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Happy 200th birthday to the bicycle!

This year is the 200th anniversary of the invention of the first bicycle. In Germany in 1817, Baron Karl Von Drais designed the world’s first bike which looks remarkably similar to a balance bike.

Drais’ Laufmaschine (‘running machine’ in German), also known as the Draisine, was the world’s first steerable two-wheeled vehicle powered by humans rather than horses, which was the main method of transportation at the time.

Inspired by the need to find an alternative to the horse, Drais had the idea of putting one wheel behind the other – this invention became an instant global craze (although was initially banned in London, Rome and Kolkata).

In this pre-pedal era of the bicycle, the Draisine was propelled by the rider pushing off the ground with their feet and gliding along on the bike. This is exactly the same method parents use to teach their children to ride a balance bike before progressing to a pedal bike. The Draisine was eventually adapted and perfected to make the modern day bicycle which became popular in France in the 1860s. Over the next 60 years, the Draisine was developed, gained pedals and was manufactured from hollowed-out metal to make the bike lighter for the rider.

The humble bike was eventually replaced by the motorcar but in the 200 years since its first invention, the bike is becoming increasingly popular again with cities encouraging people to take up cycling to improve traffic congestion and curb harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a quick and easy way to get around busy towns and cities.

Karlsruhe, the birthplace of Baron Karl Von Drais and his Draisine, is now thought to be the second most bike-friendly city in Germany. We think Drais would be quite proud of that!

Balance bikes (also known as walking or running bikes) were designed to teach children how to cycle as the children walk or run whilst sitting on their bikes and glide along. This method teaches children to learn the importance of balance and coordination. Once they’ve mastered these vital skills, they are then more equipped to progress to a pedal bike and independent cycling.

Browse our collection of balance bikes for children aged 18 months to 5 years.