April 18, 2009/ Jim Parker
The history of the bicycle stretches many generations and many variations and today culminates in the Cruzbike, a design that brings greater safety than the traditional safety bike. In its historical context, the Cruzbike with its rotated body position and pedal driven front wheel can be seen as the logical development of the standard, ‘safety’ bike.
In the late 1800’s the newly invented bicycle was undergoing rapid evolution. Prior to the invention of gears, the only way to increase speed was to increase the size of the drive wheel. In 1870, the very unsafe “high-wheeler”, which perched the rider several feet off the ground became popular. Unfortunately, injuries from the inevitable wrecks were often devastating.
As an answer to the high wheeler, the “Safety” bike became popular after 1885. This is essentially the same double diamond design used on the vast majority of bicycles today.
The “Safety” Bike became the world standard not necessarily by superior design, but rather by bureaucratic fiat. In the early 1930’s a new style of bicycle that placed the rider in a recumbent position began smashing world records. “Second class” athletes were beating the bicycle world’s most elite riders. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, rather than embracing the new technology, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) banned the recumbent design in 1934 and expunged all the records they had set. The new regulations mandated that the pedals could be no more than 10cm in front of the saddle.
Because of this decision, research and investment into the bicycle has been directed towards bicycles that conform to this arbitrary standard.
Today, other imperatives have come to the fore, including the recognition by medical experts and riders alike that sustained use of the “safety” bike saddle is actually not safe. Also, as opposed to competitive racing, there is more interest in bicycling as effective transportation and for use in recreational and fitness activities. Maybe someday the UCI will again allow a bicycle like the Cruzbike to compete with safety bikes in international competition. We can always hope.
As can be seen by the photos, the Cruzbike format is solidly grounded in the long tradition of the bicycle.