Firsts in bicycle manufacturing
Bicycle manufacturers were early adopters of electric resistance welding, invented by Elihu Thomson in 1886. Hollow tubular steel—which provided lightweight strength—was developed for use in bicycles frames. Cycling innovators also introduced ball bearings, chain drives, differential gears, and air-filled tires. These technologies were transferred from bicycles to automobiles.
“America has made the most wonderful progress in the development of the wheel, and her manufacturers have been so alert and enterprising . . . that the American wheel is to-day the most beautiful mechanism and the lightest and easiest running of any wheel manufactured in any country.”
— Scientific American, January 4, 1896
Here’s how electric welders worked: electric current was applied to the metal pieces; where the edges of the metal met, resistance to the current produced enough heat to fuse them together under pressure.