In The Beginning


I’m not one of those guys
who think you can learn
anything and everything
just from the Internet.

There’s some stuff that
simply can’t be taught
that way.

I’m sure you can come up
with a coupla examples…

………… I know I can.

( however, I did find the alphabet
technique very helpful — I must admit. )

So I’m here to tell you that you
cannot learn to ride a motorcycle from a post.

If it was all function,
and no form, maybe.

But motorcycling ain’t a science, it’s an art.

Everything about motorcycling is —indian

…. from the design of a motorcycle, to the
many finesses of riding.

Still, since I already started writing on this topic,
I might as well tell you a little about the early history of em…..

First of all….
you might be saying
it’s more of a sport than an art.

I dunno….
….. it seems to me
that if it was simply a sport,blindfold
I’d getting a big salary for hitting pedestrians or riding like a
maniac or something.

And I haven’t been getting
any money for it, at all.

I hope you appreciate that
cleaning pedestrians off
of chrome is hard work.


Before there were cars,
there were motorcycles.

And before there were gas powered motorcycles,
there were steam powered ones.


The first gizmo that could rightly be called a motorcycle was invented in 1867-
by a couple French guys named Michaux and Perreaux—

…………………………….. the ‘Michaux-Perreaux Velocipede’ .

It was basically a converted bone shaker bicycle with a steam engine attached.

It had no brakes,
had a hand control for the boiler,
and burned alcohol to make the steam.

You couldn’t really call this thing
practical or comfortable, I guess….
…………………. more like wonky and dangerous.


Still, first is first.

In the United States,
a guy named Sylvester Roper was working on a steam velocipede, too.

By 1868, he had a working model of the Roper ‘Velocipede’ ready…

It was built on a purpose built frame,
and had both a throttle and brake
built into the one piece handlebar assembly.

Again, comfort wasn’t exactly job one.

But you can definitely say that
Roper was committed to his creation.

He died in the saddle of his 1896 model .

Man, when I say I want to die in the saddle,
I don’t mean THAT way.

Ahem. 3

soon folks were working on other kinds of motorcycles,
………………….. a little less …. well, sketchy.


A lotta times you’ll hear people say that the Germans actually invented the first motorcycle.

And I guess it depends on your definitions….
one thing’s for sure, though.

Although it was internal combustion,
had a two speed transmission and was gasoline fueled —-

–the Daimler-Maybach ‘Reitwagen of 1885 bore little more resemblance to modern motorcycles than did the previous steam powered ones.

With no steering axis angle and no fork offset,
steering depending on a lotta luck
and a couple outrigger training wheels.

The bike’s seat burned up on its first 7 mile test,
due to the engine’s hot tube ignition built too close to it.

Actually the term “Reitwagen” means “riding wagon”,
so I’m not sure even Gottlieb Daimler would take the ‘first motorcycle’ distinction that seriously.


If I had to make a choice between the several competing claims on this whole first motorcycle thing…

I guess I would point out the world’s first PRODUCTION purpose-built motorcycle…..

That distinction belongs to the– 1894 Hildebrand and Wolfmuller ‘Motorrad ,
built in Munich.

Yeah, I know…
………………………. the Germans again.

Say what you will, that well documented
German penchant for detail makes
them wonderful engineers.

Maybe that explains
all the German helmets
and Iron Crosses ya used to
see on some bikers, I dunno.

This thingee had a water-cooled four stroke two cylinder carburated 1500 cc engine — that would make 2 1/2 horsepower and about 25 miles an hour.

It used pneumatic tires, had brakes, and a relatively comfy seat.

It also required the rider to start it using the old ‘run alongside and jump on’ method, since it had no clutch or pedals.

Not that I haven’t used that method with some modern bikes in my time…


It might be interesting to note that the first use of the term “Motorcycle” was around that time….

An American inventor from Indiana, EJ Pennington, used it in 1893, and he went on to patent a motorcycle design of his own in 1896.

This was also about the time
when American and British
manufacturers started to take
over the leadership in motorcycle development.

In Britain, Triumph produced it’s first mass produced purpose-built ( not a converted bicycle ) model in 1905, with a Triumph 3-horsepower engine.

BSA released it’s 3 1/2 model in 1910.

(BSA would grow to become the
best selling motorcycle made between 1951-1965.)rich

Norton would produce their first bike with a Norton made engine in 1908.

In 1913, Royal Enfield introduced its famous V-Twin powered Model 180 with sidecar.

In the United States,
Indian produced its first “Indian Single” in 1901, and by 1902 were being sold with
chain drives and a diamond frame.

In 1904, their trademark red color was introduced, and it was soon the world’s best selling brand — where it remained until World War I. ( see my post on Indian )

Harley Davidson released their first production bike “Model 1” in 1904 — it had a 405 cc (25 ci) 3 horsepower intake-over-exhaust engine, designed in part by Ollie Evinrude.

There were at one time or another
there were over 100 American
motorcycle manufacturers,
but by the start of World War II,
there were only two left—7
Indian and Harley Davidson.

German manufacturing of motorcycles was also booming, and makers during this period included Hercules, Mars, NSU, Opel, and Wanderer, with Triumph also maintaining a plant in Nuremberg.

There were also large numbers of
manufacturers in France, and Italy.

The rest,
as somebody inevitably will say,
is history.

Now, party time.

who brought the beer?

Cheers !!!!!



8 thoughts on “In The Beginning

  1. dievca says:

    Awesome! Ages ago a Comedian did a piece on the different sounds motorcycles make via brand using his voice. Huh,huh, huh Harley. SsssssZuuuuuuKiiiii, etc.

  2. Cool history and interesting info!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  3. Brett says:

    Nice history overview, Chris. I thought the first motorcycles were made right around 1900 and hadn’t known that efforts to make them extended as early as the 1860s. These early bicycle and motorcycle pioneers have a direct lineage to the early automobile makers.

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