Who Were Wilbur and Orville?
1630 1859 1884 1889 1893 1895
From Bike to Flight
From Bike to Flight
A number of conceptual links exist between bicycles and airplanes, so it is not pure coincidence that mechanical flight was invented by experimenters knowledgeable about bicycles. Many things contributed to the Wrights’ success with flight, but their familiarity with bicycles clearly was a factor.
Wheeling is just like flying!
James Howard Means, editor of the influential journal, The Aeronautical Annual, published an article in 1896 called “Wheeling and Flying,” in which he suggested a link between bicycles and flight:
“It is not uncommon for the cyclist…to remark, Wheeling is just like flying!… To learn to wheel one must learn to balance; to learn to fly one must learn to balance.”
James Howard Means
Connections to the Airplane
In designing their airplane, the Wrights drew upon a number of bicycle concepts:
The central importance of balance and control.
The need for strong but lightweight structures.
The chain-and-sprocket transmission system for propulsion.
Concerns regarding wind resistance and aerodynamic shape of the operator.
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Artifact Gallery
The Aeronautical Annual 12in. X 9.5 in.
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The Van Cleve

The Van Cleve
The Wrights’ top-of-the-line model was the Van Cleve, named after their mother’s pioneering ancestors, who were among Dayton’s first settlers. It was priced at $65.