The Origins

Cycling brings together all the mobility practices related to cycling. A cyclist keeps the balance on a bike thanks to the speed at which he moves by the pedal strokes that he gives on his machine. Modern cycling has its origins in the invention of the German engineer Karl Drais. In 1818, he presented the “velocipede,” in the gardens of Luxembourg: a wooden machine with two wheels and a cushion on which the practitioner sat to move his feet. This machine allows keeping its balance while advancing quickly. The success comes from Britain and the United States. The vélocipède experienced a second blast in 1861 when Pierre Michaux, a French locksmith, imagined a pedal system. Although historians are divided as to the authorship and date of the invention, the 1860s are certainly significant for the expansion of the bicycle. From then on, pedal bike races were organized, as the Paris-Rouen of 1869 attested. The wheels are made of wood and lined with iron.

As early as 1872, the Grand-bi – bicycle with a large front wheel and a smaller one at the back – made its appearance in England, and a massive success among the bourgeois, and the athletes. The big wheel increases the distance traveled and, therefore, the speed for a pedal stroke. Wood undoubtedly by steel in the construction of the bike. But driving the Grand-bi is dangerous because of the height of the front wheel.

The invention of the chain Marks a turning point. During the 1880s, several people thought separately about a new mechanical system that would keep the speed down. Some attempts had already been made in the 1870s by André Guillemet or Louis Sargent. But it was engineer Hans Renold who was recognized ten years later as the creator of the mechanical chain: a set of metal meshes linked together. Harry Lawson creates a few prototype chain bicycles. At the same time, in 1884, The “Rover safety bicycle,” invented by Starley, appeared. This new formula of the bike competes and eventually supplants the big bi because it is smaller and therefore offers more stability than its counterpart while managing to keep a similar speed. The appearance of paved roads also helps to explain the development of cycling and its races. In 1852, the first paved road was on the outskirts of Perpignan. Although bitumen does not immediately cover all European routes, its development improves the conditions for the expansion of cycling.

By becoming an industrial product, the bicycle – now called a bicycle-costs less and becomes more democratic. Cycling was present from the first edition of the modern Olympic Games in 1896. The International Cycling Union (UCI) primarily in 1900, and the Tour de France, created in 1903, is experiencing growing success. Cycling is becoming a real sporting and societal phenomenon. The Grand Prix des Nations, a French time trial, began in 1932.

The practice of cycling in the sport or hobby grows to the point of formalizing the creation of the French Cycling Federation (FFC) and the French Federation of cycling (FFCT) in 1945. After the Second World War, the big races fascinated the crowds and erected the mythical figures of cycling like the Italian Fausto Coppi, the French Louison Bobet, Jacques Anquetil, Raymond Poulidor and later the Belgian Eddy Merckx. The 1960s marked a turning point in the world of sports cycling with the advent of brand-sponsored teams. This practice was certainly already present before, with bike manufacturers like Peugeot. But the distribution of professional riders by national or regional teams was also organized for a long time.

The highlight

The technical advances of the bicycle are largely responsible for its success. Among these, the derail can be considered to bring cycling into a new era. The “Polycelere”, invented by Jean Loubeyre in 1895, was the first attempt of its kind, but it was in 1896 that the British Hodgkinson imagined a three-speed system that could be easily changed thanks to different gears. In 1911, cyclist Joanny Panel, originally from Saint-Étienne, patented the “Chemineau”: a new derail system. He had the idea of going to the Tour de France the following year to make his invention known and to show that it was easier to pass the Alpine passes, which appeared on the course of the event. His demonstration made sense, but so did Henri Desgrange. The Tour operator decided to ban the Tour until further notice. In the 1930s, the Italian manufacturer Campagnolo developed new derails that seduced many riders. In 1937, bikes with derailleur were allowed on the Tour de France, but only those with the “Super-Champion” model, which provoked the anger of the 1934 Mountain King, René Vietto, who was riding with a “Simplex “derailleur. The Tour de France is the first major international competition in France.