In the entire history of the world, nothing defines the human spirit of recreation and conquest like a good competition. The creation of the first bicycle in the early 1800s is no exception to this notion, and was followed closely by the first competitive bicycle race in 1868. This race, which took place in the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris, consisted of a 1.2 km distance and was won by an Englishman who used a wooden bike with iron tires. Since this event, bicycle racing has cultivated in many parts of the world, including the United States and even Japan.
The Mechanics and Technology of Bicycle Racing
While safety equipment has made biking much less risky today, the earliest bicycle races were extremely dangerous and thought by many to be death traps. Bicycles from this period in time were not built from the same sturdy materials that they are in this day and age, and without protective headgear, a bicycle crash at high-speed was a disaster for the rider and anyone nearby. Today, the severity of racing accidents is cushioned by enhanced padding and head protection. As time passed and bicycle racing as a sport gained popularity, bike technology and new bicycle designs also made way for new styles of racing, among these, track racing, road racing, mountain biking, and the well-known time trial. These new race configurations, in turn, made the sport more intriguing for spectators.
Computer and digital-imaging technology has paved the way to making bicycle racing easier to watch and more engaging as a spectator sport. In some instances, even small cameras have been equipped on contestants’ bicycles, giving viewers the ability to stay with the racers even when they are on the other side of the track. Besides making spectating easier, technology has also impacted the design of the racing bikes themselves. Thanks to advances in the understanding of physics and mechanical engineering, racing bicycles have the potential to be very different in design from regular bicycles. Most modern racing bikes sacrifice comfort for speed and aerodynamic power, and decreased space between the front and rear wheels make handling and maintaining high speeds much easier.
Bicycle Racing as a Worldwide Phenomenon
As bicycle racing has spread across the planet, it has inspired the creation of various groups. The International Cycling Association was founded in 1892 by Henry Sturmey and served to organize world championships and define amateur biking. This organization was dissolved 8 years later and reformed as the Union Cycliste International, or UCI, in 1900. Even today, the UCI is responsible for establishing and enforcing specific rules pertaining to organized bicycle racing in addition to regulating major competitions.
In the modern world, the practice of bicycle racing has increased in purpose and involvement. For example, bicycle racing for a charity has become a popular activity of the present. Promoting health, being part of a social movement, or even simply burning fat are all prominent “causes” that motivate millions of people to take part in a bicycle race every year.
Today, bicycle racing is an abundantly diverse and popular sport, combining the art of organized racing, the science of endurance and balance skills, and the human spirit of competition to create a worldwide pastime. From community competitions of local cities and towns to international athletic championships such as the renowned Tour de France, bicycle racing has developed into a diverse spectator sport, inspiring millions of people globally each year.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia