What if Romans invented the bycicle?

May 2012
1,628
On a chain of Extinct Volcanoes
The Boers and British in 1900 and again in 1914, many WW1 armies, the Japanese in 1937-1941 and the American 25th Infantry all rode to battle on their bikes. The Swiss Army Bicycle (comes with a built-in knife) Regiment was only disbanded some ten years ago. So a bike is a valid weapon of war, the problem for a pre-industrial age bike is the tyres and the surface of a Roman Road, although Victorians seemed to handle cobbles, even though an early bike was called "The Boneshaker".
You mentioned about the soldiers of post industrial age .
I find roman legions riding bicycle to be anachronistic and funny :)
It was intended for fun . HOpe you did not mind it !
 

Midas

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,129
Scandinavia, Balkans, Anatolia, Hatay
Although it might be damn funny to see Romans (soldiers) one bikes, it is far from impossible to have happened. They had the technology, they had the mechanics (at least from the 1rst century B.C), but they lacked the idea. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the concept! Many great inventions are simple ideas and they were invented at a point of time when technological advancement was not the issue for realization. It is pure luck it didn't happen.

As for its usage, I don't think it would be used in the battlefield. Horses were far superior! However, it would become the main vehicle for messengers and the ordinary people would become more mobile in their everyday life.
 
Jan 2009
1,119
The Romans would need to invent ball bearings and tubed iron?? And rubbber.

That's sort of the base question.
A modern bike is made up of precision metalwork. Little rings and bearing and close fitting, smoothly moving parts.

I think the Romans would be quite capable of a coarse "Hobby Horse" two wheeled cart contraption, as I posted a picture of earlier, but could they do finer work?

In parallel to this, the history of firearms is one of refinement in metalwork. From huge fat approximate cannons, to musketry to rifles...
 

Poly

Ad Honorem
Apr 2011
6,698
Georgia, USA
They would have needed much better roads.

But I think the Swiss only recently gave up bicycle troops... apparently a bicycle soldier can carry twice as much equipment as one marching on his feet.

Marius' Mules might have gone further and faster?
 
Oct 2012
33
You think they'll ride bicycles into the heat of battle charging with a spear?
Seems pretty useless to me... even a courier can use a horse...
 
Oct 2013
67
Athens Greece
How much impact did it have on our history when it was invented?
Did people start ploughing their land with bikes? did they start going from city to city by bike instead of horse and wagon or train?

their armies might have been able to move a bit faster but then again... how are you going to make a bycicle without rubber for tiers?
Are you going to make all those bikes out of wood? after all, iron must have been much more expensive in Roman times.
And how are you going to manufacture precision objects like a chain, cog, brakes etc.

Although it might be damn funny to see Romans (soldiers) one bikes, it is far from impossible to have happened. They had the technology, they had the mechanics (at least from the 1rst century B.C), but they lacked the idea. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the concept! Many great inventions are simple ideas and they were invented at a point of time when technological advancement was not the issue for realization. It is pure luck it didn't happen.

As for its usage, I don't think it would be used in the battlefield. Horses were far superior! However, it would become the main vehicle for messengers and the ordinary people would become more mobile in their everyday life.
They would have needed much better roads.

But I think the Swiss only recently gave up bicycle troops... apparently a bicycle soldier can carry twice as much equipment as one marching on his feet.

Marius' Mules might have gone further and faster?
Bicycle is one of the biggest inventions in human history and it had a huge social impact.
First of all increased the mobility of people who had no other means to transport themselves. Peoples mobility usually changes peoples' customs and spreads ideas and knowledge.
Romans and all other people that lived around Mediterranean Sea preferred to live close to the coasts because it was easier for them to transport from coast to coast than in land. So if they had invented bicycles they would have expand their cultural centers inland. So the so called Barbarians, would have stopped being so barbaric by the time that big enough cities would have been able to grow in places away from coasts.

Bicycle improved the quality of the roads as well. The first asphalt roads created in order to help cycling rides be more comfortable. If Romans had invented bicycles would have been forced ( by the need) to improve their roads too.

Bicycle contributed to the women emancipation. Women could use a bicycle to self sufficiently move from place to place something that they couldn't do till the invention of bicycle. Obviously if bicycle was invented by Romans would have contributed to the liberation of slaves much earlier as well, as self sufficient mobility, changes the attitude towards freedom.

Bicycle also changed the fashion, as people started to demand more practical clothes. Women for example start wearing trouser like skirts in order to ride their bicycles and gradually abandoned clothes that restricted their movements. ( corsets, huge hats, and long crinoline skirts). Romans would had abandoned tunics and would have invented other kind of clothes.

And first bicycles were made off wood, but even modern bicycles are made from wood. ( who says that bicycles are not made from wood-check this below).



Unfortunately Romans didn't invent it though they had the means and the knowledge of mechanics that is needed to make a bicycle. If they had invented it the history as we know it now, would have been quite different.
 

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,461
Wirral
As others have said no doubt the Romans could have produced some sort of wooden - or maybe even metal - hobby horse type of contraption. The fact that they didn't bother proves something. Unless - I've no idea - did they make something like that as a child's toy?

The leap forward comes in making cogs, bearing and chains surely?

Sorry to say it but all these "What if suchabody invented whatever?" questions are a bit pointless. Inventions don't usually become practical out of the blue - they usually need a pre-existing technology to make them practical and mass-produced. I think.
 

Louise C

Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
7,239
Southeast England
That's something I always wanted to know. What would have happened if the bycicle was invented much before. Could it have replaced the horses? Such an invention could have changed the course of history.
It would have enabled more people to travel longer distances without the need for horses, poorer people would be able to afford to travel more, etc. Which is what did happen when it was invented. One noticeable effect of the introduction of the bicycle was apparently that people started courting and marrying those from further away, they had a wider choice of mates with easier and quicker transport.

I don't know though whether Roman roads woukd have been suitable for bicycles.