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Sunday Roundup – Bicycle Bits And Pieces

smithsonian institution's weekly snapshot, draisine circa 1817
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smithsonian institution's weekly snapshot, draisine circa 1817

  • Click on the permalink below to find out more about this week’s Smithsonian Institution Snapshot: the draisine, circa 1818.
  • This September, Peter and four of his friends are making an epic journey of almost 1600 miles to raise money for Garden House Hospice in Letchworth, England. The ride is in honor of Peter’s father who was recently in their care. They will ride from Letchworth to Alicante, Spain, following a similar route Peter’s father rode with some of his friends when he was in his 20’s. More info and to support their cause click here.
  • Patricia Hansen is riding her bike on a 97 day journey across the US to raise money to feed families in need. She’ll be marking her 70thbirthday along the ride that will cross Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia. Click here for more info and to donate to her cause.
  • If you like Malaysian food and want to support a pedal-powered food cart in the San Francisco area, check out this Kickstarter campaign by Ian Deleporte. Don’t even read the descriptions of the food if you’re not going to donate, you don’t want to know what deliciousness you’re going to miss!
  • Yay! It’s May! and that means it’s National Bike Month. Read about all the national events planned and supported by the League of American Bicyclists.
  • Canton Velo is giving away a bunch of schwag to the first (US based) person who guesses which beer is in this picture.

Press Release About The Draisine: This week’s Smithsonian Snapshot celebrates National Bike Month with the forerunner of the modern bicycle: this ca. 1818 draisine.

In 1817, Karl Drais, a young inventor in Baden, Germany, designed and built a two-wheeled, wooden vehicle that was straddled and propelled by walking swiftly. Drais called it the laufmaschine or “running machine.”

A forester for the Grand Duke of Baden, Drais used his laufmaschine to inspect the Duke’s forest. The laufmaschine soon became a novelty among Europeans, who named it the “draisine.”

By 1818, the draisine craze reached the United States. Charles Wilson Peale, a well-known portrait artist, helped to popularize the draisine by displaying one in his museum in Philadelphia. Many American examples were made, and rentals and riding rinks became available in Eastern cities.

By 1820, the high cost of the vehicle, combined with its lack of practical value, limited its appeal and made it little more than an expensive toy. The two-wheeled vehicle would not become sustained until pedals were added in the late 1800s.

Donated to the Smithsonian in 1964, this draisine is the oldest cycle in its collection of 61 cycles. They reflect social trends and technological developments that have shaped the growth and popularity of riding since 1818.

To view more bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles and other vehicles at the Smithsonian, visit the National Museum of American History’s “America on the Move” exhibition.

This item is one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is not on display. To learn more about this item, visit the National Museum of American History’s website.

More from the Smithsonian Snapshot series

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11 years ago

Wow, this would be a nice attraction for summer tours. I love it !

11 years ago

I reckon the museum has got the steering around the wrong way. If they spun it around 180 degrees they’d have the correct rake and swept back handlebars. Somebody should tell them.

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