In 1885 the modern bicycle was born. The man responsible, John Kemp Starley, is probably the most influential British inventor that you’ve never heard of, having invented what he called the ‘Safety Bicycle’.
In the 1880s Starley and others had been looking into designing a bike that was both safer and easier to ride than the penny-farthing. The Safety Bicycle featured two wheels of equal size and diamond frame made from two triangles.
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Since its humble beginnings, bicycle design has continued to evolve and come an incredibly long way. Pneumatic tyres, freehubs, derailleurs and STI shifters have all been massive technological breakthroughs, but what does the future hold for bike design?
Arguably the most widely used braking system on modern vehicles is the disc, so it was only a matter of time before road bikes started to adopt it.
Disc brakes offer vastly superior braking over rim brakes, owing to their precise modulation and consistency. Consistent braking, particularly in the wet, is a huge advantage, especially when descending.
We already have electronic shifting on bikes from the likes of Campagnolo and Shimano, but SRAM and now FSA are set to raise the bar with wireless electronic shifting. This will remove the need for cables on the bike, allowing bikes to look neater and be easier to maintain.
Power meters and other sensors are coming down in price, to the point where bikes of the future are likely to feature the integration of sensors already built into the frame. This has the potential to provide riders with more accurate data and metrics for training and post-ride analysis.
It may not sound hugely exciting, but at present, the industry is swamped with new and different bottom brackets. These contain the bearings through which the pedal cranks sit. To date, a robust design that can accommodate different crank designs without suffering from clicking or creaking has yet to emerge. Advancements in weather-proofing these parts will reduce maintenance and the occurrence of annoying clicking/creaking noise.
Looking further into the future, research from VoucherBin.co.uk suggests it would not be inconceivable to see bike design do away with chains and sprockets in favour of a different drive system. Although well established, the chain drive is not perfect as it is open to dirt, grime and rust, requiring routine maintenance and lubrication.
With regard to frames, carbon fibre is currently the material of choice, as it offers the best combination of stiffness, lightweight, strength and shape. However, material science is a rapidly growing field with huge implications for bike design. The use of more sophisticated carbon fibre employing graphene and carbon nano-tubes will enable bikes to be far lighter and stronger than anything we can imagine right now.
In the mean time, visit ProBikeKit or Merlin Cycles for all your biking needs and to keep up to date with all the latest commercially available technology.