Motorcycles, a brief history

Motorcycles. When we think of them we see in our mind this fast two wheeled machine giving you chills as it rides past you.

But have we ever considered where it all began? While we may think some of the best motorcycles comes from Japan, it’s time pause and hit the rewind button for a trip all the way back to the 1800’s.

The bicycle, (which was invented by a duke to get from one place in the royal garden to another place in the royal garden faster) has a lot of similarities with the motorbike. The handle bars, the frame, the 2 wheels. So with the inventors during that era having itchy fingers and wanting to tinker, the bicycle provided an opportunity to be the best candidate to tinker and experiment with.

Roper Velocepede
The Roper Velocepede – source the Vintagent

And so it happened. The very first steam engine bike was invented in Paris by a French guy called Louis-Guillame Perreaux, however history books sees Sylvester H. Roper from Boston as the first person to officially bring the motorbike to us. While it technically is not considered a motorcycle due to being steam powered, it left a mark on the world. Sylvester Roper passed on during a race with athletes to showcase his new contraption,  and that inspired inventors!

The years ticked by before the very first combustion engine motorcycle was build in Germany,  called the Reitwagen. Having a wooden frame and known to be very uncomfortable to ride or sit on, it was the first ever petrol engine motorcycle. It was also a death trap. It had no brakes, and to  steer it, one had to pull or push a lever, making the Reitwagen move forward or be brought to a stop.

Daimler_Reitwagen
A Display of the Daimler Reitwagen – source Wikipedia

World War 1 happened. Triumph took the lead in motor cycle manufacturing to replace the Horse for dispatch riders, getting the messengers to where they need to be faster in order to deliver that critical information needed to win the war.

This is where the motorcycle legacy began, and it kept going, becoming very popular, and even essential, in some countries.

dispatch rider
A british Royal Engineers Dispatch Rider – Source Pinterest

Many of us choose a motorcycle over the car, not just for the experience, but for the cost effectiveness in our economy today, where it saves on fuel and also saves us on money for more fuel. But its also designed to be enjoyed, ask any biker. There is no feeling that will match the feeling of being free when you take a run down somewhere with a motorcycle.

And when you do remember the legacy of this iconic machine, which was but an idea that was brought to reality, participated in 2 World Wars, and served a far greater purpose that it ever was intended to serve, one cannot help to be inspired.

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Michael Loubser

I'm a lover of cars and bikes since I was young. I love working on them, driving them and pushing the limits in seeing what they are capable of. There is nothing better than working on them, and I enjoy the hack I discover that makes maintenance cost effective.

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