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Bikes - An Illustrated History

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When Pedals Were Added - A Big Improvement
First pedal bike, invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan.

First pedal bike, invented by Kirkpatrick MacMillan.

Dumfries and Galloway

Some historians credit the invention of the pedal bicycle to Kirkpatrick MacMillan, a Scottish blacksmith who lived from 1812-1878. One day back in 1839, MacMillan was out watching people riding bikes, which at that time were driven by kicking the ground with your feet. Thrilling, eh? Seemed to him that there must be a better way. . .

According to later research done by family members, after musing on the matter a bit MacMillan came up with an idea for the first pedal set-up that could more effectively drive the bike. Using his blacksmith tools, he put his idea into place, and voila! bicycling suddenly took a giant leap forward.

Macmillan's contraption had a wood frame and iron-rimmed wooden wheels. The front wheel, which provided limited steering measured 30 inches (760 mm) in diameter, while the back had a 40 inch (1016 mm) wheel and was attached to pedals via connecting rods. In total, Macmillan's bike weighed 57 lb (26 kg). His creation gathered a lot of attention, and Macmillan helped generate additional publicity when he rode the bike 68 miles to visit his brothers in Glasgow. Copies of his invention produced by other firms soon appeared on the market, and Macmillan saw little profit from his innovation.

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