Get to know your bike history with this week's throwback: the boneshaker. Boneshaker (or bone-shaker) is a name used from about 1869 up to the present time to refer to the first type of true bicycle with pedals, which was called velocipede by its manufacturers. "Boneshaker" refers to the extremely uncomfortable ride, which was caused by the stiff wrought-iron frame and wooden wheels surrounded by tires made of iron.
The Michaux velocipede had a straight downtube and a spoon brake.
This type of bicycle was invented in the 1860s in France and first manufactured by the Michaux company from 1867 to 1869 – the time of the first bicycle craze, and copied by many others during that time. It fell out of favor after the summer of 1869, and was replaced in 1870 with the type of bicycle called "ordinary", "high-wheel", or "penny-farthing".
Few original boneshakers exist today, most having been melted for scrap metal during World War I. Those that do surface from time to time command high prices, typically up to about $5,000 US.
The construction of the boneshaker was similar to the dandy horse: wooden wheels with iron tires and a framework of wrought iron. As the name implies it was extremely uncomfortable, but the discomfort was somewhat ameliorated by a long flat spring that supported the saddle and absorbed many of the shocks from rough road surfaces. The boneshaker also had a brake – a metal lever that pressed a wooden pad against the rear wheel. The front wheel axle ran in lubricated bronze bearings, and some had small lubrication tanks that would wick oil from soaked lamb's wool into the bearings to help them run smoothly. Like the High Wheel bicycles that became popular later in the 19th century, boneshakers were front-wheel drive, but in comparison they had smaller wheels (only about 1m), and were heavy, with a lightweight model weighing 30 pounds or more.