12th June 1817 – Two hundred and four years ago Karl Drais took the prototype of his two wheeled running machine, later models where called LODA, out for a test ride on Badens best road. This is a very important date, because it’s the first documented ride on a precursor of the bicycle as we know it today.

And Karl Drais delivered some decent numbers right away.
The test ride started at Karl Drais’ home in Mannheim, went along Baden’s best road, that was build for the carriages of the Grand Duke of Baden, to a relais station for horse drawn carriages that was located half way to Schwetzingen and then went all the way back to Mannheim. He managed to ride the distance of round about 14,5 km in more or less than one hour, which would be an average speed of 15 km/h.
This average speed did not only beat the local postal service, it still is the estimated speed and time for this route on Google Maps up to this day.

I tried to mark the route Karl Drais took that day on Google Maps, as shown on the picture below. The relais station doesn’t exist anymore and I wasn’t able to spot the exact location.
However, the spot I marked lies on the street called “Relaisstraße” and it’s close to the former location of the “Stengelhof”, a restaurant that was located on the same property as the relais station and which is a retirement home today. The distance also fits pretty well in my opinion, so even if it may not be scientifically correct, it should give a nice impression of where Karl Drais chose to ride on that specific day.

As you can see, Google Maps estimates the time on a bicycle for that route on round about 30 minutes, which would be one hour for both ways.
Karl Drais did not only beat the local postal service on the 12th June 1817, he did even match the estimated time for that route more than two hundred years later.
That shows just how well the wooden prototype of Karl Drais two wheeled running machine performed on its first documented test ride.


Two Hundred and Sixty Three years ago on this day today Baron Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Drais von Sauerbronn (later known as Karl Drais) was born in the town of Karlsruhe.

Wait, who’s that?

Well, no one else than the inventor of the first “bicycle – like” vehicle, the so called “Draisine”. But first things first, let’s start at the beginning:

Karl Drais was born into a family of civil servant nobleman, which means that his family was part of the aristocracy but didn’t own a specific county or property. They had to work for a nobleman of higher rank to generate an income and make a living, in their case the Grand Duke of Baden.

In his student days, Karl didn’t show much interest in learning latin, which would qualify him for jobs as a doctor or lawyer. He was more of the science and mathematics type of students. Because of that, Karl was chosen to become a forester in the county of the Grand Duke of Baden. After he finished his forester education, Karl decided to follow his interests and study mathematics, physics and engineering at the university of Heidelberg.
Karl’s time in Heidelberg got interrupted early, two years after he got there. However, these studies probably helped him a lot, as he brought his various ideas to life.

And Karl had a lot of ideas during his lifetime. The greatest one of them, was the so called “Laufmaschine” (engl. “running machine”) or “Draisine”.
In the 19th century – where horses were people’s #1 choice as a vehicle, but suddenly a not reliable one, because of numerous bad harvests and a gigantic horse dying, that was caused by it – the “Draisine” was Karl Drais’ groundbreaking solution, that made sure to still get people from A to B.

I’ll be writing about Karl’s “Laufmaschine” in other posts, however here’s a short description of it:

The “Draisine” basically looked like a wooden bicycle without pedals. It already did have a steering, was powered by the riders feet and, believe it or not, already had something close to 28″ wheels.

In early 19th century the word “Bicycle” or “Cycling” didn’t even exist, so it’s hard to think about the tons of imagination it took Karl Drais to work out an entirely new mobility system.

So, let’s take a quick moment today, to celebrate Karl Drais’ fantastic invention!

Happy Birthday to you, Karl Drais!
And thanks for inventing bicycles, they’re still the coolest way to get from A to B!