The bicycle, as it is known as today, has gone through a number of transformations and modifications over the years, starting with Giovanni Fontana's 1418 four-wheeled wooden variation that used a length of rope attached to a number of gears to propel the vehicle forward. Some inventions stuck to the familiar two-wheeled model, while others used more unconventional approaches to the design.
The Walking Machine
Baron von Drais created a walking machine, also known as the hobby horse or the Draisienne, in 1817. The machine consisted of two same-sized wheels, with the front wheel attached to a handlebar. The user would straddle the machine and use his feet to propel the machine forward. The walking machine was made entirely of wood and was useful only for leisurely strolls through areas with a clear pathway.
The velocipede, also known as the boneshaker, came into being around 1865. It was the first bike to feature pedals attached to the front wheel to propel the machine forward. The velocipede was made entirely of wood and came with metal wheels in later models. The combination of the bike's building materials and the cobblestone streets common in cities at the time made for a rather unpleasant ride. That lead to the boneshaker nickname.
The High Wheeler
Probably one of the most easily recognized old time bikes is the high wheel bicycle, aptly named after its comically large front wheel. The high wheel initially appeared in 1870, and was the first all-metal bicycle model. The inventors had discovered that the larger the front wheel, the more ground a rider could cover with each of the wheel's rotations. So they made the bike's front wheel an exaggerated size. However, these early bicycles were extremely unsteady and dangerous, and eventually became outdated with the introduction of the geared bicycle.
The safety bike, as the name implies, was a much safer bicycle compared with the high wheelers. The safety bike appeared about 1890, and featured the first gear and chain system, thanks to developments in metallurgy that allowed for creation of a strong yet compact chain and spoke system that an ordinary person could power. Introduction of the safety bike marked the point in bicycle evolution at which the shape and design of the bicycle began to look like today's modern version.