Piere Michaux was one of the most influential French inventors of all time. His contributions in the field of bicycles forever changed the way of human public transportation. An invention that gained him such fame was his early 1960s addition of bicycle pedals to the design of then popular “dandy horse”. That two-wheeled velocipede then became the first of many billion bicycles that were made during the last one and a half century.
Piere was born on 25, 1813 in Bar le Duc June, France. He worked as a blacksmith and a carriage maker in Paris when in the early 1860s he became experimenting with bicycle pedals. Together with his son Ernest and partner Pierre Lallement they successfully made a first working prototype of the bicycle. After initial testing and limited mass production, they became sure that this device could potentially reach every home in the world. With the help of Olivier brothers Aimé and René they managed to secure the funds for their new company Michaux et Cie ("Michaux and company"). With a factory in place in 1868, they became first bicycle mass production. They started with the simple wooden frame but later they used more refined two-part cast iron frames. With some alteration made by their mechanic team, Piere Michaux soon began production of diagonal wrought iron frame, which proved to be very popular. With his business rising, he expanded his sale to other countries, most notably England and the USA. Rise of bicycle demand ignited production of many additions – most notably more comfortable seats, rubber tires and ball bearings.
During the years if 1868-69, bicycle craze ignited on both sides of Atlantic. Even the remote areas of both continents started using bicycles on a daily basis, with the most concentrated use around city areas (better road network). In 1870, France sadly entered into Franco-Prussian war, which totally disrupted bicycle sales when factory of Michaux was commissioned to help in a war effort. During that time bicycle, sales in the USA also dropped dramatically. Cause for that can be found in the undeveloped road network and because of several patent lawsuits, which halted local bicycle production. The only remaining fertile ground for bicycle remained in England, and from the beginning of the Franco-Prussian, all the major bicycle developments happened there. Some of the most important bicycle inventions that were developed in the following 20 years were chain drive, better steering, pneumatic tires, and coaster brakes.
Pierre Michaux died in Paris in 1883, but his legacy lives in modern bicycle that today has annual production rate of over 100 billion units.