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I thought this might be of interest - a brief investigation into what factors helped bring about the invention of bikes: https://rootsofprogress.org/why-did-we-wait-so-long-for-the-bicycle

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brooksby [4725 posts] 1 month ago
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Thanks for this, hawkinspeter - I'll read it later!

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pockstone [297 posts] 1 month ago
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Thank you HP,  reading the headline, I almost didn't bother.

You can only read so many Canyon customer service stories!

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HowardR [261 posts] 1 month ago
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Many thanks for posting this - It's a fascinating area for consideration.

I’ve long wondered how it was that there fully function railway systems long before bicycles became a ‘thing’. My suspicion is that it’s because a railway is a thing of ‘big money’ (a hugely rich plutocrat or more likely a company/shareholders will invest in a railway with the hope of making big returns) – were as – an individual will buy a bicycle and for a bicycle to cheap enough to be viable you need to have an industrial system that can reasonably cheaply make many small things accurately -  e.g bicycles aren’t going to be viable until a society is capable of  manufacturing a reasonably cheap roller chain.

Maybe the bicycle bears a closer relationship to the Maxim gun than it does to the locomotive?

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OldRidgeback [3183 posts] 1 month ago
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Didn't Da Vinci have a design for a hobby horse type bicycle?

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HowardR [261 posts] 1 month ago
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The word according to Wikiwotnot:

"A sketch from around 1500 AD is attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, but it was described by Hans-Erhard Lessing in 1998 as a purposeful fraud.[1][2] However, the authenticity of the bicycle sketch is still vigorously maintained by followers of Prof. Augusto Marinoni, a lexicographer and philologist, who was entrusted by the Commissione Vinciana of Rome with the transcription of Leonardo's Codex Atlanticus.[3][4] "

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_bicycle

The design uses a suprisingly modern looking chain drive which to me makes it particually iffy. 

 

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ConcordeCX [1153 posts] 1 month ago
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HowardR wrote:

The word according to Wikiwotnot:

"A sketch from around 1500 AD is attributed to Gian Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, but it was described by Hans-Erhard Lessing in 1998 as a purposeful fraud.[1][2] However, the authenticity of the bicycle sketch is still vigorously maintained by followers of Prof. Augusto Marinoni, a lexicographer and philologist, who was entrusted by the Commissione Vinciana of Rome with the transcription of Leonardo's Codex Atlanticus.[3][4] "

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_bicycle

The design uses a suprisingly modern looking chain drive which to me makes it particually iffy. 

 

Leonardo understood chains:

https://www.britishconveyorchain.com/history_chain.php

 

 

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HowardR [261 posts] 1 month ago
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He did ~ but ~ off the top of my empty head I can't recall it's appearing in the same drive related way in any of his other ‘transport’ drawings...... and to 'get' rear wheel chain driven drive - AND- to have equi-sized wheels that look about the same size as was eventually settled upon after some experiment.....????? 

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John Stevenson [436 posts] 1 month ago
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I wrote about the Da Vinci bike forgery in the last item of this piece:

https://road.cc/content/feature/194441-cycling-myths-busted-da-vinci-dea...

The TL;DR is that only a tiny handful of Italians still believe Da Vinci invented the bike. They're rather like Americans who think Pluto should still be classified as a planet, because it was the only large solar system object discovered by an American.

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HowardR [261 posts] 1 month ago
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Re: "Americans who think Pluto should still be classified as a planet, because it was the only large solar system object discovered by an American"

If I was witty I'd be able to craft a joke around the theme of the inhabitants of Bath & the discovery of Uranus .... sadly I'm not.

p.s - A museum recomend: https://herschelmuseum.org.uk/

 

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hawkinspeter [3847 posts] 1 month ago
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HowardR wrote:

Re: "Americans who think Pluto should still be classified as a planet, because it was the only large solar system object discovered by an American"

If I was witty I'd be able to craft a joke around the theme of the inhabitants of Bath & the discovery of Uranus .... sadly I'm not.

p.s - A museum recomend: https://herschelmuseum.org.uk/

Thanks for the museum recommendation - I might give that a visit.

