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    10 fun facts about bicycles

    Sophia Willmes
    Sophia Willmes
    Mar 4, 2024 9 min
    10 fun facts about bicycles

    Did you know?

    Oh, you think you're bike experts? You know all about suspension travel, frame geometries and gear ratios? Can name the last four Tour de France (femmes) winners and those of the UCI World Championships too? Hats off! But we bet you don't know these 10 fun facts about cycling yet.

    1. Leonardo da Vinci was NOT the inventor of the bicycle.

    In the sketchbook "Codex Atlanticus", which the artist made between 1480 and 1510, there is a drawing that looks pretty similar to today's bicycle... However, this prototype was never actually built - which may also have something to do with the fact that historians have since discovered that the drawing in question was definitely not made until around 1960 by an Italian monk. Probably based on the original. Only that this has apparently been lost...

    the "first" bicycle by da Vinci - or simply by an unknown monk?

    But who exactly is the pioneer of our favorite means of transport? Well, it is a matter of debate. This is mainly due to the question, which of the numerous prototypes and patents, which have been accumulating since 1791 at the latest, were really a "bicycle" or just a two-wheeled construction that was halfway similar to one.

    Comte de Sivrac presented a scooter-like bicycle in Paris in 1791, but it could not be steered. Baron Karl Drais added a  saddle and (functioning) handlebars to his model in 1817 and from 1960 at the latest with Pierre Lallement's bike, we can really speak of the first "bicycle" in today's sense. It is not clear who exactly was the first. It certainly wasn't Da Vinci.

    the prototypes of de Sivrac, Drais and Lallement (from left to right)

    2. The first mountain bike weighed 35 kg.

    Ok, so the Italians didn't invent the bike as a whole. But they DID invent the mountain bike: we have the Italian bicycle manufacturer Bianchi to thank for bicycle suspension. At the beginning of the First World War Bianchi was already doing well - almost 45,000 bicycles left the Milanese factory every year. The Italian military decided to rely on this expertise and commissioned the company to manufacture military vehicles in 1912. The result? A full-suspension bicycle with mounting options for rifles and other weapons for the Bersaglieri, the bicycle infantry. It may have weighed 35 kg, but hey: it was the first mountain bike.

    Want to learn more about mountain bikes? We have a selection of articles for you!
    - Mountain bike vs road bike
    - How to choose a mountain bike
    - Best beginner mountain bikes
    - Best mountain bikes for bikepacking
    - All about frame height on a mountain bike

    3. The longest bike in the world steals the show from many a swimming lane.

    It measures a full 47.5 m and entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2020. The requirement was that the bike only has two wheels (obviously) and could be ridden for at least 100 m without the riders having to dismount or their feet touching the ground. The last record went to Australia's Bernie Ryan and was a true family endeavor. Bernie designed and built the bike, his wife Ruth steered it and son Trent took on the mammoth task of pedaling it over the 100 m line.

    Left: Bernie Ryan and his bike, right: the former University of South Australia record holder

    Props to whom props are due. A small criticism from our side though: from a design perspective, the 47.5 m long bike could have done better - it looks a lot like a lattice girder clamped between two wheels. The last record carrier (41.4 m) from the University of South Australia was a little more creative.


    4. The most expensive bike in the world narrowly avoids being cruel to animals.

    Exceptional British artist Damien Hirst is known for his work with animals. For his work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living , an entire shark ended up in a glass box filled with formaldehyde; for Away from the Flock , stuffed sheep were exhibited in the same setup in museums around the world. And for Lance Armstrong's Butterfly bike , the artist attached countless wings from real butterflies to a Trek Madone on which the American cycling icon rode the last stage of the 2009 Tour de France and literally flew across the finish line - pun intended. The bike was later auctioned off by Sotheby's for a massive 500,000 dollars.

    Whether butterflies were actually killed for this remains unclear. But it is not as if Hirst had no dark past with them: for the 1991 exhibition In and Out of Love , the artist filled an entire room with white canvases to which real butterfly cocoons were attached. For the duration of the exhibition, thousands of the animals hatched, fluttered through the room, fed on rotten fruit, mated, laid new eggs - and died in droves due to the adverse conditions of the small room.

