Inventor of the Bicycle

The gravesite in Karlsruhe of the inventor of the bicycle. Another pilgrimage I must make.

Karl von Drais was the inventor of the bicycle in 1815, among many other inventions. He was born in Karlsruhe Germany. Around the age of 30, Europe was experiencing famine because of years of war. Then the Indonesian volcano Tambora erupted and covered the entire globe in ash, shading the sun and causing crop failures and more famine. This became known as the year without a summer. In Drais patent application for what he called the “running machine” he describes a “machine sparing horses and their costs.” Europe at the time censored any mention of famine and starvation which is why very little was written by Drais or his contemporaries regarding horse and people starvation.

The death of animals and people seems to have affected him greatly. He focused his mind on the shortages of food and horses. Horses at that time were used for field work but also as a faster means of transportation. Drais big idea was that people could eat the oats that they would have fed to the horses. Oats have the highest protein of any grain. People can provide a much higher return of energy from oats than a horse can, especially when a person is using a machine like a bicycle. Horses can’t coast. 

I was glad to see Drais focus on oats. I worked in one of the only two oat mills in the world. Other mills may do oats and other grains but these two mills did only oats. I would pack and load 100 pound bags of oats at night and then go to school in the day. The CEO of the oat mill (Mr. Armstrong) paid for college for both laborers and management, which is rare to see even today. I knew then that oats are one of the most perfect foods in the world so I knew I was going to be rewarded for my work and the reward has been beyond my expectations. Oats were roasted in giant 10 food wide metal pans and the fragrance was heavenly. They can’t be eaten without roasting or cooking.

Karl von Drais was given the honorary title of “Professor of Mechanics.” Thank you professor, from one of your mechanics.


Published by Rod

I love walking and riding in the hills.

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