Bicycle Timeline

When It All Began:

In the late 1880’s came the introduction of machines we’ve all come to know and love: The Bicycle. Being chain driven with 2 same size wheels, John Starley called his invention the “Rover” Safety Bicycle; as it was a “Safer” alternative to the common Penny Farthing invented by John’s uncle, James Starley.

James Starley
Ariel Ordinary Bicycle 1870: Commonly referred to as the "Penny Farthing"
John Starley
Rover Safety Bicycle 1880

Close to 90% of roads weren’t smooth. Dirt roads were rarely maintained and often rutted out from Horse Carriages, making it impossible to ride a “High Wheeler” outside Town limits.

Source: Alexander Turnbull Library /Ref: 1/1-0270540-G
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library /Ref: 1/2-046073-F

By fitting two same sized wheels, it became possible for people of most heights, including women, to safely mount and dismount their bicycle. Being lower to the ground made accidents not as devastating. A chain driven wheel also enabled different “speeds” to be carried.  John Starley’s Symmetrical wheel platform was such a success that modern bicycles today still share the “Safety Bike” platform.

James Starley's differential gear, 1877.

War: The Mother of Innovation

Safety bicycles gained serious popularity throughout World War I. The “Iron Horse” would deflect bullets making bicycles crucial for message carriers. 

Source: Alexander Turnbull Library /Ref: 1/1-005293-G
Source: Alexander Turnbull Library /Ref: 1/2-013352-G

Towards the end of the war, motors were being installed on Bicycles so they could travel faster while carrying more supplies and ammunition. With that came the disadvantages of using a Symmetrical Wheel platform.

They were difficult to turn when traveling above 30mph and also very prone to flat tires. To alleviate the common flat, a larger rear tire matched with a smaller rear wheel was used.

Norton 16H
Source: Grace's Guide File:Im190208MCM-Werner

This made the rear wheel stronger while lowering the rear axle height from the front wheel. Rear flats were now less common while other advantages were being noticed as well. A rider was able to comfortably use one hand while turning at speeds far greater than 30mph. Going over the handlebars when hitting blunt objects, such as downed logs, also became less common. From this technology came a massive influx of Motorcycle manufactures throughout the 1920-30’s. Like many businesses during The Great Depression, most of these new companies would close forever. Some were able to survive by way of World War II military contracts, such as Harley Davidson and BMW. For the next 30 years, Motorcycle companies would re-invent the wheel. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that these Dirt Bikes would find their Golden Ratio of two different wheel sizes and it’s still the most common platform used today.

The Early Years:

The phrase “Mountain Biking” began taking popularity in the late 1970’s.  Riders would call their Mountain Bikes “Clunkers” as they were merely modified beach cruisers with knobby tires and could be heard clunking about. These early pioneers would take their Clunkers up California hillsides and bomb down to express their individual freedom. 

Though mountain bikes of today have suspension, better brakes and modern geometry, they’re still based on the symmetrical wheel platform invented by John Starley.

Source: Fat-Tire Flyer

A Bridge to Divide:

We have seen Mixed Wheel Mountain Bikes at various times throughout the passed 3 decades but they weren’t executed properly for a number of reasons. The difference in wheel diameters that were offered for MTB’s was too great at the time. More so, they shared the same Geometry as their symmetrical wheel counterpart. These bikes performed poorly as a result which have lead many minds to believe the “Safety” platform is King.

Mountain Bike Geometry over the past 40 years has been exclusively applied to Symmetrical Wheel Bikes. It has evolved significantly over the decades so mountain bikers can ride mountains faster and safer. Changing wheel sizes alters and limits “Safety Bike” geometry greatly.

For those who are interested in mixed wheel bikes, it’s not new to Mullet™ Cycles.

Since the introduction of the 27.5” in 2013, we’ve been developing and fine tuning our Mullet™ bikes to only work with mixed wheels. Changing wheel sizes without drastically changing the geometry would leave most riders understandably unimpressed with their bikes performance. Which is why we implore to you to ride the real thing.

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