What is a motorcycle


Who invented it?

The history of motorized two-wheelers only begins shortly before that of the automobile - if you believe those who say that Gottlieb Daimler is the inventor of the motorcycle.

The Swabian engineer Gottlieb Daimler is considered to be the inventor of the motorcycle. But the world's first motorcycle actually came from the USA - from the city of Roxbury in the state of Massachusetts. It was there that Sylvester Roper invented his "Steam Velocipede", a steam bicycle, at the end of the 1860s.

It's a two-wheeler powered by a steam engine under the seat. In many ways, the steam bike already resembles today's motorcycles: As early as 1868, the speed could be regulated by turning the handlebar around its own axis.

In addition, Roper's motorcycle actually drives on two wheels and not, like Gottlieb Daimler's "riding car", with the help of two additional training wheels. In 1896, Roper reached a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour with his steam bike - his motorcycle is by no means a single, accidental attempt.

Nevertheless, today Daimler is considered the inventor of the motorcycle. The reason: Roper's engine runs on steam. Daimler's "Reitwagen", on the other hand, was the first two-wheeler to be equipped with an internal combustion engine. Its features: a cylinder, 0.5 horsepower (PS) and the first successful test drive over three kilometers on November 10, 1885. The modern motorcycle was born.

The "riding car", however, never goes into series production - perhaps because Daimler invented the motorized carriage a year later and from then on had its hands full with the development of the car.

The first mass-produced motorcycle came from the Munich factory "Hildebrand & Wolfm├╝ller" in 1894. However, due to technical and financial problems, it is only produced for three years.

Start of industrial motorcycle production

Large-scale industrial production of motorcycles begins in 1901: George Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom create the "Indian" brand in the US state of Massachusetts, which will determine the quality trend for the next 50 years. It is mainly touring bikes with large-volume two-cylinder engines with which "Indian" advertises for customers - and which soon faces competition.

In 1902 "Triumph" starts production in Coventry, England. The founder is Siegfried Bettmann from Nuremberg, who has been selling bicycles under the same name since 1886. Since the bankruptcy of "Indian" in 1953, "Triumph" is now the oldest manufacturer of motorcycles.

In 1903, the last co-founder of the motorcycle age took the stage: in the US state of Wisconsin, the "Harley-Davidson Motor Company" began production with three machines. In 1920 William Harley, the brothers Arthur, Walter and William Davidson made their brand world market leader for the first time with 28,980 motorcycles sold.

Modern from Japan and Germany

Last but not least, the world wars cause serious changes in the motorcycle world. In the 1950s "Indian" disappears as an independent brand. Although the name continues to exist, it initially includes brands from "Royal Enfield", later those of the consortium "Associated Motorcycles of England".

After "Triumph" set the tone on the European side for a long time, the company was overtaken by its competitors in the 1960s.

Other brands come to the fore: In 1969, Honda set the course for its success with its "CB 750 four". The new, transversely installed four-cylinder four-stroke engine is a bestseller and ensures the brand continues to have good sales figures around the world - to this day. With Yamaha, another Japanese company gains global market shares from the 1970s.

In Germany, Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) continued to drive motorcycle development, especially in the 1980s: The Bavarians introduced the regulated catalytic converter in motorcycles, along with the first standard anti-lock braking system and important innovations in the steering system.

In the meantime, engine mileages of 100,000 kilometers and more are no longer uncommon. Modern motorcycles from the leading manufacturers consistently rank technically at a high level. Electric motorcycles are also on offer.

A question of security

Of the 64.6 million vehicles registered in Germany in 2017, 4.3 million were motorcycles - a share of 7.8 percent. In the traffic fatality statistics, however, the proportion of two-wheelers is much higher: around one in five people who died in an accident in 2015 drove a motorcycle or moped.

The reasons for the numbers are obvious: in contrast to cars, motorcycles have no crumple zone, and the driver is much more at risk despite having to wear a helmet. In addition, motorcyclists tend to overestimate themselves and their abilities - over half of serious motorcycle accidents occur without outside interference.

In 2006 Honda equipped a motorcycle with an airbag for the first time, and anti-lock braking systems are also becoming standard in more and more models. Ultimately, however, technology can only compensate for driving errors on the motorcycle to a very limited extent.

Automobile clubs therefore advise motorcyclists to take regular safety courses and training sessions in which careful driving and behavior in dangerous situations are practiced.