Discover the History of National Bike Month

Black-and-white photo of a man waving while riding a bicycle.

May is National Bike Month, aka the best time of the year! As spring weather finally approaches and the sun (hopefully) emerges from hibernation, cyclists are eager to celebrate National Bike Month by revisiting their favorite trails, discovering new roads, meeting up for social rides, and getting out on two wheels as much as possible.  

We here at ERIK’S are, of course, excited to join in the festivities. Come along as we look back on the history of National Bike Month and get ready to celebrate this May.  

Pedal to the Past

After early inventions like the “dandy horse” of 1818, the three-wheeler of 1850, and the penny-farthing bike of 1870, the first real bicycle boom arrived in the 1890s. The widespread use of cars was still about 30 years away, and bikes were seen as an attractive form of transportation, offering the ability to get around congested cities with ease. The same is essentially true about 130 years later! 

Even back then, May was seen as the best time of year for biking. An 1897 ad for Crescent Bicycles promised that their products were “made with a finish and degree of perfection that makes wheeling truly a May pleasure.” 

One of the things that made cycling so popular in the 1890s was that it greatly increased women’s mobility and freedom. As moral attitudes loosened in the US, women could use bikes to travel “unchaperoned” wherever they wanted. As a result, Susan B. Anthony said the bicycle did more for women’s rights than any other invention up to that point in history.   

Following World War II, bike safety became a prevalent topic, as organizers hosted “Bicycle Safety Weeks” in the spring (at that time, they were usually held in April). Schools, police departments, and fraternal organizations held events about bike safety primarily for children, teaching them basic traffic laws and bike-safety tips.  

National Bike Month officially started in 1956, when the Bicycle Institute of America (BIA) designated May as “American Bicycle Month.” The focus was still on safety, as news articles from the spring of 1956 stressed safe riding practices and reminded risky young bike riders that “SHOWOFFS aren’t smart!” 

Black-and-white photo of a woman riding a bicycle and pulling a man sitting on a tiny tricycle behind her.

Biking for Fitness and Fun

The exposure of National Bike Month improved in the early 1960s when cardiologist Dr. Paul Dudley White was hired as the BIA’s spokesperson (no pun intended). The attention started to shift from safety tips for kids to fitness advice for adults. With this change in focus came an increased effort to invest in new bike paths, trails, and tracks, which encouraged adult riders to explore the sport’s fitness capabilities. 

While the fitness benefits of cycling were apparent from the start—biking events were featured at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, and the first Tour de France was held in 1903—these benefits weren’t appreciated by widespread consumers until the mid-20 century, when the mass production of bicycles grew. The combination of affordable bikes and the increased awareness of their health impacts led to a renaissance in bike popularity: from 1960 to 1975, the sale of bicycles for adults doubled in the US.  

It’s Easy Being Green

By the 1970s, American Bicycle Month had been rebranded as National Bike Month. It was also now spearheaded by the League of American Bicyclists, which was formed (as the League of American Wheelmen) in Rhode Island in 1880 as a social community for cyclists, calling for more paved surfaces and governing amateur bike races in the late 19 century.  

The 1970s were also the decade in which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, so eco-friendly measures to reduce pollution and preserve natural resources were major conversation topics.  

Inflated gas prices were an issue in the 1970s just as they are today, so even 50 years ago, biking was promoted as the cheaper, carbon-free option that could help you avoid the skyrocketing price of gas. As a result, bikes outsold cars in 1972.  

A woman and a small child bike together on a forested trail.

National Bike Month, Yesterday and Today

Today, the League of American Bicyclists promotes National Bike Month as a celebration of “the many reasons we ride […] whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time; preserve your health or the environment; or simply to explore your community.” 

Take a look at some of this year’s events for National Bike Month:  

  • National Ride a Bike Day: Sunday, May 5 
  • National Ride Your Bike to School Day: Wednesday, May 8 
  • Bike to Work Week: May 13–19 
  • Bike to Work Day: Friday, May 17 

Learn more about this year’s National Bike Month events promoted by the League of American Bicyclists. 

Much like National Bike Month, ERIK’S began as a small but dedicated endeavor among people who love bikes and grew into a nationwide phenomenon. Read more about ERIK’S history, from a small barn in 1977 to a network of stores offering cutting-edge products and services

Here are some other ways you can celebrate National Bike Month with ERIK’S: 

  • #MakeEveryRideCount by joining the biking community on the Love to Ride or Strava app. While you’re at it, buy a phone holder and/or GPS unit to make posting and navigation easier!  
  • Stop into an ERIK’S store or call us at 952-351-9148 to ask about what events are going on in your area.  
  • If you’re in Minnesota, find out what’s happening throughout the month of May on the Bike MN website
  • Still waiting to go on your first ride of 2024? Review our bike inspection checklist to make sure you’re ready to get out on the road. If not, you can stop into an ERIK’S location for same-day service
  • Need new accessories for your bike, like helmets, lights, or the hottest apparel? ERIK’S has got you covered!  
  • Treat yourself to a brand-new bike this spring. From e-bikes to commuters, road bikes to mountain bikes, we have whatever you’re looking for. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for, allow our bike-finder tool to help you out!     
A man wearing a helmet rides a bike down a road in a large city.

Whatever you do to celebrate National Bike Month, make sure you get out and enjoy the weather on your favorite bicycle. Stay tuned for more National Bike Month posts throughout May, and have fun pedaling the days away! 

Note: This article includes information from “A Brief History of National Bike Month” by James Longhurst. 

Visit Your Local ERIK’S

Visit ERIK’S, your local biking destination, or contact us for more information. We’re eager to support you on your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. 

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