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Happy Birthday, JK Starley: Inventor of the Modern Bicycle

Whether you bomb down hills on a sleek road bike or cruise to work on a sturdy Dutch commuter, all stripes of cyclists can probably all agree: The bike is simply one of the most brilliant inventions of the past 150 years. And today is the birthday of the man who created the modern cloth from which all bikes are cut.

In 1885, John Kemp Starley invented the “Rover Safety Bicycle,” debuting a revolutionary ride that had two similar-sized wheels. In contrast to the previous high wheeler designs, the Rover was far more stable, spreading quickly from England to the rest of the world. Not only did it kickstart a boom in bicycling, but, even 120 years later, we’re all still riding bikes that are based on the Rover.

“How can you begin to capture and describe the impact of the man who’s inventive genius resulted in a product that is effectively the same today as it was more than a century and a quarter ago,” League president Andy Clarke says. “Sure, some of the materials used to build bikes have changed, but JK Starley could walk into a bike shop today and ride away on a very familiar machine! That’s a pretty remarkable testimonial to the enduring utility and value of the humble — yet utterly revolutionary — ‘safety’ bicycle.”

The Bicycle Association of Great Britain is leading today’s celebrations; click here to read all about Starley and the impact of the Rover.

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