Innovation in early years: The history of bicycling in Detroit

Before the Motor City, Detroit was a bicycling city.  Not different from today, Detroit was a hub for innovation.  Following the first bike ride in Detroit in 1868, James Rankin issued a patent titled ‘Improved Velocipede’, dating back to April 1869. This invention benefits from the introduction of ball bearings into the assembly of velocipedes to aid in motion of the treadles, or the foot pedals which impart motion to the vehicle. This design utilizes a clutch device and pulley design which helps to create continuous rotary motion to the axles, providing smoother motion. According to diagrams attached to this patent, this design used three wheels; three- and four-wheeled velocipedes were popular.Many attribute these bicycle inventions leading to the early years of gasoline automobile innovations. Henry Ford, drove his first car, called the Quadricycle, built using a number of bicycle parts, including four bicycle wheels. Frenchman Louis Chevrolet was a bike mechanic and racer, who later became an auto-racer and co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. Detroit's bicycle shop owners, manufacturers, racers, and enthusiasts were Detroit’s automobile pioneers.   

Detroit has rich history in cycling from the 1880’s and 1890’s. In 1879, the Detroit Bicycle Club was founded and bike racing took off!  Soon after, the Detroit Wheelman were formed and began hosting events and social rides. Some famous Detroit Wheelman included John F. Dodge, Horace E. Dodge, William E. Metzger, Horatio Earle, Truman H. Newberry, Tom Cooper, and Edward N. Hines. In 1891, The League of American Wheelman hosted their first large conference.  The Unique Cycling Club was formed in 1893 for women. The most prominent Detroiters’ were affiliated with bicycling. Even the Detroit Police were on bikes. Today, Detroit is one of the top cycling cities in the world – from greenways, recreational and bike lanes.

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DAC KIND, Kids IN Detroit, in conjunction with the Detroit Cycling Championship, are gathering new and used bikes to give to 130 kids in the city of Detroit. To learn more about how to donate a bike or get involved, contact KIND@DetroitCycling.com.
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DAC KIND, Kids IN Detroit, in conjunction with the Detroit Cycling Championship, are gathering new and used bikes to give to 130 kids in the city of Detroit. To learn more about how to donate a bike or get involved, contact KIND@DetroitCycling.com.
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