The history of technology is sprinkled with seminal inventions. Some are actually useful devices, ends in themselves. Others are more so catalysts, enablers for developments to follow. The bicycle owes its existence to a number of clever 19th century ideas: the tensioned wheel, pneumatic tires, the roller chain, tubular steel, etc.
The last half of the 20th century witnessed a number of important improvements and additions to the bicycle. Advanced materials, suspension systems, aerodynamic improvements, and biomechanical refinements have added to the bicycle’s efficiency and usefulness. Yet, one important device has single handedly made possible most of the trends we associate with modern cycling. And, astonishingly, it remains virtually unknown. I’m speaking of the Phil Wood Spoke Machine.