Are bicycles the noblest invention

200 years of bicycles in Germany - the best invention of all time

In 2017, everything in Mannheim and Germany will revolve around the 200th anniversary of the bicycle. Because the wheel of Karl Freiherrn von Drais marked the beginning of bicycle history with its invention in 1817 - even if the first bike came entirely without pedals and chain.

The audience was already enthusiastic on the first test drive from Mannheim to Schwetzingen on June 12, 1817. The fleet forest officer covered the 14 kilometers there and back in less than an hour. This made the wooden frame on 2 wheels, called Velociped in the first patent specification, weighing around 20 kilos, faster than the stagecoach.

Back to the roots: the balance bike

Nowadays children learn to ride a bike with the balance bike

The trigger for the invention was - hard to believe - a volcanic eruption in Bali, which caused poor harvests and a small ice age in Europe and made it expensive to care for horses. So the tinkerer Drais thought of an alternative means of transport. The idea, as simple and natural as it seems to us today, to arrange the two wheels one behind the other was revolutionary. Because even then, the so-called fear of balance prevailed. Drais justified his coup with the idea of ​​ice skating - despite narrow runners, you are stable when you move. It is actually amusing that small children are now learning to ride a bike again in exactly the same way - with a balance bike that pushes off with their feet. Works, as any parent can attest, much better than the weird story about the training wheels.

From Mannheim to Paris

The baron from Baden had a good hand with his development, because he combined the steerable front wheel with a relatively long wheelbase, so that his trolley did not become too restless. After the first speed attempts, long-distance evidence came: 450 kilometers were covered with the "wooden horse", Drais himself drove from Mannheim to Paris. But after the first wave of success there were already problems. Since many bike riders turned to sidewalks instead of rolling on muddy roads, there were bans and the forerunner of the bicycle was almost forgotten. Around fifty years later, the balance bike established itself again, this time as a sports and fun device. In 1861, the pedal drive was invented in France by Pierre Michaux (or Pierre Lallement, this is where the spirits differ) and the bicycle spread millions of times. Decisive milestones were the invention of the spoked wheel between 1818 and 1870 and then the chain drive, patented and functionally working in the bicycle "Rover" of the British Starley and Sutton in 1884.

The smartest invention of mankind

The bicycle, a German invention that then conquered the whole world and is still the most efficient means of transport of all vehicles. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung it was then also called “The smartest means of transportation known to man”. Well-known inventors such as Adam Opel, Henri Ford and the Wright brothers started their careers as bicycle mechanics or built some. The specializations to this day can hardly be listed, touring bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, cargo bikes, e-bikes ... there is now something for every purpose and every taste. From Swarowski-equipped designer bikes to handcrafted frames made of bamboo, the range is almost endless. And the tinkering doesn't stop, almost every designer or inventor is fascinated by the simultaneous simplicity and the possibilities of a human-powered two-wheeler.

Anniversary events

For the 200th anniversary of the bicycle, there are numerous events, competitions, exhibitions and even the performance of a musical about Freiherr Drais in “Monnem”, Mannheim, in Germany and especially in Baden-Württemberg ("We invented it"). The two-wheel museum in Bad Brückenau is organizing a traveling exhibition, in the Deutsches Museum Munich there will be a special exhibition “Balancing Acts” from July 7th. A world meeting of historical bicycles is held in Karlsruhe in May and the “Cinebike”, a cycling film festival, in Karlsruhe in June.

The Technomuseum in Mannheim is holding the 'Knack das Schloss' competition as part of its exhibition '2 Wheels - 200 Years'. You can win, among other things, a voucher from us 😉

The ADFC rally in Berlin will take place this year on June 11, 2017, one day before the birthday of the bicycle. Further events in Berlin have not yet been set for this period, but we assume that there will be more. We will inform you about it on Facebook.

An overview of all events, which is continuously updated, can be found at

200 years of bicycles

Monnem bike

Technomuseum in Mannheim