200 years ago in Germany Baron Karl von Drais showed off his newest invention: the ‘draisienne‘ which was also known as the ‘laufmachine‘, ‘running machine’ or ‘Vélocipède‘), a two-wheeled horseless vehicle propelled by its rider. Without Baron Karl von Drais we would not have the modern bicycle.
On 12 June 1817, a crowd gathered along the best road in Mannheim, Germany to watch Baron Karl von Drais demonstrate his newest invention: the ‘draisienne’, a two-wheeled horseless vehicle propelled by its rider.
Drais climbed on and set out for the Schwetzinger switch house, a strategic point along the postal route. Less than an hour later, he was back, having completed the 8-9 mile round trip in a quarter of the usual time.
Drais was a prolific inventor. He devised a piano music recording system, binary algorithm for calculating square roots, periscope, typewriter, and a form of ‘secret writing’. His main area of interest, however, was horseless travel.
To propel the machine, the rider ran his feet along the ground, coasting between strides as the machine gained velocity, reaching speeds of 5-6 miles per hour. To brake, the rider pulled a cord that stopped the back wheel. Drais envisioned practical applications for his machine, such as postal, forestry, or military transportation.
In October 1817, Drais published a 3-page brochure of laufmaschine designs. It included two illustrations, one in colour featuring a rider in a yellow military courier uniform.
The draisienne may not have been a pedal bike like we have today, but it represented an integral stage in cycling design. Two centuries after the draisienne first came to prominence, it is fair to look back at the legacy of Karl Von Drais and declare him the father of the bicycle.
What kind of bike do you ride?
What material is it made of Steel, Carbon, titanium, or bamboo?