We often hear a saying “Don’t invent a bicycle” about something simple and known fora long time. Really, the bicycle is old enough – more than a hundred years of age. Its first prototype appeared in 1791 in France. In 1800 a Russian peasant Artamonov made an iron bicycle and travelled on it from Nizhni Tagil to Moscow.
First bicycles looked odd: a large (about 1.5 m high) front wheel with a cranked axle. The back wheel was usually smaller. Bicycles were made of iron and riding them was not comfortable because of shaking. They were even called “boneshakers”. In 1868 rubber tyres were invented, first solid, then pneumatic. New types of bicycles appeared every year but only in 1885 people saw a model which looked like modern cycles. It had two almost equal wheels and a chain drive to the rear wheel. The frame of the cycle was diamond-shaped. This shape survived and became basic. The new machine looked more elegant than the old “spiders” which were soon abandoned. As time went by, new bicycles were invented – for two, three and even fifteen riders!
The first bicycle race was held in 1868 in Paris. But the sport became popular only several decades later because bicycles were expensive and only rich people could afford them. By the end of the 19th century many factories produced thousands of bicycles which became cheap, so many people could practice cycling and take part in various competitions. Cycling competitions are generally divided into road and track events. Both kinds are in the Olympic programme. Olympic road events include individual and team races.
Individual races’ distances are different, usually they do not exceed 200 kilometres. The winner is the first cyclist who passes over the finish line with his front wheel.
In the team road event the teams start the contest with 2-4 minutes interval, and that team wins whose members get the best sum of timings.
Track events take place on special cycling tracks which look like elongated stadiums with a sloping runway made of concrete, wood or plastics. Track events are very spectacular. The Olympic programme includes 1 km sprint races, 1 km heat or time trial, individual pursuit and team pursuit over 4 km.