Invention of The First Pedal-Driven Bicycle
In 1839, Kirkpatrick MacMillan allegedly completed the first construction of a bicycle. Made out of wood, the bike included iron-rimmed wooden wheels, a steerable front wheel and a larger rear wheel connected to pedals via connecting rods. This assembly of parts earned MacMillan the title of inventor of the first pedal driven bicycle.
In 1842, it was then reported that astonishingly MacMillan cycled his home-made creation 70+ miles from Thornhill to Glasgow- and this is the journey the Endura Team have been recreating today.
MacMillan was born in 1812 at Keir Mill near Thornhill. He became an assistant to the blacksmith working at Drumlanrig Castle which inspired much of his creativity and craftmanship. Returning home to assist his father as a blacksmith in Dumfriesshire, this is where he went on to develop his cycling machine. In a failure to patent his invention, others went on to make copies of the bike – however, MacMillan is still synonymous with the invention of the first pedal-driven bicycle. MacMillan spent the rest of of his life in his family home and taking on his father’s smithy, before he died in 1878.
The ‘Forgotten Legend’ project has seen Endura – a Scottish Cycling Apparel brand – produce an authentic and fully ridable replica of MacMillan’s bike, and their athletes have used this replica to follow monumental voyage starting at Thornhill.
On August 10th, Drumlanrig Castle welcomed the Endura team to the Estate, as their riders cycled in and out of The Castle Driveway as part of their excursion.
“It’s been really cool to ride it,” professional Downhill Mountain biker, Mikayla Parton claimed, “though I couldn’t reach the pedals at first!”. Parton was one of few Endura athletes and Scottish sporting stars who were lucky enough to swing their leg over the saddle as part of the expedition.
Legacy Lives On
The replica will reside at Dumfries Museum as part of the museum’s ongoing “The First Bicycle” exhibition in August. However, observant visitors of Drumlanrig Castle may also spot an early replica of the bicycle in our Castle Tour Reception area… After all these years, it is incredible to see his legacy and contribution to cycling, still living on today.
Kirkpatrick MacMillan Cycle Loop
Inspired by MacMillan’s story? The Kirkpatrick MacMillan Loop is an 11 mile cycle that passes significant areas of interest in reference to his life. Starting from the home of his initial blacksmith days, the route leaves from Drumlanrig Castle, following quite roads to Keir Mills, passing where he invented the pedal bike as well as the graveyard he is buried. Cycle the roads MacMillan would have once travelled – and be thankful for the evolution of the pedal bike, from suspension to padded seats!