    5. Tour de France winners ride at an average speed of 40 km/h.

    Double Tour de France Winner Jonas Vingegaard had an incredible average speed of 42.03 kilometers per hour during the 2022 Tour. Over a distance of 3,344 kilometers. The impressive thing about this is not only that he broke the previous record of Lance Armstrong, who was even under the strong influence of performance-enhancing doping drugs at the time, but also that the average speed at the Tour de France has almost doubled in the last 100 years. In the 1920s, it was only 25.5 kilometers per hour.

    6. Cycling costs 16 times less than driving a car.

    Calculating how much individual modes of transportation cost us at a societal level is a rather complicated task, but not one that the German Federal Environment Agency is not up to. In 2017, it came to the conclusion that every kilometer driven by car costs society as a whole 5.66 cents. However, every kilometer travelled by bike only costs 0.39 cents.

    This includes not only the costs of acquisition, maintenance and repair, but also external costs such as the  environmental consequences of driving and cycling (smog, noise and the resulting damage to health, such as stress or tinnitus), costs for damage to buildings and materials, crop failures and loss of biodiversity (all caused by excessive emissions), but also more mundane costs such as road construction and the production, transportation and disposal of road signs. And then it becomes clear: the bicycle saves us as a society a whole lot of money. And worry too.

    7. Some luxury bikes are cheaper than the new S-Works.

    Haute couture and bicycles don't have much in common per se. Nevertheless, the big fashion houses have been looking more and more enthusiastically into the world of bicycles in recent years and want to get involved. To this curiosity and fascination with the design "bicycle", we owe couture bikes from Chanel, Dolce Gabbana, Louis Vuitton as well as the collaboration between Van Moof and Loewe. The ironic thing about it?

    From left to right: Bicycles from Louis Vuitton, Loewe and Chanel

    Although these brands are known for boundless luxury, extravagance and wealth, many a cycling enthusiast will be pleasantly surprised by the prices of these bicycles: The Gucci x Bianchi bike was available for 8,500 euros at the time, while a bike from Birkin inventor Hermès cost just 8,100 euros. That's a lot of money, of course. A Specialized S-Works SL 8 costs twice as much, depending on the model.

    From left to right: Bicycles from Hermès and Gucci

    8. The fastest cyclist in the world beats any average car.

    Since September 2018, the US-American cyclist Denise Mueller-Korenek has held the world record for the fastest speed ever achieved on a bicycle. She rode at an incredible 296 km/h in the slipstream. That's how fast a Boeing is just before take-off.

    How does that work? A specially designed bicycle is produced for such extreme speeds, whose gears are so hard that it has to be brought up to 150 km/h first before riders can release the traction cable and then accelerate on their own. To provide the slipstream that is absolutely necessary at such speeds, a pace car drives in front of the bike, which must be driven by professional racers - and is always just a few centimetres ahead of the athletes. It should be clear that it is absolutely life-threatening to race so close behind a car at just under 300 km/h on a bike. So Mueller-Korenek's record is all the crazier.

    9. One bicycle alone is a cult object. Take 3,144 of them and you'll go down in art history.

    The Chinese conceptual artist and human rights activist Ai Wei Wei has repeatedly used bicycles for his installation artworks ever since 2008. The first time was for his work Very Yao, in which he stacked 760 bikes on top of each other and turned them into a gigantic sculpture. For the various versions of the installation Forever Bicycle , he stays true to this idea and once again uses bikes to open up new forms of interpretation of Chinese social society.

    10. There are more than 1 billion bicycles in the world.

    And that's with more than 8 billion people on the planet. Not as many bikes as you might think at first, is it? Especially in view of the fact that a few of you own five of them.

    China actually has the most bicycles, with more than 450 million, closely followed by the USA and Japan with 100 and 75 million respectively.

    On buycycle.com we've currently got just over 17,000. road, gravel or mountain bike: You are sure to find the right bike for you in our selection - pre-owned, in top condition and for up to 60% cheaper. Meaning, little browse through our website is always worthwhile, and if you want to sell one of the five bikes you own, with buycycle it's just as easy, quick and secure as buying a bike. If you have any questions about our top 10 cycling fun facts or our platform in general, the buycycle team is always here for you. For more information about bikes, our blog is the best place to go. For now, we wish you, as always: Happy browsing, happy cycling!