Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number about one billion worldwide. They are the principal means of transportation in many regions. They also provide a popular form of recreation, and have been adapted for such uses as children's toys, adult fitness, military and police applications, courier services, and competitive sports.
The basic shape and configuration of a typical bicycle has changed little since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885. Many details have been improved, especially since the advent of modern materials and computer-aided design. These have allowed for a proliferation of specialized designs for particular types of cycling.
Since cyclists' legs are most efficient over a narrow range of pedalling speeds (cadence), a variable gear ratio helps a cyclist to maintain an optimum pedalling speed while covering varied terrain. As a first approximation, utility bicycles often use a hub gear with a small number (3 to 5) of widely-spaced gears, road bicycles and racing bicycles use derailleur gears with a moderate number (10 to 22) of closely-spaced gears, while mountain bicycles, hybrid bicycles, and touring bicycles use dérailleur gears with a larger number (15 to 30) of moderately-spaced gears, often including an extremely low gear (granny gear) for climbing steep hill.
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