Fast facts about motorcycles and the motorcycle industry
There are about 40 million motorcycles on the road globally.
There are more than 10 million registered motorcyclists in the USA.
Britain used more motorcycles than any other country during WWII, more than 400 000.
The first International Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Race was held in 1907; it was won by Charles R. Collier.
The first motorcycle speedway race was held in Maitland, Australia, in 1925.
The Triumph Bonneville, first launched 1959, is named after the Bonneville salt.
Scott Parker (b. 1961) holds the Grand National Dirt Track Championship record of 94 race wins.
Parker won the AMA Grand National Championship (American Flat Track Series) 9 times.
Giacomo Agostini (b. 1942) holds the record for most Moto Grand Prix races (122) and most World Championships titles (15). 68 wins and 8 titles in the 500cc class and the rest in the 350cc class.
Valentino Rossi (b. 1979) holds the record for most 500cc MotoGP race wins (88). Throughout all classes, he’s had 114 race wins, second only to ghe great Agostini. By 2016, Rossi had won 9 Grand Prix World Championships.
Motorcycle history timeline
The world’s first internal combustion motorcycle was the Petroleum Reitwagen, built by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt, Germany in 1885. Not only is this considered as being the world’s first motorcycle but it also is the “forerunner of all vehicles, land, sea and air.”
The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller was the world’s first production motorcycle, manufactured between 1894 and 1897. It had a 360-degree two-cylinder water-cooled four-stroke engine with 90.9 cu in (1,489cc) capacity, producing 2.5 hp (1.9 kW) @ 240 RPM. The bike reached a maximum speed of 28 mph (45 km/h).
Norton was founded in 1898 as a manufacturer of “fittings and parts for the two-wheel trade” and started producing motorcycles in 1902.
George M. Hendee and Oscar Hedstrom founded the Hendee Manufacturing Company in 1901 in Springfield, Massachusetts, producing Indian motorcycles. During the 1910s, they were the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. In 1928, they changed the name to the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company. The company folded in 1953. In 2011, Polaris Industries purchased Indian Motorcycles and launched the first modern Indian motorcycle in 2013.
Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 by William S. Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
George Brough built his Brough Superior motorcycles in Nottingham, England from 1919 to 1940. They were dubbed the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles” and the SS100, built in 1924, is considered the world’s first superbike.
The Ner-A-Car feet-forward motorcycle was designed by Carl Neracher in 1918.
Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi built the first Moto Guzzi in 1920.
BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke) first produced motorcycles for other companies in 1921 but introduced their own model, the R32, in 1923; it had a top speed of 59 mph (95 km/h).
J. Lehaitre built a caterpillar-tract motorcycle in the 1938, as was published in Modern Mechanix.
The Vespa was designed in 1944 and first produced in 1946.
The first complete Honda – with both the frame and engine made by Honda – was the 1949 D-Type; it also was the first to be called a Honda Dream.
At its peak in the 1950s, BSA (who also owned Triumph) was the largest motorcycle producer in the world. BSA is short for Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited.
Ducati was founded in 1926 by Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his three sons, Adriano, Marcello, and Bruno Cavalieri Ducati, producing radio components and, later, parts for Cucciolos. The first Ducati motorcycle, the Ducati Vilar Cucciolo, was produced in 1950. It was a 48 cc bike weighing 98 pounds (44 kg), and had a top speed of 40 mph (64 km/h). It was followed soon after by the “55M” and “65TL” models.
Ducati Vilar Cucciolo 1950
Suzuki, founded in 1909 by Michio Suzuki as Suzuki Loom Works, produced their first motorcycle in 1952.
Yamaha was founded in 1887 by Torakusu Yamaha as a piano and reed organ manufacturer called Nippon Gakki Company. The Yamaha Corporation was established in 1955, launching a copy of the German DKW RT125 125cc two-stroke, single cylinder motorcycle as the YA-1.
