You and Your Bicycle
Cycling is a fun thing to do. You can explore places you’ve never been to before, like your local forest or mountain. You can ride around the block with Mom and Dad or your friends. And there are many cool bicycle races you can take part in.
But the coolest thing of all is that you are never too old to ride a bicycle!
Cycling has many benefits:
- It is a great form of transport. In some countries, people ride bicycles instead of cars!
- Riding a bike keeps your body healthy and strong.
- With no exhaust fumes to pollute the air, cycling is good for the environment.
- The first “bicycle” was invented in 1816. It was a walking machine that could be steered with handlebars.
- And after many changes and modifications, the term bicycle was used for the first time in 1870.
- The Penny Farthing, also known as the “High” or “Ordinary” bicycle was invented in 1871. It had a small back wheel and extra-large front wheel, which made it impossible to ride over any obstacle.
- This problem was solved with the invention of the “safety bicycle” in the 1890′s. With its two same-sized wheels and chain it is the direct ancestor of today’s bicycle. Over the next couple of decades, brakes, lights, tyres and gears were invented.
- A hundred years later, more bicycles than cars were sold in America. The 10-speed bicycle also appeared around the world, while the BMX was born in the USA.
- Today cycling is enjoyed by all people of all ages – from the little girl on her first bike to the Olympic cyclist with his state-of-the-art machine.
Historical fun facts
Other famous things invented in the 1800s include matches, the tin can, the camera, the dental chair and the stapler!
How Does a Bike Work?
While the bicycle is a simple machine, take a closer look: it has many parts – great and small – that work together perfectly to let you ride around without much effort.
These are the most important parts of a bicycle:
- The front fork is the movable part of the frame that holds the front wheel in its place.
- The wheels are made of a hub, spokes, a metal rim, rubber tyre and inflated inner tube. They are the most important part of a bicycle – without wheels you won’t be able to move forward over the ground.
- The seat and seat post provide you a place to sit.
- The handlebar stem connects the handlebars to the frame. You use handlebars to steer your bicycle.
- The cranks and pedals help you move forward. Put your bike upside-down, push down on one of the pedals and see how the back wheel starts to rotate.
- The brakes are an important part of your bike; without them, you won’t be able to stop! Some riders have disk brakes fitted on their bicycles.
- The chain and gears consist of the front and back derailleur, the shift levers on the handlebars and the cables.
The cool thing about a bicycle is that it is one of the most efficient means of travelling – including walking! In fact, it takes less energy to cycle one kilometre than to walk one kilometre!
You’ve got the power
Your legs provide the power for cycling, while muscles attached to the thigh bone and shin bone do most of the work. In fact, the fibres that make up your quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles receive messages from the brain, causing them to contract, which in turn creates a pedalling action.
But remember, the body is as much a machine as the bicycle and we need to eat the right food to ensure that our muscles have enough power to propel a bike forward. So give the sweets a skip and eat your fruit and vegetables!
Did You Know?
- The largest timed bicycle race in the world takes place in Cape Town. Around 35,000 cyclists take part in this race every year.
- If all the participants in this race place their bikes wheel-to-wheel, the 109km route will not be long enough to house all the riders.
The Guinness World Record for the longest “true” bicycle (one that has two wheels and nothing extra to keep it stay upright) is held by members of Gezelschap Leeghwater, the mechanical engineering students’ association at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. They built a bicycle of 28.1 m long and rode the bicycle for about 100 m in 2002.
Eat Well 2 Ride Well
Your body needs energy and if you want enough energy to ride your bicycle, you must eat enough of the right food.
- Remember to always eat breakfast. Your body needs new energy for the day.
- Don’t eat too much, otherwise you over-fill your body with food and you won’t feel well.
- Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored or when you are watching TV. When you are hungry, your body tells you that it needs more fuel.
- Eat fruit and vegetables; not sweets and cookies.
- Drink eight glasses of water a day. Your body needs water to stay healthy and work properly.
Clever kids stay cycle-safe.
- Always wear a helmet: It protects you when you fall. Buy a helmet that fits just right. A helmet that’s too big and wobbly won’t protect you.
- Be seen: Always wear bright, reflective clothing and put a light on your bicycle. Do not ride in the dark!
- Use hand-signals: Hand-signals will help people in cars see what you want to do. Example, stick out your left hand if you want to turn left.
- Follow the rules: Obey road rules like stop signs and traffic lights.
How Do You Balance?
Your sense of balance is controlled through a complex system in your inner ear called the vestibular system. You need balance to stand, walk, run and move around without falling. Without balance you cannot ride your bike.
Learn more about the bicycle, how to train and races you could take part in by visiting: