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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Cycling – Know Everything about the various forms from inception


( In this article let’s see cycling not only as a sport. Let’s have a complete exploration)

In general, the word cycling refers to the usage of bicycles for transport, recreation, exercise or sport. The terms biking or bicycling also refers to the same. And, we call the people as cyclists, bikers or bicyclists.

Including the two-wheeler bicycles, unicycles, tricycles, quadricycles, recumbent and some human-driven vehicles come under the category of cycling.

During the 19th century, bicycles came into existence. With time, it became a chief mode of transportation. And now, there are over one billion cycles are in use worldwide.

Moreover, it is efficient in short-distance transportation and gives numerous benefits. Additionally, physical exercise, easy parking, access to roads, paths and rural trails, less pollution, and low traffic congestion are the other benefits cycling offers to individuals and society.

The requirement of basic fitness, longer travel time, difficulty in taking passengers and less protection against crashes are the disadvantages. And also, it is easily affected by weather conditions.

History of cycling


Cycling image in black & white show  cyclists in a race
image source: sungreen.co.uk

As per the available documents, the first cycling race was held on May 31, 1868. And the 1200 m race took place at the Park of Saint-Cloud, Paris. Then, Englishman James Moore who rode a bicycle with solid rubber tires won the race.

In the first race which covered a distance between two cities, James Moore became the winner. It covered two cities Paris and Rouen and the distance was 123 Kms. In the race, James Moore took 10 hours and 40 mins and won it.

The oldest cycling club in the United States is the St. Louis Cycling Club and it operates continuously from the year 1887. The club is sponsoring races and timed distance events and many champions and Olympians are its members.

Recreation cycling

man on cycling as a recreation

The usage of the cycle for recreation and its organization followed the racing. After the invention of the Rover Safety Bicycle in the year 1880, the cycle became more accessible to the public.

This new form of recreation brought together both sexes in an unsupervised way. And the attire of women also attracted the public outcry for moral values.

People started to demand a separate cyclist path. Subsequently, the society for the construction of cycle paths was founded on 4th March 1915 in the Gooi and Eemland region in the Netherlands.

The cyclists felt, the increasing traffic in the early 20th century was dangerous for cyclists who relax. And they put forth the idea of a separate path not connected with motor routes.

The recreation cycling becomes more popular today and many companies offer vintage-style bikes, which the bikers find attractive.

Transportation cycling

From 1890, when bicycles became prominent, people have been using it for commutation to their working place. It continued up to 1920, and the practice dropped sharply after cars became popular. But in Europe, it continued up to 1950.

Now, using bicycles to go to the workplace is slowly catching up. It is due to the awareness of fitness and environment issues. The convenience and happiness also play a certain role in the usage of cycles for commutation.

Also, some companies encourage bikers by offering showers, changing rooms, indoor bike racks, and secure bike parking.

Touring cycling

person in black & white image to show cycling as tour

Some cyclists also want to use the cycle for traveling. And few of them even tried to go around the earth with their bicycle.

In the 1880s, Annie Londonderry did it and took 15 months for the rare accomplishment. Following it, in the 1920s, six Indian men went around the world and traveled 71000 km.

The increase in demand

The four key aspects – steering, safety, comfort, and speed improved with the time. Then during the late 1890s, the cycle became very popular in Europe and North America.

When bicycles for ladies were introduced, it became a freedom-machine for them. It gave women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.

The Swedish engineers Fredrik Ljungström and Birger Ljungström introduced Sveda Velocipede with the vertical pedal and locking hubs in the year 1892.

The sports historians called this period the “golden age” or “bicycle craze”. By the start of the twentieth century, it became an important means of transportation. Also, many people used it for recreation and many clubs for men and women came into existence.

Adolph Schoeninger, a Chicago immigrant who owned the Western Wheel Works became the “Ford of the Bicycle.” He copied Pope’s mass production method and also introduced stamping in the place of machining.

It reduced the production costs significantly, and his “Crescent” bicycles became affordable for working people. Moreover, the massive exports from the United States also lowered prices in Europe.

Bicycle & Women

The bicycle played an important role in the progress of women worldwide. The safety and the mobility it gave let the women participate more in the affairs of the Western countries.

