Early history of bicycles was marked with several notable investors that provided significant upgrades over the initial dandy horse design that was first envisioned and realized by the German Baron Karl Drais. Just half a century later, bicycle craze came and went in France, and while continental Europe was busy with several military conflicts, England became the home of the largest bicycle innovation cycle that world has ever seen. The first visionary that evolved French Boneshaker designs was James Starley, who not only created first popular penny-farthing designs that were viewed as one of the most popular symbols of late Victorian era, but also became father of the English bicycle industry. However, even his exploits are viewed as smaller when they are compared to the contributions of his nephew John Kemp Starley.
John Kemp Starley was born in 14th of December 1854, as the son of gardener John Starley, brother of inventor and businessman James Starley. At the age of 28 he moved to Coventry to work with his uncle who was already by that time famous for his Ariel penny-farthing bicycles. He spend several years their improving his knowledge, until 1877 when he established his own company Starley & Sutton Co with his friend William Sutton. Their initial plans were simple – create a bicycle that would be much safer and easier for use than penny-farthings. During first few years they focused on tricycles, and in 1883 they rebranded their products as Rover tricycles.
The true revolution of bicycle history arrived in 1885 when John Kemp Starley released his first Rover Safety Bicycle. This bicycle introduced standardized look that we all know today. This includes design with two identical 26-inch wheels, diamond bicycle frame, and chain system that transferred power from pedal cranks to rear wheel. This bicycle immediately became worldwide sensation, and John Kemp Starley soon started exporting them to rest of the Europe and Americas.
By 1890s John Kemp Starley’s bicycle company was renamed into Rover Cycle Company Ltd. After the sudden death of John Kemp Starley in 1901, Rover Company continued making bicycles and branching into motorcycles and cars whose several models became very popular in England and all around the world.