The first bicycles were invented in the 19th century. They looked significantly different than what we see on the road today. Perhaps the most notable example of this is the eccentric penny-farthing. Over the years, the design language and techniques have greatly improved. Some aspects of modern bicycle design are obvious to the eye and others are more subtle.
The shape of bicycle frames hasn’t changed drastically over the past few decades. The shape of bikes was largely consistent after around the 1970s. However, the biggest changes have been in the materials. Lighter weight options have made modern road bikes particularly light. Even less speed-oriented styles such as cruiser bicycles are made from lighter and stronger steels.
This is most noticeable when carrying bikes. It has significant benefits when riding, braking, turning and otherwise using your bike. Try riding on a bicycle that is decades old after taking a spin on a high-quality, modern one. It is a really different experience.
Increasingly, people are getting interested in electric bikes. These started as a bit of a novelty but has been really picking up speed in the 2010s. Bikes in cruiser and hybrid styles with electric motors give cyclists a way to get around significantly more easily. Having an electric motor can extend the range of a bicycle commuter by 30 miles or more. That is pretty significant if you ride a bike every day,
This has helped to change what people think of as a bicycle. While most electric bikes look like typical bicycles, others have added storage and even bodies built around the bike. This is significantly more practical with the addition of an electric motor.
One area that has seen significant changes is racing bikes, particularly for speed records and track racing. Bikes for track racing have evolved in a separate path from the road bikes they are derived from. They have special aerodynamic shaped and even more extreme riding positions to reduce drag. Additionally, they have relatively short wheelbases that let them take on the tighter turns more easily.
People striving for the top speed records on human-powered vehicles have pushed design even further. Many bicycles for records look more like rockets than bikes. They take many of the principles from the motorized land speed record-holders and completely sacrifice maneuverability and practicality in favor of speed.
Find Your Ideal Bike
While some features of bicycles have stayed the same throughout the years, there are constantly new innovations that change how bikes work. Despite both running on two wheels with pedals, a modern hybrid bike is very different from one from the 1950s or even a decade or two ago. New materials and new technologies have changed a lot.
Why not try out some of the changes for yourself? Check out some mens or womens hybrid bikes and pick up a practical commuter. You could change the way you get to work or make getting to the store easier. Alternatively, find a cruiser for a relaxing ride along the beach. Whatever you prefer, consider treating yourself to a new ride.