Green Rides: Bikes Then and Now

Bicycle park at railway station by markhillary

If you haven’t heard yet, May is National Bike Month. It’s the perfect opportunity (or excuse) for you to dust off your bicycle and green up your transportation. Besides, Summer is coming soon and you’ll want to be in shape and ready to ride, right?!

Bike to Work week comes up next week, with National Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 21st, so there’s no time like the present to map out and test your route to work. Even if you haven’t ridden a bike for awhile, just remember the old saying, “It’s just like riding a bike” and in this case it really is. You can also check out biking events in your area to meet up with other riding enthusiasts.

So, in celebration of bike month, let’s take a look at some of the bicycles we’ve seen through the ages:

Image by Flowizm via Flickr The mid-1860s saw one of the first “riding machines” or bicycles, the Velocipede or Boneshaker. The Velocipede was actually created by taking a two-wheeled walking machine (which was kind of like a bicycle but without pedals) and adding the pedals. The pedals were placed on the front wheel and even though it was faster than walking, it got its nickname as it wasn’t exactly one of your more comfortable rides.

Next came high-wheeled bicycles, the first all metal bicycles. I’m sure you’ve seen these in photos. They too had the pedals on the front wheel.

These particular bicycles were a little more “high-end”. The front wheel was 58 inches or so and the larger the front wheel the faster the bicycle went. They were also very popular amongst well-to-do young men, the only major drawback on them gaining further popularity was the cost.  An average high-wheeler would set a working man back 6 month’s pay.

Image by Mild Mannered Photographer

After that came the high-wheeled safety bicycles. The main difference here was the large tire was in back and the smaller one in front. These were actually designed in an attempt to reduce the number of “headers” off the front of the bicycle.

The next round of bicycles were closer to both the original riding machines and the bicycles of today. Both tires were the same size but the pedals were put on gears, rather than being on the front tire. The metal provided a sturdy frame while at the same time being light enough to be human-powered.

Skip forward many years to the year you got your first Corvette…a Schwinn Corvette that is. Nothing could have been better, with its “super-speed” design and 3-speed gears, you were destined to be the cool kid on the block.

What about a bike with a banana seat? Did you ever have one of those? They were pretty popular when I was growing up. Mine wasn’t quite like this one equipped monkey bars, a banana seat and sissy bars, but it was still fun to ride.

Of course, nowadays if you are looking for a bike, you’re probably looking for one that’s not only comfortable and stylish but one that is green as well.

Here’s a bike that would fit right into those parameters…the Trek Belleville (tks Chris Baskind for the tip). The Trek Belleville is put together, from start to finish, with the environment in mind. They didn’t set out to simply design a new bike, they set out to ensure their bikes would be able to complete a full circle of birth, life and then recycling into an afterlife.

Here are some of the eco-friendly features it has:

– front and rear racks for carrying whatever you need (okay, well not anything you need, but they’ll definitely work for a trip to the Farmer’s Market),

– generator lights are powered as you pedal, thus removing the need for batteries,

– tires are made from reground and sustainable harvest rubber, and

– it has a recyclable steel frame, which also cuts down on vibrations to give you a more comfortable ride.

Image from

When it comes to the bicycle, we’ve come a long way. But one thing has stayed the same, it’s still a green way to get around. It’s faster than walking and better for the environment than driving. An extra bonus is riding your bike is a great way to exercise. So, what was your favorite bicycle growing up? What do you have now?


  • Stephanie

    Those really high bicycles really freak me out… LOL!! Love the article! Get out and ride during National Bike Month!

  • Michael Tapp

    Why pedal a bike when you can ride a Segway? /s

    I ride a frankensteined Bridgestone MB-3. No reason to reinvent the wheel.

  • solargroupies

    I saw old photos of my grand daddy’s high-wheeler- and could never figure out how they would have worked. Glad we have normal ones now, with lots of gears!

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