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When Were Motorcycles Invented? History of the Motorcycle!

motorcycles parked on the street

Motorcycles have been around for many years, but they weren’t always the machines we have today. When Pierre Michaux created the Michaux-Perreaux steam velocipede in 1867, we wouldn’t have called it a motorcycle. However, it was revolutionary for the time.

Since then, technology has come a long way. Every year, manufacturers are creating faster and more powerful motorcycles. And motorcycles remain a massively popular type of transportation due to their exciting and relatively inexpensive nature.

car and road divider

Steam-Powered Motorcycles and Beyond

What Pierre Michaux began in Paris was continued by Sylvester Roper in America a year later. In 1868 he created a twin-cylinder steam-powered velocipede. Originally, these steam-powered machines were not two wheels. Most designs were of two larger wheels in the back and a slightly smaller one in the front.

It wasn’t until the mid-1880s that inventors began creating gas-powered motorcycles. But when they did begin using a gas engine, the rear wheels were driven by a whopping ⅝ horsepower engine.

Fun fact about these early bikes: they didn’t have brakes! The motorcycle was stopped by raising the rear driving wheel off the ground. Because of the low horsepower, speed wasn’t typically a problem.

Even over 100 years ago, technology was increasing quickly. In the early 1900s, several different manufacturers began mass-producing a few different models. Engines were becoming more powerful, and the bikes were getting more advanced. During this time, Indian and Harley-Davidson were two of the leading American manufacturers.

In these early years, motorcycle racing began growing in popularity as well. As the engines became more powerful, the excitement in riding grew with the power.

Motorcycles During and After the War

Motorcycles played roles in each of the world wars. These roles that they had also led to their growth and popularity afterward.

World War One

During the First World War, manufacturing ramped up from the main manufacturers of the time. Harley-Davidson set aside over half of its factory’s production to supply the military with bikes. And Indian Motorcycles provided the allied forces with over 30,000 bikes during the war.

World War Two

Leading up to the Second World War, European demand for motorcycles went through the roof. Royal Enfield was a major supplier in Europe. They are especially known for their lightweight bike that could be dropped in a parachute cage.

After the war, many veterans who’d experienced motorcycle use in the war came home with a desire to continue using them. This is where many of the early biker clubs or “gangs” came from.

Motorcycles Today

honda motorcycle parked on a hill
Image Credit: Wilbue, Pixabay

Fast-forward to today, and we see that motorcycles have continued to grow in popularity. They are actually one of the most affordable forms of transportation because of their low fuel use compared to an automobile.

One major shift that we’ve seen is the dominance of the motorcycle market by Indian and Japanese manufacturers. There are still some classic American-made bikes by Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles, but they represent a smaller percentage than they used to.

The Best of the Best

There are quite a few different brands, and there have been countless different models throughout the years. Let’s take a look at some of the stand-out facts about motorcycles.

Longest Living Brand

Peugeot Motorcycles released their first motorcycle in 1898, and up until the 1950s, they were the leading producer of motorcycles in France. Other brands have since taken the spotlight. However, Peugeot is still making motorcycles and mopeds today.

Best-Selling Motorcycle

It should come as no surprise that Honda is one of the leading producers of motorcycles. The Super Cub has been in production since 1958, and in 2017, it surpassed 100 million unit sales. This makes it the best-selling motorcycle of all time.

Fastest Motorcycle

The MTT Turbine Superbike Y2K is the fastest bike available for purchase. This powerful bike boasts a massive 320 horsepower and has a recorded max speed of 250 miles per hour. It currently holds the Guinness World Record as the most expensive motorcycle in production. So, if you want to experience the power, you’ll need a lot of money!

car and road dividerConclusion

While clearly not specific to the States, motorcycles are a part of American heritage. And the neat part about that is that some of the original American manufacturers like Indian Motorcycle and Harley-Davidson are still going strong today.


Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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