Petroleum Product of the Week: Bicycles
As the weather warms, it’s time to bring out our bicycles and get back to riding! There’s nothing—to me—that’s more peaceful than riding my bike along the riverfront on a nice, warm day.
There’s so much that goes into making bikes, and they are becoming more and more popular as time goes by. You can now rent them to travel around busy cities, making your visit more fun and efficient than ever before.
They fell in popularity when automobiles began to grow, but they made a comeback during the 1970s’ oil crisis—around the same time that mountain bikes were introduced.
Bicycles have evolved and adapted over the years to include types and styles for general transportation, recreation, sport, competition, and more.
A Brief Bicycle History
In the late 1700s, the first bicycle-like device was introduced in France. It was essentially a modern bicycle without pedals, propelled by pushing it along with your feet.
The first steerable version was introduced in 1816 in Germany. This version rose in popularity throughout Europe and, in 1840, a Scottish blacksmith created a version that was operated by a foot pedal.
Metal-spoked wheels, solid rubber tires, ball-bearing hubs, and lever-operated, four-speed gearshifts were introduced in the 1860s. In 1866, a version was introduced that featured a large wheel in front and a very small wheel in back. This version became popular in the United States. The word first appeared in print in 1868; an English newspaper, The Daily News, called them “Bysicles and trysicles.” The word eventually evolved into “bicycles” as we know them today.
The first chain-driven bicycle was invented in 1885, which also featured a new design that proved to be safer for riders. This was also when pneumatic tires and freewheeling wheels were introduced, making bicycling smoother and easier than it had been before.
Some believe that Leonardo da Vinci may have envisioned the first bicycle as early as 1490, but he never tried to build it and his drawings weren’t found until the 1960s. Still, some are skeptics.
Plastics and Lubricants and Machines. Oh, my!
The bicycle frame is typically made from composite materials, which have proven to be stronger than the metals, steel, and alloy steel that were used prior to the 1990s. Stainless steel is used in various components, including the brakes and chains.
The bicycle’s seat is often covered in nylon or plastic, the latter of which is also used on the handlebars. Nylon is a plastic-based synthetic, and plastics come from petroleum. And this is all before we get to the manufacturing process. Just watch the video below to see the machines that are involved in the process (machines of which could not operate properly without proper lubricants… made from petroleum):
What’s amazing to me is that, though much of the process has been animated, the final touches are done the old-fashioned way. Skilled bicycle builders are responsible for adding finishing touches and making any necessary adjustments.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have much more appreciation for my bike after learning about all of this. And developments just keep coming. Recently, Renishaw, in partnership with a British bicycle design company, made the first metal 3D bicycle.
If you’re looking to buy a lubricant suitable for use on your bicycle chain, try Liquid Wrench Super Lubricant!