Although pedal-operated carriages were known in the Middle Ages (during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many light vehicles of this type were introduced), the earliest form of the bicycle was the hobby-horse, or ‘dandy-horse' as it was sometimes called. This consisted of two wheels mounted in a kind of frame with a saddle for the rider, who was seated sufficiently low to be able to propel the vehicle forward by striking his feet on the ground.
The earliest machines of this kind were in use about 1810 but their riders were so ridiculed that ' hobby horses' went out of use.
In 1818 an improved form was patented by Baron von Draisin France, and brought over to England in the same year by Denis Johnson, a coachmaker of Long Acre, who called it the‘pedestrian curricle.’ It consisted of a wooden bar, or back-bone, mounted on two wheels, the front one being pivoted in a fork to allow the machine to be steered and balanced. The machine was propelled by the rider leaning his elbows on a padded support, and alternately striking the road with his feet. In this way, a speed of 10 miles an hour sometimes could be maintained on the level. Riders generally 'coasted' downhills, but when a hill had to be ascended the machine was carried on the rider's shoulders!
A hobby-horse weighed about 50 pounds and cost about £10.