September 15th – World’s first велосипед
15 September, 2014
Cyclists! You may not be aware of this, but you have a peasant by the name of ‘Efim Artamonov’ to thank for your preferred mode of transport. On September 15th, 1801, the world’s first велосипед (bicycle) was present to Tsar Alexander I. Though there have been a few claims to the title of inventor of the bicycle, this has to be one of the earliest prototypes.
The invention bore very little resemblance to the streamlined mountain bikes of the present day. This odd-looking contraption, named the ‘self-roller’, was constructed in the Nizhnetagilsky Factory, and was made entirely of iron. The cumbersome frame was made of a single piece of bent metal, and its front wheel was almost 3 times larger than the back one. It was allegedly (and understandably) extremely difficult to control, and required a strong pair of legs to get it to move at all! Nevertheless, Efim took to riding his outlandish machine around the streets of Yekaterinburg, terrifying locals and startling horses as he went.
It’s possible to claim that Artamonov was not only the inventor of bicycle, but also the first cycling enthusiast, taking his machine to Moscow on a tour of almost 2000 km. Incredibly, he managed to return in one piece despite there being no tyres on his wheels, frequent crashes, and finding it largely impossible to ride uphill.
This invention, however, was especially successful in one particular way. On being presented with this prototype, Tsar Alexander I was so awestruck that he decided to emancipate the peasant and his entire family from serfdom. Once safely back in his home town of Nizhny Taghil, Efim continued to develop his self-roller, and today, you can find a monument to this eccentric engineer on the Vaynera Street in Yekaterinburg.