The velocipede is a term used to describe a human-powered land vehicle with two or more wheels which is a synonym for the word bicycle in the early history of these travel devices. However, although the word “velocipede” was used primarily to describe balanced bicycle designs that had pedals , the world’s earliest appearance of the velocipede was closely connected with the devices known as Dandy, Draisienne, or Hobby horses that were originally invented as the German baron Karl Drais . Dandy bikes featured a very simple design in which users propelled themselves by manually stretching their legs to the ground, where they could walk, run, and then rest their legs while force propelled a single bike forward.


Information of interest

  • Vehicle Type:  Human-Powered Land Vehicle
  • Inventor:  Karl Drais
  • Year: 1817

What is a velocipede?

The velocipede is a term that is used to refer to any land vehicle that is powered by man and that has one or more wheels that help it to propel itself and move from one place to another.

  • What is a velocipede for
  • Features of the velocipede
  • Story
  • Parties
  • How a velocipede works

What is a velocipede for

Velocipedes serve primarily as a means of entertainment . They are used in greater numbers by children who are in the process of learning to ride a bicycle and by older adults who need to exercise but are not able to ride a two-wheeled bicycle. They can also be adapted for people who have special needs.

Features of the velocipede

The main characteristics of the velocipede are the following:

  • It had the characteristics that common bicycles possess .
  • The front wheel of the velocipede was three times larger than the rear wheel.
  • Its pedals were fixed to the front wheel.
  • It was also known as the bone shaker because people who used it took a long time to move it.
  • Its Latin name means quick feet .
  • It was invented by the German Karl Drais in 1817.
  • It had an easel that had two or three wheels.
  • It was mobilized by means of a pair of pedals that were moved by the people who rode the velocipede.
  • Although it was formally known as a velocipede, the press named it Draisiana after the name of its inventor.


To start at the beginning of its history , we must mention the French Count Mede de Sivrac , who in 1790 invented the “celerifer” , which was a moving machine that had two aligned wheels joined by a bar, it did not have a crank and the person straddled it, propelling himself with his feet.

In 1817, a German nobleman added a steering wheel to the front wheel to make it turn to keep the person balanced . In England they were called seesaws or “Dandy horse” , which was a lighter vehicle with an adjustable seat and elbow support. This vehicle became very popular among the upper classes of France and Germany .

The innovations appeared little by little and thanks to the Scottish blacksmith, Kirkpatrick Macmillan , the pedals and the steering levers emerged . These innovations allowed the feet to be propelled without the need to touch the ground. The mechanism consisted of the use of short pedals attached to the rear wheel hub , and connected by long lever bars . The feet were responsible for performing the movements down and up.

In France , float builder Pierre Michaux fitted axles and pedals to the front wheel of his “Dandy horse” and that’s when he named it a velocipede. Since the pedals and axles were connected to the front wheel, the bigger the wheel, the faster it could go. Michaux is seen as the forerunner of the bicycle.

In the 70s, the velocipede had become a tall bike . James Starley , an English inventor, produced the first machine with almost all the characteristics of the high-wheel bicycle , although, it had a lack of wheel stability .

In 1885, John Kemp Starley created the ” safety bicycle “ , using a smaller front wheel and that by means of bearings was propelled by a chain , brakes were adjusted for greater safety. In 1888, John Dunlop developed tires that were filled with air to cushion most of the blows.


The parts that the velocipede had were the following:

  • Driving levers
  • Pedals that allowed to drive the machine
  • Wheel rear and front wheel were fixed by a hub and connect by long pry bars.
  • Connecting rods attached to the levers.

How a velocipede works

The driving levers and pedals were the main parts that were added to the velocipede. These innovations allowed people to propel the machine with their feet without having to touch the ground. The drive mechanism consisted of short pedals that were attached to the rear wheel hub and connected by long lever bars , which snapped into the frame at the top of the machine. These connecting bars were attached to the levers about a third of their length from the pedals. The machine was powered by pushing the feet down and forward

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