The Invention That Changed Bicycling Forever

The Invention That Changed Bicycling Forever

Before bicycle racing truly emerged as a sport and bicycles became commonplace, a few important events had to take place first. [shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”7296040″] The History of Bicycling Before the start of the 20th century, bicycles were actually not very common. In fact, one of the first bicycles was referred to as the “Boneshaker” because, being made from wood with metal tires, it shook so hard on cobblestone roads that it was extremely uncomfortable to ride. Many innovations came afterwards, including the famous High Wheel Bicycle developed around 1870. However, bicycles would not really become popular until the 1880’s.

The Detachable Tire Eventually, rubber tires were invented in Britain in 1888, but were welded to the wheels, making them very difficult to repair. In 1891, the Michelin brothers had the idea of uncoupling the outer cover and air chamber. They developed a tyre that could be screwed onto the wheel and thus easily detached in the event of a puncture. Rolling Success To publicise their invention, the Michelin brothers took part in the Paris- Brest-Paris race (1200 km) with the cyclist Charles Terront. This event gave Michelin an opportunity to tell people about their technical break-through and to match it against the other competitors’ tires.  Charles Terront won the race, 8 hours ahead of the next competitor, who had been the favourite. This proved the superiority of detachable, inflatable tires once and for all.

Charles Terront riding on the first detachable bicycle tire in the Paris-Brest-Paris race of 1891.

Bicyclists repairing their tires during ‘The Nails Race’ of 1892.

The ‘Nails’ Race Following their success in the Paris-Brest race, the Michelin brothers had the idea of organising a race between Paris and Clermont-Ferrand for cycling enthusiasts. The aim was to prove that any cyclist would be able to repair his tyres at the side of the road in the event of a puncture.  To achieve this aim, they scattered tacks over certain parts of the track. Naturally, many tires received punctures, which the competitors then had to repair, demonstrating the viability of the new tire. The journalists responded by calling this trial the ‘Nails Race’! Never Satisfied Later on, the Michelin brothers used the lessons they learned with bicycles to build the world’s first automobile to roll on air-filled tires. The “Éclair” took part in the first Paris-Bordeaux-Paris automobile race in 1895, and was one of only 9 cars to finish. By 1899, the Michelin brothers had again developed a new concept of tyre, which enabled Camille Jenatzy [jénatzi], who had built a car called “The Never Satisfied”, to break the symbolic 100km per hour speed barrier. At the time, there were some doctors who thought the human body incapable of withstanding such speeds.

To learn more, download the free Michelin Adventure app available here.

The ‘Eclair,’ the first car to roll on air-filled tires (1895).

The ‘Never Satisfied,’ the first car to reach 100km/hour (62 mph) in 1899.