On September 15, 1801, a peasant named Efim Artamonov presented his invention, the world’s first bicycle, to Russia’s Tsar Alexander I.
The world’s first bicycle was built at the Nizhnetagilsky Factory in the Urals out of iron, in the form of a two-wheel cart with a treadle drive on the front wheel and handlebars. The front wheel was almost three times bigger than the rear one, and they were fastened together with an arched metal frame. The bicycle was foot-operated with pedals, which were pivotally mounted on the front wheel.
Its design and framework was so durable that the inventor was able to travel a difficult journey of nearly 2000km (thus completing the first ever cycling tour as well) to Petersburg from the town of Verhoturye. Artamonov traveled at an average speed of 10km/h, surprising locals with his iron machine, and frightening horses.
The fancy wonder of engineering astonished Alexander I and he emancipated Artamonov and his entire family from serfdom. The bicycle was eventually placed in the imperial collection of rarities and forgotten about. The world’s second bicycle was revealed in 1808 in Paris. It was then given the name known to us today (the French word for bicycle, “velocipede” in translation from Latin means “quick feet” and came into Russian as “velosiped”). For a while in Russia there were no tires on bike wheels, and people called it the “kostotryas” (a bone-shaker).
Artamonov’s name entered the Great Soviet Encyclopedia as the inventor of the prototype for the modern bicycle; however no documentary proof confirms this fact, and many scholars deny Artamonov the privilege. “Artamonov’s bicycle” reappeared at the Nizhnetagilsk Natural History Museum in 1923, but after a precise examination and analysis of the metal, scientists of the museum proved that it could not have been constructed earlier than 1876. Today, a monument dedicated to Efim Artamonov stands on the Vaynera Street in Yekaterinburg.