Karl Drais travelled to Mannheim on his “running machine” for the first time on June 12, 1817. His invention was the basis for the development of the bicycle, the world’s most successful mode of transport.
The bicycle is celebrating a big birthday in 2017 – it is 200 years old. Technology, culture, tradition, history – the bicycle combines all of this and more. It connects the past and the future. This is also because the bicycle has been continuously re-invented. The next evolutionary stage has now been reached: electrification, automation, networking. The eBike is one of the most successful electronic vehicles worldwide and a trailblazer for the mobility of the future.
Karl Drais of Baden-Wurttemberg
Karl Drais invents his running machine, the dandy horse (a.k.a. the draisine) in 1817.
Crankset and pedals
Pierre Michaux is considered the creator of the pedal drives. He mounted a crankset and pedals to a draisine.
John Kemp Starley’s “Rover Safety Bicycle” became the prototype of today’s bicycles.
The hub gear system
Ernst Sachs from Schweinfurt invents the first mass producible freewheel hub gear. It combines forward drive with a coaster brake.
Dynamo lighting for bicycles
Bosch launches a dynamo (magneto) lighting system, of which over 20 million units were produced into the 1960s.
Tullio Campagnolo develops a fully functional derailleur. This product had a style-setting influence for many years.
The birth of mountain bikes
The bikes were old Schwinn Cruisers with balloon tires on 26" rims, a wide handle bar and no shift gear. From one of them, California pro cyclist Joe Breeze developed the first MTB in 1977.
Crank-drive motors for pedelecs
Yamaha builds the first mass-producible crank-drive pedelec motor supporting and reinforcing active pedaling.
Bosch is the European market leader
Over 50 bicycle brands in Europe used the German manufacturer’s components in 2013.
eBikes are lifestyle products
The mid-term projection for Central Europe is that one in three new bicycles sold will be an eBike.
There are around one billion bicycles in the world, making it the most common mode of transport worldwide. By comparison, it is estimated that there are currently around 500 million passenger cars in the world. In Germany alone, there are now 45 million passenger cars compared to 81 million bicycles. Three million of these bicycles are already powered electrically.
It was clear early on that the bicycle had decisive advantages over other mode of transport. Even in the late nineteenth century it was possible to cover distances quickly and easily. In addition, two-wheel mobility was economical: In England, it cost around 1,900 pounds to purchase and maintain a horse, while using transportation of the two-wheeled variety cost only 20 pounds. The bicycle replaced the stagecoach as the most successful vehicle. It therefore democratized mobility, causing the nobility and the bourgeoisie to lose their privilege. This resulted in mobility becoming accessible to the masses.
The bicycle was also the predecessor of the automobile. Innovative developments such as ball bearings, spoked wheels and pneumatic tyres were originally designed for the bicycle. Therefore, if the bicycle had never been invented, the automobile in its current form would be hardly conceivable. The bicycle and the car are therefore not rivals, but instead belong to the same mobility family.
The visionary Robert Bosch also appreciated the advantages of the bicycle. From 1890 onwards, the company founder visited his customers in Stuttgart on a modern “low bicycle”, which was still little-known in Germany. High-wheelers (penny-farthings) with a huge front wheel and a tiny rear wheel for stabilisation were fashionable in continental Europe at that time. However, Robert Bosch relied on technology that he considered to be future-proof and forward-looking.
In 1923, Bosch introduced a dynamo light for bicycles onto the market. It comprised a generator and a headlamp, with over 20 million units produced into the 1960s.
In 2009, the bicycle once again became a focus of the Bosch Group, this time in electrified form. By 2012 – three years after it had been founded – Bosch eBike Systems established itself as the European market leader for eBike systems. In just a few years, it therefore succeeded, together with partners and customers, in developing the bicycle with electric tailwind into the fastest and most effective means of transport in urban traffic today.
There are currently more than three million pedelecs on German roads. It is a development that needed time to break through. Even towards the end of the nineteenth century, the electric motor was a very promising solution for traffic. Electricity was the cornerstone for clean, modern mobility. In 1895, tinkerers patented the first bicycles with electric motors. However, the time was not yet right.
Two factors were primarily responsible for this: The heavy weight of the electrically driven wheels and the low range of the batteries. The weight problem was solved in 1991 with the invention of the lithium-ion battery.
Today, one battery charge on the eBike can cover over 100 kilometres. The batteries ultimately became affordable thanks to the mass production of laptops: The success story of the electric bicycle was now unstoppable. In the meantime, pedelecs have taken their place at the centre of society, they are shaping the city landscape and are considered a milestone for the mobility of the future.