 

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Bmblbzzz [309 posts] 1 month ago
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Another factor might be that, unlike clocks and mills, the bicycle doesn't seem to address a need. We walked. If we needed to carry heavy loads, we used a horse and cart. To go quickly, we rode a horse. But mostly we walked. So transport wasn't something we lacked. Whereas telling the time with any more precision than morning, noon, afternoon and night – and so being able to arrange meetings, for instance – was something we couldn't do. 

 

By the way, I second the recommendation for the Herschel Museum. 

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hawkinspeter [3847 posts] 1 month ago
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Bmblbzzz wrote:

Another factor might be that, unlike clocks and mills, the bicycle doesn't seem to address a need. We walked. If we needed to carry heavy loads, we used a horse and cart. To go quickly, we rode a horse. But mostly we walked. So transport wasn't something we lacked. Whereas telling the time with any more precision than morning, noon, afternoon and night – and so being able to arrange meetings, for instance – was something we couldn't do. 

 

By the way, I second the recommendation for the Herschel Museum. 

I did read somewhere (can't remember where) about how the Romans could possibly have invented bicycles much earlier, but obviously didn't. There was mention of how Roman roads often had two smooth grooves in them to allow cart wheels to travel easily and a bicycle would be a natural shape (as opposed to a tricycle) to also use one of those smooth ruts.

By the way, the most important application of clocks was navigation - the easiest way to determine longitude is with an accurate timepiece.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in how developments in one area spur developments elsewhere, then I can thoroughly recommend James Burke's Connections series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XetplHcM7aQ

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John Stevenson [436 posts] 1 month ago
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Karl Drais is said to have come up with the Laufmaschine because a shortage of oats had made using horses for transport more expensive, so he was definitely trying to fulfil a need, for inexpensive personal transport that was faster than walking.

His stroke of genuine, original genius was to realise—or discover—that a pair of wheels in a line, one of which had a steering mechanism, could be ridden and would not simply fall over.

I'm not aware of anything that presages Drais, and it's not like there's anything in nature that shows it's possible, unlike, say, birds and heavier-than-air flight.

We're now all so accustomed to single-track vehicles that we've forgotten how non-obvious they are. After all, it is obvious that if you put two wheels in a line, rigidly mounted, they'll just fall over. It's not obvious that making the front one steerable will counteract that, and the detailed dynamics of bike steering still are not fully understood 200 years after Drais.

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HowardR [261 posts] 4 weeks ago
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James Burke's Connections deserves to be in the pantheon of 'Good television' with the likes of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Seeing it mentioned has brightened my day - thanks!

I've recently read "Three Men and a Bradshaw" the holiday diaries of a chap in the 1870's. I don't recall that the proto-bicycles of the time getting a mention but it does paint a vivid portrait of a world in which the 'Cambrian Explosion' of bicycle design of the 1880's & 90's was imminent.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/three-men-and-a-bradshaw/john-george-freeman/9781847947444  (Well worth a read)

For a randonee through the evolutionary pathways of the bi/tri cycle “Bicycle Design: an illustrated history’ (Hadland & Lessing): https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/bicycle-design makes for an entertaining guide.

One of the things that it demonstrates is how ideas appear ‘before-their-time’ are then forgotten until they reappear when conditions are rather more propitious.  Using designs that were appearing at the time it would have been possible in the later 1890’s to have produced an aluminium framed bike with full suspension & disc brakes ~ something that needed a century to pass before it became a marketable reality.

 

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hawkinspeter [3847 posts] 4 weeks ago
1 like
HowardR wrote:

James Burke's Connections deserves to be in the pantheon of 'Good television' with the likes of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Seeing it mentioned has brightened my day - thanks!

