The Hobby Horse Bicycle
Invented by Baron Carl Von Drais in 1817 the Hobby Horse is considered the ancestor of the modern cycle. The idea of a man powered vehicle was not new; the problem had exercised the minds of amateur engineers since at least 1750. Early experiments took form of three or four wheeled light carriages driven by hand cranks and foot treadles or both.
The Two Wheeled Machine
The Drais machine was very different, it had only two wheels, one behind the other and instead of using cranks and levels the rider simply pushed with his feet on the ground. It was also easier to steer because the rider's hands were no longer needed to drive it forward. A bar held in the hands (handlebar) was attached to a pivoting fork and was used to turn the front wheel whilst moving, the rider's elbows were rested on the padded platform behind the handlebar, and this also helped to balance the machine.
As a novelty the hobby horse was an instant success amongst the fashionable societies of London and Paris but no workingman could have bought one. Unfortunately it could only be easily ridden on level ground so its popularity was short lived. After its demise inventors returned to their three or four wheel designs that were expensive and didn't take off. The idea of fixing cranks and pedals to the front wheel of a hobby horse eluded inventors for another forty years.