The evolution of the bicycle

The evolution of the bicycle

  • Balance bike or Célérifère.

    NEUMONT Maurice Louis Henri (1868 - 1930)

  • Balance bike or Célérifère with three wheels and seat.

    NEUMONT Maurice Louis Henri (1868 - 1930)

  • Tricycle with manual levers.

    NEUMONT Maurice Louis Henri (1868 - 1930)

  • Couple on bicycles.

    NEUMONT Maurice Louis Henri (1868 - 1930)

Balance bike or Célérifère.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Balance bike or Célérifère with three wheels and seat.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Tricycle with manual levers.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Publication date: August 2011

Historical context

A first look back

The series of prints The evolution of the bicycle was executed by Maurice Neumont (1868-1930) in 1896. By this date, the "modern" bicycle with two wheels and pedals established itself as the dominant, and almost unique, model of "velocipedia". The costumes, buildings and especially the gear Balance bike or Célérifère and of Balance bike or Célérifère with three wheels and seat refer to the end of the XVIIIe century or early nineteenthe, Manual lever tricycle in the years 1870-1880 for the machine but in the first half of the XIXe century for costumes, and Couple on bicycle at the end of the XIXe century.

Image Analysis

A journey through the XIXe century

All composed according to the same model, these images each show a scene of a “velocipedic” walk. They feature people from the wealthiest categories of the population (the costumes are very elegant), and the action takes place in settings that correspond to their social and geographic roots (château, Tuileries and Champs-Élysées at the back -plan). The "velocipede" shown in each image is represented fairly faithfully, in detail.

The first two images, Balance bike or Célérifère and Balance bike or Célérifère with three wheels and seat, represent ancestors of the bicycle. Invented in 1817 by the German baron Karl Drais von Sauerbronn, this "running machine" propelled by a support of the feet on the ground has two (or three, in much rarer cases) wooden or iron wheels that forks connect to. a wooden frame.

It should be noted that two of the titles of works mention the term "celérifère", which rather designates an older type of balance bike. However, this is an imaginary invention created for nationalist reasons by journalist Louis Baudry de Saunier in his book General history of velocipedia published in 1891. He wanted to attribute French paternity to the ancestor of the velocipede. We can notice that the costumes are typical of the Fashion of the Directory and that these iconographic documents thus seem to lend credence to this fable of celerity.

More technically sophisticated, the tricycle visible on Manual lever tricycle dates from the years 1870-1880. Finally, it was not until 1861 that the pedal bicycle, invented by Pierre Michaux, appeared. The "Michaux-type" model shown Couple on bicycle is still later (1890s), since the reduction in size of the front wheel (early 1880s) and especially the presence of Dunlop-type rubber tires (invented in 1888) were still recent at the time of composition.

Interpretation

Evolution of the bicycle

The prints first reveal a technical evolution of the different machines. But beyond the improvements, the images suggest a fairly wide variety of "velocipeds" (some of which, such as the manual lever tricycle, were only rarely and briefly used) representative of the trials that led to the "classic" bicycle.

Anxious to represent the velocipeds in walking scenes, Neumont indirectly suggests, and beyond the simple evolution of fashions (see the differences in costumes) and sets (the modern Champs-Élysées in the last image), a change of uses and representations related to cycling. In this regard, the image Couple on bicycle is to be distinguished quite clearly from the others. While the balance bike ride arouses curiosity and seems eccentric, the practice of the bicycle is normalized (no one looks at the two cyclists anymore) and even results in the wearing of adapted costumes (for the man at least).

Note also that this somewhat "nostalgic" approach to the history of the bicycle focuses exclusively on an aristocratic or bourgeois population and context, and that it deliberately ignores the development of a more democratic bicycle at the end of the 19th century.e century.

  • bike

Bibliography

Alain CORBIN (dir.), L'Avénement des loisirs (1850-1960), Paris, Aubier, 1995.Pryor DODGE, La Grande Histoire du Vélo, Paris, Flammarion, 1996. Keizo KOBAYASHI, History of the velocipede from Drais to Michaux 1817 -1870 Myths and Realities, Tokyo, Bicycle Culture Center, 1993.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The evolution of the bicycle"


Video: The Bicycle: Great inventions that changed history. Educational Videos for Kids