Suzuki B-King Final Prototype
[edit ] Steam power

In the 1860s Pierre Michaux. a blacksmith in Paris. founded ‘Michaux et Cie’ (Michaux and company), the first company to construct bicycles with pedals called a velocipede at the time, or Michauline. [2] The first steam powered motorcycle can be traced to 1867, when Pierre’s son Ernest Michaux fitted a small steam engine to one of the ‘velocipedes’. [3]

The design went to the USA when Pierre Lallement. a Michaux employee who also claimed to have developed the prototype in 1863, filed for the first bicycle patent with the U.S. patent office in 1866. [4] In 1868 an American, Sylvester Howard Roper of Roxbury. Massachusetts developed a twin cylinder machine from the French velocipede design, with a charcoal fired boiler between the wheels. (Roper’s contribution to motorcycle development ended suddenly when he died demonstrating one of his machines in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 1, 1896). [3]

Also in 1868, a French engineer Louis-Guillaume Perreaux patented a similar steam powered single cylinder motorcycle with a petrol burner and twin belt drives, which was possibly invented independently of Roper’s. Although the patent is dated 1868, nothing indicates the invention had been operable before 1871. [3]

In 1881, Lucius Copeland of Phoenix, Arizona designed a much smaller steam boiler which could drive the large rear wheel of a ‘farthing-penny’ Star cycle at 12 mph. In 1887 Copeland formed the Northrop Manufacturing Co. to priduce the first successful ‘Moto-Cycle’ (actually a three wheeler). [3] [edit ] Petroleum power

Replica of the 1885 Daimler-Maybach Reitwagen

The inspiration for the earliest dirt bike, and arguably the first motorcycle, was designed and built by the German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt (since 1905 a city district of Stuttgart ) in 1885. The first petroleum -powered vehicle, it was essentially a motorized bicycle. although the inventors called their invention the Reitwagen (riding carriage). They had not set out to create a vehicle form but to build a simple carriage for the engine, which was the focus of their endeavours. [5] [edit ] First commercial products

In the decade from the late 1880s, dozens of designs and machines emerged, particularly in France, Germany and England, and soon spread to America. [6] During this early period of motorcycle history, there were many manufacturers since bicycle makers were adapting their designs for the new internal combustion engine .

In 1894, the Hildebrand Wolfmüller became the first motorcycle available to the public for purchase. [7] However, only a few hundred examples of this motorcycle were ever built. Soon, as the engines became more powerful and designs outgrew the bicycle origins, the number of motorcycle-oriented producers increased.

The first known motorcycle in the United States was said to be brought to New York by a French circus performer. in 1895. It weighed about 200 lb (91 kg) and was capable of 40 mph (64 km/h) on a level surface. [8] However, that same year, an inventor from the United States E.J. Pennington demonstrated a motorcycle of his own design in Milwaukee. Pennington claimed his machine was capable of a speed of 58 mph (93 km/h), and is credited with inventing the term motor cycle to describe his machine. [9] [edit ] Before World War II

A 1913 FN (Fabrique National), Belgium, 4cylinders and shaft drive

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. In 1903, as Triumph’s motorcycle sales topped 500, the American company Harley-Davidson started producing motorcycles.

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. [6]

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