According to the Smithsonian, in 1817, Baron Karl Drais, a German agricultural engineer and inventor, is credited with the first public demonstration of a 2-wheeled human-powered vehicle. He called it the “Laufmaschine” (running machine), but after he demonstrated it in Paris, the French referred to it as a “Draisine”. Drais claimed he could cover the distance to the nearest suburb in half the time it took to walk. More importantly, he “discovered” balance. Before that time, it was assumed that anything with only two wheels would simply fall over.
The next year, London carriage maker Dennis Johnson marketed his own version, which became known as the “Hobby Horse”.
The next major step of the evolution of the bicycle came with the introduction of mechanical propulsion. Prior to this, bicycles were pushed along by the rider’s feet using a motion similar to running. There is some dispute as to who was responsible for first introducing pedals to the bicycle. Historians are still in disagreement about whether Kirkpatrick Macmillan or one of several French gentlemen hold the title of “inventor of the bicycle”.
The first patent, however, was filed for in 1866 by Frenchman Pierre Lallement with his design preceding his patent by several years. In 1863 or 1864, Lallement sold his design to the wealthy Olivier brothers, who in turn formed a partnership with the blacksmith Pierre Michaux. Thus, it was under Michaux's name that Lallement's bike became famous, and was accordingly called Michauline (pronounced Me-shaw-LEEN.) The Michauline design had rotary cranks and foot pedals attached to the front wheel hub for propulsion. While this design did allow for greater speeds to be achieved, it was not without problems. Pedals attached to the front hub made it very difficult to steer and pedal simultaneously. The poor ride quality gave rise to the nickname “boneshaker”. These early bicycles with the pedals attached to the front hubs came to be known as “velocipedes”, from the Latin for “swift of foot”.
This Vélocipède, made by Laurent Poncet, is an example of that later, pedaled version. With wooden wheels, iron “tires”, and lack of springs, this style bicycle earned the nickname “boneshaker.” It was ridden by pedaling the cranks connected directly to the front axle of the wheel itself. It has a unique braking system; the handle bars twist, pulling up a leather strap that connects to an articulating steel lever that applies friction against the back wheel.
In 1869, Frenchman Alfred Berruyer drew the first-ever blueprint for a bicycle kickstand, which was attached to one side of the front fork and reached all the way to the ground. It is probable that the stabilizing device and this particular Vélocipède were both produced by Poncet.
The very rare and intact brass plate on the front reads “Lt Poncet Fabt, A Rives, Isère; translated as: Laurent Poncet, Fabricator, at Rives (the name of the town in the south of France were the shop was located) Isère (the county that includes Rives and named after the river).
Country of Origin: France
Drivetrain Configuration: Pedal crank directly to front axle
Top Speed: Undetermined
Years of Production: Unknown
Number Produced: Unknown