My goal is to explain the evolution of the motorcycle and how their importance has grown in our society. Motorcycles have changed a great deal over the past decade or so. They are constantly being bettered and improved. Slight changes are always being made to these man made machines.
The motorcycle is an amalgamation of a motor and a bicycle. Motorcycles aren’t the only two-wheeled form of motorized transportation, there are others like minibikes, mopeds, and motor scooter (www.comptons.com “Motorcycles”, 1). Some standard equipment on motorcycles today are: gas tank, battery, spark plugs, muffler, generator, shock absorbers, oil pump, headlight, and turn signals (www.comptons.com “Motorcycles”, 2)
The first two-wheeled vehicles began to appear in the late eighteenth century. They had no steering and were propelled by a rider pushing there feet along the ground. Steering was later added in 1817. In 1842, Kirkpatrick MacMillon created cycle with pedals and cranks (Wilson, 8). 1869, Michaux and Louis-Guillaume Perreaox attached small steam engine to a “bone shaker” (Wilson, 8). Dr. Nicholaus Otto patented the four-stroke principle in 1876. The Copeland brothers built a prototype steam-powered bicycle in 1884. Also in 1884, Count Albert De Dion and Georges Bouton built a gasoline motor, which would be built and sold in various sizes (Wilson, 10).
In 1885, Gattlreb Daimler mounted an engine in a wood-framed machine that had a twist grip controlled break. “The engine was positioned vertically in the center of the machine; drive to the rear wheel was by belt to a counter shaft, then by gear to rear wheel (Wilson, 9).” 1887, Edward Butler built tricycle with electric ignition and a float-feed carburetor.
The Hildebrand & Wolfmueller were patented in 1884. “It had a step-trough frame, with its fuel tank mounted on the downtube. The engine was a parallel-twin, mounted low on the frame, with its cylinders going fore-and-aft. The connecting rods connected directly to a crank on the rear axle, and instead of using heavy flywheels for energy storage between cylinder-firing, it used a pair of stout elastic bands, one on each side outboard of the cylinders, to help out on the compression strokes. It was water-cooled, and had a water tank/radiator built into the top of the rear fender (www.motorcycle.com “History”, 2).”
In 1897, Michel and Eugene Werner built a machine with a De Dion-style engine. The engine was located over the front wheel and it drove via twisted rawhide belt. The weight on the front forks caused steering problems. The cycle was revised in 1901. The Werners “split the frame in front of the pedals and bolted the engine into the gap. The frame was strengthened by adding a horizontal member running above the engine (Wilson, 11).” This new layout improved weight distribution and handling making a better ride. The new Werner had an electric-ignition and a spray-type carburetor. Even though it had no clutch, no suspension, poor breaks, and not much power the 1901 Werner was a major part of the real beginning in the evolution of the modern motorcycle.
By 1903, motorcycles were being designed and manufactured all over Europe and America. Also in 1903, William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson completed a motorcycle prototype. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company put out “Silent Gray Fellow” in 1904 and in 1907 they built its first V-twin (Wilson, 18-20). In 1913, Indian introduced the rear suspension and Cyclone built an overhead-camshaft V-twin. “By 1914 the V-twin was established as the most popular American motorcycle engine, a position that it still retains (Wilson, 17).” Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, and many others use the V-twin. Harley-Davidson and Indian are the two largest motorcycle companies in America. Oscar Hedstrom and George Hendee developed first motorcycle by Indian.
The first U.S. motorcycle was the Orient-Aster. It was built by the Metz Company in 1898. The engine used was a copy of the De Dion-Buton engine.
The United States used motorcycles to support the infantry in World War I. Harley-Davidson and Indian were the only American companies that survived the Great Depression of the 1930s. Harley once again provided motorcycles for World War II (www.harley-davidson.com “Harley-Davidson History”, 1).
English bikes flooded the American market in the 1940s. “British bikes were lighter, faster, and sportier than the domestic machines (Wilson, 17). BMW, Triumph, and Ducati are some of the most popular and well-known European motorcycle manufactures today.
“Motorcycles have been built in Japan since 1909 (Wilson, 111). Japan makes small, well-made machines. America began importing Japanese motorcycles in the late 60s and early 70s. The main Japanese manufactures are Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki. Honda is one of the biggest motorcycle manufactures in the world today.
Motorcycle racing began in Richmond, Surrey, England in 1897. The International Federation of Motorcyclists was founded in 1904. The I.F.M. is the international governing body for racing. The first real motorcycle racetrack was made in 1907 (www.comptons.com “Motorcycles”, 3).
During the 1950s and 60s, black leather jackets became associated with motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders began wearing the heavy leather jackets for warm during the long rides and protection, in case they happened to fall while riding. The thick jackets would help prevent the tearing of their flesh on the hard, rough road. Now, to most motorcyclists, black leather jackets are used for the above mentioned reasons as well as a fashion statement and a lifestyle (www.harley-davidson.com “Harley-Davidson History”, 1).
Nowadays, motorcycles are used very often in the world. Police use them to serve and protect and the military still uses them in battle. There are many different professional racing circuits, varying from street racing, drag racing, motocross, ice racing, and trail riding. Also, many people like to ride motorcycles for leisure. Pretty much anyone can have one so the are very abundant in the world today.
As shown, motorcycles have changed and evolved a great deal over the past hundred plus years. Companies continue to improve past improvements making better and better bikes. Who knows what the future has in store for the wonderful machines, but I’m looking forward to see what happens.
Wilson, Hugo. The Ultimate Motorcycle Book. New York: Darling Kindersley, 1993.
www.harley-davidson.com, “Harley-Davidson History”