British Bicycle Mania

Britain’s “Bicycle Mania” in the 1890s witnessed an astonishing 671 bicycle companies go public in a span of 2.5 years. 671 bicycle companies. The explosion in interest and demand for bicycles followed a number of technological innovations that transformed the existing penny-farthing (the old cycles with massive front tires / small back tires) into more modern looking bicycles we’d recognize today.


“The ‘safety’ design, diamond frame, and pneumatic tire made for a much more comfortable ride, and the use of ball bearings and new processes for producing weldless steel tubes substantially increased British productive capacity. The widespread adoption of the pneumatic tire in 1895 resulted in a rapid increase in demand for bicycles, which existing producers struggled to meet.


There was thus a rapid increase in the number of registered cycle manufacturers in Britain: Harrison reports a fourfold increase between 1889 and 1897… at the height of the boom in 1896, 750,000 bicycles were produced per year, and 1.5 million people cycled, at a time when the population of Britain was around 35 million.”


Read More: Technological Revolutions and Speculative Finance: British Bicycle Mania