In the late nineteenth century, the bicycle became a symbol of a new woman in Britain and the United States. As it became safer and cheaper, more women accessed it and enjoyed the personal freedom associated with it.

In the year 1895, Frances Willard, the president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, wrote a book “How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle.”

Another woman, Elizabeth Robins Pennell started cycling in the 1870s in Philadelphia. And she wrote a series of travelogues about her cycling journeys around Europe.

Ultimately, in the year 1895, Annie Londonderry went around the world in the bicycle and she was the first woman to do it. As the garments women wore in those days were not suitable for cycling, the usage of cycles brought a lot of changes in the way women dressed.

Read more about the history of cycling

Equipment / The structure

man repairs a cycle

Design for Utility

People use utility bicycles for road transport. The frames of the cycles with simple geometry protect the riders from the shocks of the roads and facilitate easy steering at low speeds.

The utility cycles have accessories like mudguards, racks, and lights which make it suitable for daily usage. And also, companies made it more useful by providing the fittings to carry loads to shops and children to places.

Still, many countries use bicycles for daily transportation. In Europe, Denmark and the Netherlands use bicycles for daily commutation and have the most bicycle per capita number.

Road Bikes

Road bikes come with upright shape and a shorter wheelbase. This design gives more mobility but riding it slowly is not easy. And the low or dropped handlebars these cycles have, make the riders to bend forward. The forward bending reduces the air resistance at high speed.


The price of a new bicycle varies from US$ 50 to US$ 20,000 and it depends on the quality, type, and weight. Though the weight of the cycle varies, the UCI ( regulating body), recommends the weight of the race bike should not be less than 6.8 kg.

Gears & Usage

As per the purpose and the experience of the person in using it, the suitability of the drivetrain components of the cycle varies.

Hub gears or middle-grade derailleur are suitable for beginners. For hillclimbing, cycles with the triple-chainrings crankset gear system are preferable. The lighter and less expensive double chainring is the better option for other purposes.

Many bikes come with clipless pedals. To which, special shoes are attached which help not only in the pushing but also in the pulling back of the pedals.


The bicycles also come with other accessories like front and rear lights, bells, horns, seats, modern electronic monitors, GPS, locks, bar tape, mud-guards, baggage racks, baggage carriers, pannier bags, water bottles, and bottle cages.

For maintenance and immediate repairing, cyclists carry a pump, a kit to manage punctures, a spare inner tube, levers to handle the tires, and a set of Allen keys.

In addition, special shoes, gloves, and shorts make cycling more comfortable and efficient. In general, cyclists use waterproof clothes to make the riding easier in wet weather. And high visibility clothing reduces the risk of colliding with motor vehicle users.

Moreover, helmets, battery operated lights, reflectors, and bell or horn are essential items in some countries as per the law. It may also include studded tires and a bicycle computer.

Road sense and skills in cycling

Cyclists should be aware of the traffic rules applicable to them. To help them and to train children in handling the bicycles, many schools and police departments conduct educational programs.

This education comes in various forms like rodeos and bike skills. And organizations like League of American Bicyclists offer education for adults.

Besides, riding safely and efficiently is an essential skill. In the process, learning to occupy the road space as other motor vehicles do, is an important skill.

In countries where cycling is popular, governments provide a separate lane for cyclists and in some cases, also provide separate roads. They conduct national road tests for children in which children individually complete a circuit on roads under the supervision of testers.

Infrastructure / Riding facilities

women on cycling

The road facilities people demand vary with their usage. Cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists require different designs of roads.

But fulfilling every need is a tough task and the priorities differ with the governments. Some jurisdictions give priority to motorized traffic and set up one-way street systems, free-right turns, high capacity roundabouts, and slip roads.

On the other hand, if the jurisdictions give priority to cyclists, it encourages more cycling by reducing motorized traffic, and also by building bike lanes, bike paths, and cycle tracks.

When the jurisdiction gives priority to cyclists, it led to the growth of cycling. Or the rate of usage remains steady. But extreme measures against cycling is rare as it happened it Shanghai in 2003, where cycling was banned on a few city roads.

Facilities which promote cycling

In areas where cycling is predominant, cycle-parking facilities using bicycle stands, lockable mini-garages, and patrolled cycle parks are in use which reduces theft.

