Is history important? At times, we have the notion that we should leave history in the past. Perhaps we argue that all we have is the present. Maybe we feel disconnected from events that happened years, decades, or even centuries ago. Possibly, we believe that today’s innovations have made yesteryear obsolete. However, a product’s history provides us with a better understanding of, and appreciation for, today’s versions of the product. So before you strap on your Harley Davidson motorcycle boots, remember that without the motorcycle, no need for motorcycle boots would exist!
The “first” motorcycle
When did someone invent the first motorcycle? One could argue that the American Howard Roper achieved that success, in 1867. The reason why his invention was arguably the first motorcycle is that a steam engine powered it, unlike today’s machines.
Roughly two decades later, in 1885, a German named Gottlieb Daimler created the first motorcycle that contained a gas engine. In actuality, Daimler’s invention was technically a wooden bicycle that a gas engine powered. Thus, the motorcycle was actually a four-wheeler!
Training wheels, an engine, and Otto
Besides the first gas-powered motorcycle resembling a bicycle, it also contained two tiny stabilizing wheels. We could compare these wheels to the “training wheels” on today’s children’s bicycles.
Daimler’s invention included an engine that a man named Nicolaus August Otto had created. Otto had named his creation the “Otto Cycle Engine.” Both Daimler and Otto had once worked together as inventors. In fact, Gottlieb had served as Otto’s assistant.
Motorcycle problems and solutions
After completing his gas-powered motorcycle, Daimler would then focus on constructing some of the world’s first automobiles. Thus, other inventors would focus on improving Daimler’s invention, to create a motorcycle with only two wheels. Some issues they addressed included:
o Where they should place the motor
o The quantity of cylinders that the engine should contain
o Whether the engine should feature a two-stroke or a four-stroke construction
o Whether the motorcycle should keep a bicycle’s chain and pedals
During this time, those inventors developing motorcycles and automobiles took two different approaches. Because many of those working on automobiles had backgrounds in the railroad industry, they often focused on creating cars that steam powered.
On the other hand, the developers of motorcycles based their work on the aviation industry. This is not surprising, as riding in motorcycles and airplanes was much less insular than riding in trains or automobiles.
In 1907, Harley-Davidson invented its first “V-twin” motorcycle. As an airplane gradually makes an upward ascent during takeoff, the V-twin motorcycles were renowned for their ability to ascend hills. To show how intertwined the developments of motorcycles and airplanes actually were, until World War I, the speed records of the two were virtually identical!
Before strapping on your motorcycle boots and other safety gear, it is important to remember the past innovations of motorcycles, which have made today’s riding possible. Without the breakthroughs of the past, today’s motorcycle innovations would be impossible. Ride safely and create your own motorcycling history!