12th June 1817 – Two hundred and four years ago Karl Drais took the prototype of his two wheeled running machine, later models where called LODA, out for a test ride on Badens best road. This is a very important date, because it’s the first documented ride on a precursor of the bicycle as we know it today.
And Karl Drais delivered some decent numbers right away.
The test ride started at Karl Drais’ home in Mannheim, went along Baden’s best road, that was build for the carriages of the Grand Duke of Baden, to a relais station for horse drawn carriages that was located half way to Schwetzingen and then went all the way back to Mannheim. He managed to ride the distance of round about 14,5 km in more or less than one hour, which would be an average speed of 15 km/h.
This average speed did not only beat the local postal service, it still is the estimated speed and time for this route on Google Maps up to this day.
I tried to mark the route Karl Drais took that day on Google Maps, as shown on the picture below. The relais station doesn’t exist anymore and I wasn’t able to spot the exact location.
However, the spot I marked lies on the street called “Relaisstraße” and it’s close to the former location of the “Stengelhof”, a restaurant that was located on the same property as the relais station and which is a retirement home today. The distance also fits pretty well in my opinion, so even if it may not be scientifically correct, it should give a nice impression of where Karl Drais chose to ride on that specific day.
As you can see, Google Maps estimates the time on a bicycle for that route on round about 30 minutes, which would be one hour for both ways.
Karl Drais did not only beat the local postal service on the 12th June 1817, he did even match the estimated time for that route more than two hundred years later.
That shows just how well the wooden prototype of Karl Drais two wheeled running machine performed on its first documented test ride.