In places where the local governments promote cycling, the administration provides facilities to carry bicycles on public transport. Further, it also provides external attachment devices on public transport vehicles.

Some cities provide extensive infrastructure and cyclists have to share it with in-line skaters, scooters, skateboarders, and pedestrians.

Bicycles are used as a sustainable mode of transport in urban areas, especially for short-distance transport. And the exclusive cycling infrastructure has different laws in every jurisdiction.

Many European cities like Paris, London and Barcelona offer bike hire schemes to help people to ride a cycle in the city.

In the Netherlands, the government paved a 35,000 km of cycle-track which is a quarter of the country’s entire 140,000 km road network.


It helps cycling and a quarter of all the trips in the Netherlands is carried out by cycling. And inspiring statistics says that it saves the life of 6,000 citizens per year.

It prolongs the life expectancy by 6 months, saves 20 million dollars per year, and prevents 150 grams of CO2 per kilometer of cycling, on each bicycle.

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Types by Usage in cycling


The usage of cycles in daily commuting and commercial activity comes under utility cycling.

Interestingly, the postal services of many countries rely on bicycles for a very long time. In recent times, the London Ambulance Service introduced bicycling paramedics who easily reach the scene of the incident than a motorized vehicle.

The use of bicycles by police is also on the rise as it gives easy accessibility to the pedestrian zones. It is more useful in the areas where roads are congested.

The cycle is in substantial use as a delivery vehicle for many goods. Newspaper, courier and food delivery services use cycles on a large scale. In addition, cycles are used to move inside large factories from department to department.


cycling for recreation

People at various ages of life, use cycling as a recreation. Bicycle touring is a good alternative for time passing for people all around the world.

In the Netherlands, cycling enthusiasts go for cycling in the countryside. The areas have flatlands and cycle trails where there is no need to worry about other vehicular traffic.

‘Fietsvierdaagse’ is a Dutch event that happens four days every year and many people subscribe to it enthusiastically.

Paris- Brest-Paris is the oldest bicycling event that began in the year 1891. It runs up to the present time and the event covers 12000 km with 90 hours time limit.

Clubs and Organization Cycling

Many cycling clubs all over the world conduct organized rides which are open for cyclists of all levels. The rides generally start with a large group but become small in size with the course of riding.

The rides generally require registration and provide information online. In the rides, the routes can vary and the distance covered may be up to 100 miles. Moreover, the rides go through several different routes with stops for rests.


Mountain biking began in the year 1970 around Mount Tamalpais. The cyclists took part in the downhill sport with the customized cruiser bicycles.

Mountain biking takes place on dirt roads, trails and in purpose-built areas. And slopestyle is a form of downhill where riders also do tricks. Besides, cross country, all-mountain trail, freeride and enduro are other forms of the downhill ride.


After the introduction of bicycles, people began competitions in many parts of the world. The early design of the cycle was not so easy for riding and many of the competitors met with injuries.

During the 1890s, the “Golden Age of Cycling”, cycling races became popular and large scale races became a common occurrence in Europe, in the U.S. and Japan.

At its peak, every major city in the U.S. conducted ‘two for track’ race events. But from the middle of the 20th century, it lost its importance in the country and became a minority sport.

The sport continues with the same popularity in the U.K, France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain. Among the races, the most famous ‘Tour de France’ began in the year 1903.

With the changes in the forms of the cycle, many formats of races developed. Team competitions, individual races, one-day events, multi-stage events, and races using recumbent cycles and track cycles are some forms of the cycling race to mention.

During the course of time, professional organizations started to amend rules and put various restrictions. For example, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the governing body of international cycle sport decided in the late 1990s to prohibit bicycles weighing less than 6.8 kilograms.


With the evolution of cycling, cyclists formed many associations for different purposes. The cyclists came together for rails development, road maintenance, bike maintenance, urban design, racing, touring, energy conservation, pollution reduction, promotion of fitness, etc.

In the late 19th century, the League of American Wheelmen founded Good Roads Movement and demanded improvement of the roads.

The Union Cycliste Internationale in Switzerland, USA Cycling in the United States and International Human Powered Vehicle Association are the international governing bodies for cycling.

In Europe, the European Cyclists’ Federation promotes cycling in transport and tourism.

Velo City and Velo Mondial are the prominent names in conducting conferences on cycling at the global level.

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