How fast are you on your bicycle? A gown –up usually a bicycle rides at fifteen kilometers an hour. A fast rider can go at thirty, and in bicycle races athletes can do over forty-five kilometers an hour. Now what makes such speeds possible for bicycles?

Many things have been put together to get bicycle to move as fast as they do today. But there is one thing that should take the first place among them. Before it was invented, no one cared to ride fast bicycles unless there was a strong reason for doing so, speed on a bicycle was a punishment in those days!

Who, then took, such punishment, and why? Some sports –persons were ready to take great risks to win prizes in races. Our story begins with one of those races. It looks place in Belfast in Ireland.

It was a bright summer day in 1887. A ten-year-old boy came home from the playing fields in great excitement. A big event was going to take place, and he was going to take part in it. The school Tricycle Race was fixed for the next day!

His father smiled and asked are you going to win the race?

`I am certainly going to try,’ the boy replied. He was going to put all the speed and strength of his legs on the pedals of his tricycle.

`But how I wish it didn’t jolt so terribly! He complained.

`And the boy will be a bundle of aching bones by the end of the day,’ said his mother. `And if the tricycle overturns, he could get badly hurt. Can’t you do something to that tricycle and make it a little less bumpy?’ she pleaded.

Her husband shook his head. `What can I do? A tricycle isn’t an animal that I can treat,’ he said, laughing. He was a doctor for animals, a veterinary doctor surgeon. He really did not know what he could do to make a machine better.

In those days, tricycle had no springs, and they gave their young riders a thorough shaking. Even the bicycles that grown-ups rode were nicknamed `bone-shakers’.

That evening, after dinner, the doctor sat in his garden, thinking. He was worried about the next day’s race. As he looked round at the plants and flowers, something that he saw in a corner caught his attention.

It was an old garden hose. Suddenly, he had an idea! `Surprise I blow air into that hose!’ he thought.

When water in full force through the rubber tube, it stayed firm and round. If it was filled with air, would the hose stay firm and round in the same way? He decided to try and find out.

He took the hose and cut two lengths of it. They were long enough to wind round the rear wheels of the tricycle. He pasted them round two suitable metal rings and filled air into them. When they felt firm to the touch, he sealed their ends. He then stretched them and fastened them round the two rear wheels of the tricycle with strips of canvas.

When he put his foot on the seat and pushed the tricycle, he was very pleasantly surprised. It moved very smoothly.

The doctor could not treat the front wheel in the same way. The fork that held it was too narrow for the air-filled garden hose to pass through.

`I hope you’ll today’s tricycle race a little easier than the last one,’ he told his son the next morning.

You can guess what happened at the race. The doctor’s son rode so fast that he reached the mother end all alone. He left the faster of his rivals halfway.

And he did not look as tired as the other boys.

As he rode, the tyres of his tricycle went smoothly over every jolt and bump on the track.

That evening, all the boys in the race were at the doctor’s house on their tricycles. They all wanted `those tyres’. They rode back home as happy as ten-years-olds on tricycles could ever be!

Everyone in the neighborhood soon heard about the `air-filled tyres’. By that weekend, the doctor’s backyard was filled with tricycles and bicycles! As the weeks passed, their number grew larger and larger.

Every evening after work, the doctor was busy putting tyres on bicycle wheels. Still the number of bicycles in his yard only grew larger. So one day he said to himself, `Enough is enough. I can’t go on like this for ever.’

Then firmly, but politely, he told the cyclists that he could not `treat’ any more machines. The cyclists had to go back home disappointed, but the doctor’s

Evenings were once again as quiet as they used to be before the tricycle race.

Then, one day, his son, brought home a stranger. He said he was a racing-cyclist, shook the doctor’s hand and said, `Here you are, with a wonderful idea, and you are doing nothing about it1 patent it, my dear sir, patent it immediately. You mustn’t waste any more time. You have invented something which will increase the speed of all road vehicles twice over!’

Soon after the stranger’s arrival, the doctor took out a patent on his invention. A patent is a document which gives inventers the sole right to produce or sell their invention for a certain number of years. No one else can sell or copy that invention as long as the patent lasts.

The newspapers of that week were full of stories about a new invitation called a `pneumatic tyre’. Learned people said, `those pneumatic or air- filled tyres will turn bicycles into flying horses! Now who is going to make them in large enough numbers?

The question did not have to wait log for an answer. William Harvey du Cross, who was a rich businessman, bought from the inventor, for a small sum of money, the sole right to manufacture his air-fill tyres. He then built a factory and named it the Dunlop Company.

The `animal doctor’ in our story, who invented the pneumatic tyre, was John Dunlop

Soon pneumatic tyres were made in millions. They did not make their inventor rich. But John Dunlop became so famous that, even today in many places, pneumatic tyres are called Dunlops.

When Dr. Dunlop fitted the first two tyres on his son’s tricycles wheels, there were only 300,000 bicycles in the world. Today, there are many more than 98 million of them in the United States of America alone.










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