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Bicycle Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Most kids like to ride bicycles. Did you know they've been around for at least 200 years? Learn about some early bicycles and about some crazy things people have done on bicycles as you read this lesson.

Now That's a Long Bike!

If you're like most kids, you've ridden a bicycle. Bikes are human-powered and most have wheels, two pedals, a frame, handlebars, and a seat. There's also a chain that help the back wheel move. Nothing too exciting, right? Would you be surprised to learn that a man in Maine built a bicycle that could be ridden by 52 people at the same time? This huge bike was 140 feet long and had 26 wheels!

A Bicycle Built for Four
tandem

Technically, a bicycle only has two wheels; the prefix 'bi-' means 'two.' The longest two-wheeled bicycle was 67 feet long and held 35 people! Here are some other facts about bicycles.

Bicycle Believe-it-or-not

  • The famous inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci drew a plan for a bicycle-like invention over 500 years ago, but he never built one.
  • About 200 ago, Karl von Drais came up with a bicycle-like invention called the draisine. It didn't have pedals; people sat on it and pushed their feet off the ground to make it go.
  • A bicycle with one wheel is called a unicycle, and one with three wheels is called a tricycle. The first use of the word 'bicycle' was in France almost 160 years ago.
  • Before they were called bicycles, bikes were called 'velocipedes,' which is pronounced vuh-LAH-suh-peedz. In the mid-1800s, Ernest Michaux built a velocipede that had wooden wheels and a heavy iron frame. It was called the 'boneshaker,' so you can probably imagine what riding it was like!
  • The Wright Brothers, famous for building the first controlled airplane, built and sold bicycles before they became interested in flying.
  • Today, about 100 million bicycles are built every year. There are about twice as many bicycles as cars in the world.

Penny Farthing
penny

  • The penny farthing, also called a high-wheeled bicycle, had a huge front wheel and a smaller rear wheel. It was named after two coins in England which were of different sizes, like the wheels on the bicycle. The front wheel was as much as five feet across!
  • A bicycle doesn't actually save you any energy; you use the same energy on a bicycle that you do while walking. What the bicycle does do is make you go faster! You can travel up to three times faster on a bicycle while using the same amount of energy as walking.

Some Bicycle Records

Some people have used their bicycles to do amazing things. Read on to find out about some of these unusual bicycle records.

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