The History of Motorcycles
Motorcycles can date back to the time of when bicycles with pedals were first invented in Paris, around the 1860’s. They were first invented with a steam powered engine that eventually was forgotten because of the size, dangers, and lack of power and was later replaced by the gasoline engine.
The first motorcycles were nothing like the motorcycles that we see today. They didn’t have rubber tires, gas engines, metal frames, and some had more than 2 wheels. They ran off of coal or wood using a steam powered engine that probably gave the rider burned. Some inventors even died when giving demonstrations of their machines. They also did not have much of any brakes to slow down their contraptions which might have also led to some of their deaths. The name motorcycle was not even mentioned until 1894 when Hildebrand & Wolfuller began the first production series of motorcycles which only a few hundred were even built.
Bicycle companies in the late 1880’s and 1890’s were designing bicycles that could be adapted to include an internal combustion engine. These companies were mainly based out of England and Germany and later quickly spread to America. As the internal combustion engines became more powerful and bicycle designs outgrew the bicycle origins, the number of motorcycle producers increased. Many of the 19th century inventors who worked on early motorcycles often moved on to other inventions. Daimler and Roper, for example, both went on to develop automobiles.
In 1901 English quadricycle and bicycle maker Royal Enfield introduced its first motorcycle, with a 239 cc engine mounted in the front and driving the rear wheel through a belt. In 1898, English bicycle maker Triumph decided to extend its focus to include motorcycles, and by 1902, the company had produced its first motorcycle—a bicycle fitted with a Belgian-built engine. A year later, it was the largest motorcycle manufacturer with an annual production of over 500 units.
In 1901, the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company, which had been founded by two former bicycle racers, designed the so-called “diamond framed” Indian Single, whose engine was built by the Aurora Firm in Illinois per Indian’s specifications. The Single was made available in the deep blue. Indian’s production was up to over 500 bikes by 1902, and would rise to 32,000, its best ever, in 1913 producing over 20,000 bikes per year. The American company Harley-Davidson started producing motorcycles in 1903.
During this period, experimentation and innovation were driven by the popular new sport of motorcycle racing, with its powerful incentive to produce tough, fast, reliable machines. These enhancements quickly found their way to the public’s machines.
Chief August Vollmer of the Berkeley, California Police Department is credited with organizing the first official police motorcycle patrol in the United States in 1911. By 1914, motorcycles were no longer just bicycles with engines; they had their own technologies, although many still maintained bicycle elements, like the seats and suspension.
During World War I the motorcycle was was used for sending messages to front lines instead of horses, they were faster and more practical. After the war developments in the motorcycles increased with better motors, different drives, all in-cased transmissions, better wheels, and better suspension. By 1920 Harley Davidson became the largest manufacturer of motorcycles having dealers in more than 65 countries.
After World War II some American Veterans founded Groups and Clubs of motorcyclists and created a new social institution – The Motorcyclists or “bikers”. In 1954 this group called motorcyclists or “bikers” was skewed to be the new “outlaw” when the new film The Wild One was released. In Europe, however, motorcycles were being made more economically to attract more people to ride which brought Vespas to the market.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Japanese manufacturers, such as Honda, became a dominant motorcycle manufacturer and hurt many other motorcycle companies when the motorcycle lifestyle was changed from a tool of a life to a toy of life. The Japanese were successful do to modern designs were produced more quickly and cheaply and even better quality than their competitors, Shutting down many huge manufacturers such as Triumph, Harley Davidson and BMW.
Today Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha are still the dominating manufacturers of motorcycles and they are still making developments to keep the motorcycle prices affordable for everyone. Harley-Davidson is still around and surviving due to regulations that help them be able to sell world wide along many older companies that have emerged once again with new technologies and new designs.
Seeing the transformations of motorcycles over the past 150 years has brought greater perspectives in the developments of how we got to today. The motorcycles of today compare greatly from speed and control, to the overall materials used in producing each motorcycle. We have come a long ways to making developments that will last lifetimes.
If you or a loved one is ever in a motorcycle accident get help first and then call The Reinecke Law Firm. We have helped thousands of bikers and motorcyclists recover from their accidents. We have over 30 years experience and know how to help you with your case. Call (800) 275-8326 for a free case evaluation today.