we need a way to replace the car.


Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jun 19 2017 12:12am
by LockH
Hehe... Gotta wonder if the Baron knew he'd be getting so much press 200 years later...

The Australian Financial Review (sometimes abbreviated to AFR) is an Australian business and finance newspaper published by Fairfax Media six days a week.
How the bicycle got off to a running start in 1817: ... 613-gwq31q

Have not read before that von Drais had "accessorised with umbrellas, a lamp, side tandem and the Drais coat of arms".



Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jul 08 2017 4:36pm
by LockH
In news Yellowstone reaches 878 earthquakes in just two weeks as scientists wonder when the volcano will blow ... -blow.html

Hehe... The year "2000 and Froze to Death". :cry:

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Jan 23 2018 11:07pm
by LockH
Hehe... Sound familiar?

Philippine volcano spreads lava almost 2 miles from crater: ... r-52566196

... and: Mount Mayon eruption to endanger more than 200,000 in the Philippines: ... s/70003915

While not currently emitting ash high enough into the atmosphere to cause impacts outside the Philippines, a larger eruption could have more far-reaching implications.

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Sep 17 2018 5:28pm
by LockH
Hehe... Turns out there have been other "years without summer". :wink:

The Power of Volcanos Pt. 1: Years without Summer

:) :)

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Sep 24 2018 4:03pm
by LockH
Giant Icelandic volcano is 'about to erupt' on scale that dwarfs explosion which halted air travel across Europe ... -2010.html

A giant and 'highly hazardous' volcano in Iceland is showing signs that it could erupt on a scale that dwarfs the explosion that disrupted worldwide air travel eight years ago.

Scientists have warned that Katla, a close neighbour to Eyjafjallajokull that erupted in 2010, is showing clear signs it's going to blow for the first time since 1918 and it's not a matter of if, but when.

Katla's cone is hidden beneath a glacier on a 5,000ft peak, making monitoring its activity difficult but Icelandic and British scientists have found by airborne measurement techniques that Katla is releasing carbon dioxide on a 'huge' scale.

The World Needs bikes w/assist. :wink:

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Sep 24 2018 4:28pm
by markz
A'boot that
Too close to Canada


The snowmobiles wont run, our toques will get dirty, our igloo's turn from white to ash, ash will stick to our maple syrup and get into our Tim Hortons coffee and cover the "food" that comes to the "Timmies" in frozen doe reheated by a temporary foreign worker wearing fake bakers whites.

The World Needs bikes w/assist.
Do you mean I have to install a chain now?

Re: History of the bike and Power-Assist

Posted: Sep 24 2018 4:36pm
by LockH
^^ Hehe... "toques will get dirty"? Mon Dieu!