Celebrating 200 years of the bicycle

The state of SouthWest Germany is the birthplace of innovation and development best known for the invention of the automobile. However, long before Gottlieb Daimler, Karl von Drais was tinkering on the first ever bicycle.

In 1817, Karl von Drais patented his invention, the Draisine, a wooden, two-wheeled design with no pedals, in Mannheim. This year, SouthWest Germany will celebrate the 200th anniversary of this groundbreaking discovery with concerts, exhibitions, bicycle tours, shows and much more. In addition, SouthWest Germany is a bicycle rider’s paradise, with hundreds of bike routes that pass through beautiful landscapes, from vineyards to castles and the Black Forest to Lake Constance. 

Exhibition: 2 Wheels – 200 Years

To learn more about the history and the impact of the bicycle, start in Mannheim the birthplace of the Draisine. At the Technoseum a special exhibition, “2 Wheels – 200 Years. Freiherr von Drais and the History of the Bicycle”, aims to show the technical development of the bicycle since Karl Drais’ first ride on his wooden Laufmaschine to the present cycling culture and the future role of the bicycle in cities.  Divided into four sections, the exhibition also focuses on the historical and social developments, the meaning of the bicycle as a sports vehicle, its social status, and its present role as a lifestyle and design product.

Time to celebrate

The great birthday celebration in the middle of Mannheim takes place on June 10-11, “The Monnem Bike – The Festival”. The festival will host parades through the streets of Mannheim while bicycle performers will be given the opportunity to show off their skills to audiences.  The Human Powered Vehicles World Cup (recumbent bike race), and the “World Klapp” (folding bike race) races will bring action to the festival as they race quick and loud on their circuit around the water tower.  The original hobbyhorse race will also be part of the birthday party celebrations. The interactive artistic and cultural bicycle activities will give the city a new atmosphere of adventure.

About 30 minutes away, Karlsruhe, the birthplace of Karl von Drais, celebrates the anniversary of his greatest invention on May 27-28 with the bicycle festival, “Ganz schön Drais!” The festival will host diverse exhibitions all about the bicycle.  On May 25-28, 300 bicycle collectors from all over the world will travel to Karlsruhe to celebrate the anniversary and show off their historic bicycles.  The many different bicycles will be on display through races and exhibitions. It is a great way to see how many different types of bicycles exist and the depth of Karl Drais’ influence. 

Monnem Bike – The Show

To top off the 200th anniversary year’s celebrations, Mannheim will host an open-air spectacle in the castle courtyard where Karl Drais started his first famous ride. On September 16, “Monnem Bike – The Show” will create a multi-visual journey combining the theater, music and light to show the global triumph of the bicycle. It is a final celebration and a show of gratitude to the inventor.