Cycling – A Mode Of Transportation Or More
Tour de France 2015. Source: (Wikimedia)
Some form of bicycles has been around since the 1800s when they were invented. Besides recreational riding for pleasure, others have taken it a step further. Bicycle riding can have significant health benefits, but there is a significant group of riders who go beyond that and take up bicycle racing. Bicycle racing was and is a popular sport among cycle enthusiasts with annual races such as the Tour de France and the Goulburn to Sydney Classic.
Bicycle racing started as early as 1868. This first race was won on a wooden bicycle with iron tires. It was an Englishman named James Moore that won that race at the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris.
A bike known as a velocipede started off the sport of cycling in New Zealand. This bike was also known as the “boneshaker.” The first bike, created in 1818 by Baron Karl von Drais, a German professor, was made of wood and wheels but no pedals. Bikers would have to stop the bike using their feet as well as pushing off with their feet to make them move. They did have handlebars for steering though. It wasn’t until the 1860s that pedals were added to them by French inventors. By the 1880s and 1890s, safety improvements were made to the bikes such as hand levers that could be used to control the brakes.
In 1892, Kate Sheppard was part of a cycling club in New Zealand called the Atalanta Cycle Club. Women popularized the safety bicycle that had a lower frame and pneumatic tires. By 1990, the second most popular sport in New Zealand was cycling.
Different styles of bikes were made through the years that included mountain bicycles, road bicycles, city bicycles, tandem bicycles (built for two), folding bicycles, women’s bicycles, and electric bicycles. There are even bicycles made that accommodate more than two people – up to 40 people in fact. Imagine 40 people riding on one bicycle!
The first Tour de France bicycle race took place in 1903. Sponsored by a newspaper called L’Auto, it was a six-stage race covering 1,509 miles and took 19 days. The racers had rest periods of one to three days between stages. Back then they raced as individuals and averaged about 250 miles per day. The winner of that first race was Maurice Garin. That race has continued on an annual basis. Today, it is a 21 stage race that takes 23 days to complete. Now they race as teams and average around 105 miles per stage. It is considered to be the most prestigious race as well as the most difficult race in the world.
Another popular race, even older than the Tour de France, was the Goulburn to Sydney Classic that started in 1902, which was a one-day road race, and continued as an annual event up until 2012. In 2013, the annual race was canceled when safety concerns were expressed by some of the teams regarding the Hume Highway section. The local cyclists were very disappointed with the decision to cancel the event.
Many bicycle enthusiasts love the thrill of riding bikes whether it is in a race or just a recreational ride on a nice Sunday afternoon. Some even ride their bikes as a form of exercise to keep in shape and stay healthy.