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1. an early form of bicycle propelled by pushing along the ground with the feet
2. any early form of bicycle or tricycle
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Early models of the velocipede—four-wheeled cart-cycles—were built by inventors from various countries, including J. Hautsch (Germany, 1649), R. La Rochelle (France, 1603), and L. Shamshurenkov (Russia, 1752). The first two-wheeled velocipede, or bicycle, with pedals, a large front driving wheel, and a small rear wheel was built in Russia by the peasant artisan E. M. Artamanov. On this bicycle he traveled from Verkhotur’e (near Perm’) to St. Petersburg (1801). In 1808 a two-wheeled velocipede without any steering control appeared in Paris, it was moved by the rider pushing his feet against the ground. K. von Drais (Germany) equipped this bicycle with a steering control (1815), and during the 1850’s the German mechanic F. M. Fischer added connecting rods and pedals to the front wheel. Thus the bicycle model called the boneshaker was formed—a heavy, rigid construction with equal-sized wooden wheels reinforced with iron bands. In time the wooden wheels were replaced by wheels with thin metal rims, wire spokes, and solid rubber tires. In order to increase the speed, the diameter of the driving wheel was increased. A new bicycle design appeared—the “spider,” in which the diameter of the front (driving) wheel sometimes reached 180 cm and the rear wheel, 30 cm. This type of bicycle lasted for about 20 years. In 1893 the safety bicycle was invented in Great Britain; its general characteristics have survived to the present time.

Introduced at the end of the 19th century into bicycle design were chain drive, ball bearings (1877), pneumatic tires (1889), freewheeling (1894), and a mechanism for shifting gears (1899). Industrial production of bicycles began in the late 19th century. At that time, moreover, bicycles began to be used in the military for communications and transporting wounded men, lightweight weapons, and military supplies. Bicycle companies made their appearance in European armies. The first Soviet bicycles were produced in 1924 by the Kharkov Bicycle Plant; 2,200 units were manufactured. In 1969 bicycle production in the USSR totaled more than 4 million units.

Depending on their purpose and the characteristics of their design, bicycles are subdivided into touring, light touring, adolescent, sports, children’s and special bicycles. Touring bicycles have a sturdy frame, wide tires (l¼″–1½″), high handlebars, and a weight of about 16 kg. Light touring bicycles weigh less (14 kg), have narrower tires (1.0″–1¼″), and are usually equipped with hand brakes. Sports bicycles are characterized by a lightweight construction (8-11 kg) of alloy steels and Duralumin, low handlebars, gear shifts and hand brakes (in highway types), or no brakes and freewheeling (in track types). A variety of sports bicycle is the tandem—a two-seated, two-wheeled velocipede with a double gear unit. Such a design allows the tandem team to reach a speed of up to 70 km per hour. In the special group of velocipedes are the circus, freight, and three-wheeled types (for people of advanced age), as well as bicycle baby carriages and others.

Attached units have become widespread, primarily on touring bicycles to carry loads; also popular now are motor bicycles.


Uspenskii, I. A. Teoriia velocipeda.Moscow, 1959.
Caunter, C. F. The History and Development of Cycles,parts 1-2. London, 1955-58.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.