Bike History: A Look at The Cycling Life of HRH Queen Elizabeth II

young Elizabeth riding her bike with her sister

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth The Second, was many things during her lifetime. A leader, a mother, a visionary and a change maker passionate about the development of the territories she preceded over. One of the lesser-known facts was that Queen Elizabeth was an avid cyclist!

young Elizabeth riding a tricycle in Windsor Park

With the death of the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, we have decided to look at her achievements through the prism of bikes and cycling. We'll make a brief history of bikes in the U.K., check the Queen's stance on cycling, and how she contributed to the cycling industry.

A young Elizabeth riding a tricycle in Windsor Park

Origin of Bikes in The U.K.

When blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan thought about making the first bicycle, little did he know he would be birthing a multimillion-dollar industry that would become key to a healthier and safer lifestyle.

Many people are credited with the bicycle's invention, but everyone agrees that Kirkpatrick Macmillan created the progenitor of the modern bike in the mid-nineteenth century. He rode his version of the bike sixty-eight miles to the amazement of onlookers. More than two centuries later, there are now about twenty million bikes in the U.K.

James Starley, a British engineer, improved on Macmillan's design by creating the Penny-farthing in 1871. Then the famous John Dunlop invented pneumatic tyres to improve the riding experience of bikes. Starley made several improvements to the bike, and by 1885 the forerunner of modern bikes was created.

It wasn't until the 1970s that mountain bikes came about. One thing that no one can argue is the fact that bikes have come a long way from their modest "running horse" days.

It might be hard to believe, but as early as 1895, Ogden Bolton Jnr. filed a U.S. patent for the electric bike. A couple of years later, Hosea W. Libbey filed another patent for an improved version of the electric bicycle.

While Bolton's version of the electric bike employed a direct current (D.C.) 10v battery to power the bikes, Libbey, on the other hand, designed his electric bike to be powered by a double electric motor.

The intervening years saw several improvements to the electric bike, but it wasn't until 1969 that G.A. Wood Jr. patented the first electric bike with 4 motors and gears. Massive upgrades on the electric bike came in the early nineties, and Zike was one of the first commercial e-bikes sold.

The pedal assist system in electric bikes came in 1993, the same year massive production of electric bikes started. Gradually, electric bikes have become more than just a passing fancy; they now account for a hefty percentage of bike sales yearly.

Queen Elizabeth's II Cycling Life

The Queen descended from a line of active and enthusiastic cyclists, so it's no wonder she took to the bike from an early age. The above picture is one of the popular pictures of the young princess riding.

Queen Elizabeth's love for cycling did not reduce when she became an adult. Here's another picture showing a young Princess Elizabeth with a bike alongside her sister, Princess Margaret. As Queen, her love for cycling continued. She became the longest-serving royal patron of the Cycling U.K, the body responsible for cycling in the United Kingdom.

young Elizabeth riding bike with her sister

Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth II passed her love for cycling to her son, King Charles III, and her grandchildren. Prince Harry describes his best part of the day as cycling with his son at his back.

The Windsor family's love story with cycling is centuries old; Queen Elizabeth II did her best to strengthen that relationship during the seventy years she was Queen and as a little girl.

The Contributions of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II To Cycling

As expected of someone on the throne for seventy years, Queen Elizabeth's impact on the British was enormous. However, when you look specifically at her contribution to cycling, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much of an impact she has had.

As patron of British cycling, she oversaw the golden age, which saw three British men win the prestigious Tour de France on six different occasions. Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, and Geraint Thomas won the event between 2012 and 2018.

There were also Olympic gold wins in cycling in both male and female categories in this period. In recognition of their achievements and other efforts to develop cycling, the Queen gave the trio national honours.

The Queen awarded Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas the Order of the British Empire award (OBE). At the same time, Bradley Wiggins was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

For grassroots cycling, the Queen, the royal patron, has worked with the British cycling body to ensure that there are more than twenty-two cycling events around the U.K. in one year. Her influence on cycling is so huge that the most difficult stage of a multi-day cycling tournament is the queen stage.

What can highlight the role the Queen played in the world of cycling other than the furore raised by cyclists when British Cycling initially banned them from paying their respects to the Queen by riding in her honour? The outcry generated by cyclists made British Cycling issue an apology and back down.

young Elizabeth pushing her bike with her sister

Her longevity on the throne has ensured that it would take a lot for the incoming monarch to match the achievements of Queen Elizabeth II when it comes to cycling. She was simply the best.


One of the positives that anyone can draw from the death of Queen Elizabeth II is that throughout her life, and even in death, cycling and bikes were important to her. Her contributions will forever remain an important one, and she will surely be missed.

What better way to honour the Queen than hopping on your bike and cycling as a tribute to one of our nation's greatest monarchs? If you do not have a bike yet, it is not too late; Contact us today at Eskute for the best electric bike deals.

1 comment

Brian Cronin

Brian Cronin

Thank you for this article. As a bike racer and enthusiast, I didn’t realise QEII’s contribution to cycling. I witnessed her incredible attitude to people, dogs and horses. When she visited my school years ago, and spoke to me on equal terms as though I were her son, I didn’t know we had enthusiasm for cycling in common. Until now, I didn’t think it was possible to increase my esteem for QEII, but your article has managed to do just that.

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