I've recently read "Three Men and a Bradshaw" the holiday diaries of a chap in the 1870's. I don't recall that the proto-bicycles of the time getting a mention but it does paint a vivid portrait of a world in which the 'Cambrian Explosion' of bicycle design of the 1880's & 90's was imminent.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/three-men-and-a-bradshaw/john-george-freeman/9781847947444  (Well worth a read)

For a randonee through the evolutionary pathways of the bi/tri cycle “Bicycle Design: an illustrated history’ (Hadland & Lessing): https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/bicycle-design makes for an entertaining guide.

One of the things that it demonstrates is how ideas appear ‘before-their-time’ are then forgotten until they reappear when conditions are rather more propitious.  Using designs that were appearing at the time it would have been possible in the later 1890’s to have produced an aluminium framed bike with full suspension & disc brakes ~ something that needed a century to pass before it became a marketable reality.

Thanks for those recommendations - I'll see if I can add some more books to my ever expanding reading list.

I'd put James Burke's Connections into the pantheon of 'Great Television' and a special mention has to be made of possibly the greatest shot ever in TV journalism. No green screen, no special effect, just one chance to get it right if you have the most incredible timing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WoDQBhJCVQ

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HowardR [261 posts] 4 weeks ago
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"No green screen, no special effect, just one chance to get it right if you have the most incredible timing".......Gosh & FlipertyPhuckIt!!!

Please stop posting Connections Youtoobage - It's puttng me at severe risk of being hauled before the company yard arm for a sound, dead-line missed, flogging.

 

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Dingaling [109 posts] 4 weeks ago
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What James Burke showed, ie H and O combined and hey presto a rocket takes off is not really right. The first stage was fired by a solid fuel called RP1 (Rocket Propellant).

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hawkinspeter [3847 posts] 4 weeks ago
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Dingaling wrote:

What James Burke showed, ie H and O combined and hey presto a rocket takes off is not really right. The first stage was fired by a solid fuel called RP1 (Rocket Propellant).

I'm more than willing to cut him a bit of poetic license over that. The basic principle is the same - combine an oxidising agent with a reducing agent to expel mass at great speed.

Whilst we're off topic, here's a bit of James Burke reporting on Apollo 11 (the BBC wiped or lost most of its broadcast):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9BAP3cO9Bg

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McFrancis [2 posts] 4 weeks ago
3 likes

"No green screen, no special effect, just one chance to get it right if you have the most incredible timing".......Gosh & FlipertyPhuckIt!!!

To be fair there are a number of outtakes where he fluffs his lines and they have to get the rocket back for another take.

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HowardR [261 posts] 4 weeks ago
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The Apollo landings - as reported by James Burke, are I'm fairly sure my earliest memories. 

(Am I right in remembering that the BBC's broadcasts used Straus's Also Sprach Zarathustra as an intro?)

Of that period I rather like this (possibly apocryphal) quote from a surprising source

"Brian Eno once confessed that he liked to explain to ‘young people’ that, back in the bad-old-low-tech-flared-trousered-analogue days things were so backward that you could fly from London to New York in three and a half hours and men regularly walked on the Moon."

http://www.disraeligears.co.uk/Site/Huret_Jubilee_derailleur_2248.html

And ;  + lots on the allowing for some poetic licence!

 

 

 

 

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HowardR [261 posts] 4 weeks ago
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I find this map - London, 1806 -  endlessly thought provoking

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/1806_Mogg_Pocket_or_Case_Map_of_London%2C_England_-_Geographicus_-_London-mogg-1806.jpg

It’s of a scale & level of detail where you can mentally walk (cycles have yet to be invented) around it.

This was the London of Jane Austin & the Napoleonic wars – A world were steam engines were rare & lumbering beasts and most power was provided by muscle (human or animal), wind or water – A world of wood, wool, cotton, hemp & blacksmith crafted iron.

It’s quite possible for someone to have been born into that world & in their dotage held in their arms a child who would see the moon landings.