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We’ve all heard our fair share of “truths” about cyclists. But even the bicycle has enjoyed its share of fake news over the years.
Below, we’ll look at 13 of the most common bicycle myths that many people actually believe to be truth.
Even if you’re a passionate bike fan, a few of these may catch you by surprise.
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1. Myth: Leonardo da Vinci Invented the Bicycle
This myth likely originated from a sketch in 1974, believed to be a Da Vinci creation depicting a chain-driven bicycle.
However, it was later proven that the sketch was a hoax, added to Da Vinci’s genuine Codex Atlanticus during a restoration in the 1960s.
Despite this, Da Vinci’s innovative thinking and designs for various machines have led some to speculate how he might have influenced the bicycle’s invention.
2. Myth: Bicycles Were Originally Called “Penny-Farthing”
The Penny-Farthing is a specific bicycle model with a large front wheel and a small rear wheel, resembling the British penny and farthing coins when placed next to each other. It became popular in the 1870s and 1880s.
However, it was not the first type of bicycle, and the name “Penny-Farthing” is not synonymous with all early bicycles.
3. Myth: Bicycles Have Always Had Two Wheels
While the most common image of a bicycle is a two-wheeled vehicle, there have been numerous variations throughout history, including tricycles (three wheels) and quadricycles (four wheels).
Some early designs even experimented with different numbers and configurations of wheels.
4. Myth: Bicycles Were Always Pedal-Powered
The earliest bicycles, known as “hobby horses” or “running machines,” invented in the early 19th century, were propelled by riders pushing off the ground with their feet. Pedals and chains, which significantly improved the efficiency of bicycles, were not introduced until later.
5. Myth: The First Bicycle Was the Bone-Shaker
The “Bone-Shaker,” introduced in the 1860s, is often mistakenly considered the first bicycle. While it was one of the early pedal-powered bicycles, previous versions existed, including the wooden “hobby horse.”
6. Myth: Bicycles Were Originally a Children’s Toy
Bicycles were initially developed for adults as a form of transportation. The association with children’s toys didn’t become prevalent until the 20th century, although children had been riding smaller-sized bicycles before this shift in perception.
7. Myth: Women Were Discouraged from Riding Bicycles
In the 19th century, social norms and impractical clothing did make bicycling challenging for women, as well as bizarre media stories about “bicycle face”.
However, bicycles played a crucial role in the women’s liberation movement, providing freedom of movement and contributing to changes in women’s fashion, such as the adoption of bloomers.
8. Myth: Bicycles Are Dangerous
Cycling does involve some risk, especially in areas without proper infrastructure. However, numerous studies have shown that the physical and mental health benefits of regular cycling significantly outweigh the risks involved.
Indeed, there is evidence that is even safer than gardening. Seriously.
9. Myth: Bicycles are Bad for Male Fertility
There has been a longstanding myth that cycling can negatively affect male fertility, primarily due to saddle pressure. While there is some evidence that prolonged periods of cycling can lead to numbness or temporary erectile dysfunction, the overall impact on fertility is minimal. Proper saddle fitting and taking regular breaks can mitigate these issues.
10. Myth: The Dutch Have Always Been Cycling Enthusiasts
While the Netherlands is famous for its cycling culture today, this was not always the case. The shift towards bicycle-friendly policies and infrastructure mainly occurred in the 1970s in response to concerns about traffic safety and the oil crisis.
11. Myth: Bicycles Are Expensive
Some people perceive cycling as an expensive hobby, particularly with the availability of high-end bikes and gear. However, cycling can be quite affordable, especially when compared to the costs of owning and maintaining a car.
Many budget-friendly bikes are also available, and cycling can save money in the long run through reduced transportation and health costs.
12. Myth: Bicycles Contribute to Road Congestion
There’s a common misconception that bicycles contribute to road congestion and traffic. In reality, bicycles take up far less space than cars, and increasing bicycle infrastructure has been shown to reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic flow.
Encouraging cycling can actually be a solution to road congestion issues in urban areas.
13. Myth: Electric Bicycles Are a Recent Invention
While e-bikes have gained significant popularity in the 21st century, the concept has been around since the late 19th century.