Kawasaki Company was founded in 1896 by Shozo Kawasaki and became an industrial giant, even producing aircraft. From the 1930s onward they manufactured motorcycles under the Meguro name. Their first own-branded motorcycle, the Kawasaki Meihatsu, was launched in 1954.
Honda Motor Company was the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles by 1964.
BMW launched their first dual purpose off-road/on-road motorcycle, the R80G/S, in 1980. The R1150GS Adventure was launched in 2004; it was the model used by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman in their around-the-world journey Long Way Round.
Polaris Industries, owner of the Indian motorcycle brand, launched Victory motorcycles in the year 2000 and ceased production thereof in January 2017.
Honda launched the Africa Twin XRV650 in 1988, the XRV750 in 1989 (until 2003), and the new Africa Twin 1000 in 2016.
The 2 millionth BMW motorcycle, produced in May 2011, was a R1200GS
Triumph introduced the Rocket in 2004. The Rocket III Roadster, launched in 2010, produces 146 bhp (109 kW) and 163 lb/ft (221 Nm) torque.
The Honda Super Cub is the most produced motor vehicle in history. Since it introduction in 1958, more than 87 has been sold.
The Honda Super Cub was made with four stroke single cylinder engines ranging in displacement from 3.0 to 6.7 cu in (49 to 109 cc).
The Yamaha TT600R 2WD rear wheel was driven conventionally by chain and the front wheel was driven by an hydraulic electric motor. Only a few were made in the late 1990s.
On the Ural 2-wheel-drive motorcycle the rear wheel of the motorcycle and the wheel of the sidecar are the driven wheels.
Christini introduced their 2-wheel-drive system on bicycles in 1995 and on motorcycles in 2002.
The TT is held annually on the Isle of Man in May or June.
Between 1977 and 2000, Joey Dunlop won the TT 26 times, a record that still stands.
The TT lap record, as of 2016, is held Michael Dunlop: 16 minutes 53.929 seconds – 133.962 mph (215.591 km/h).
Honda holds the record for a manufacturer with the most TT wins: 255.
The largest motorcycle fuel tank is made by Enduro Manufactur – it has a capacity of 13.2 gallons (50 litres).
The first issue of Motorcyclist, America’s first motorcycle magazine, appeared in 1912.
The American Motorcyclist Association was founded in 1924; it has more than 1,100 chartered clubs.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held annually for 10 days in August in Sturgis, South Dakota. It attracts more than half-a-million people, generating almost a billion dollars in revenue.
The first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was held by Indian Motorcycle riders of the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club on August 14, 1938. It was organized to brawl with Harley-Davidson riders.
The first Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in the Fontana/San Bernardino, California on March 17, 1948.
Harley Owners Group (HOG) was founded in 1983; it has more than a million members.
The first woman to motorcycle solo around the world was Anne-France Dautheville (b. 1943), a French journalist. She managed this feat in 1973 on a Kawasaki 125. See the Wikipedia list of long-distance motorcycle riders.
In 1997, Nick Sanders set the record for circumnavigating the Earth on a motorcycle in 31 days and 20 hours. He rode a 900cc Triumph Daytona.
The term “Adventure riding” was coined by the legendary motorcycle traveler Chris Scott in 2003.
The first motorcyclist to ride in Antarctica was Japanese adventurer Shinji Kazama; he rode to the South Pole in 1991.
The first female to reach Antarctica on a motorcycle was Slovenian Benka Pulko (b. 1967) during her record-setting 111,856 miles (180,015 km) long-distance ride.
Bicycle manufacturer Humber exhibited an electric tandem bicycle at the Stanley Cycle Show in 1896 in London, England.
Ogden Bolton Jr. of Canton Ohio applied for a patent for an “electrical bicycle” on September 19, 1895.
Hosea W. Libbey of Boston submitted a patent application for an electrical bicycle on November 8, 1895.
The October 1911 issue of Popular Mechanics, according to Wikipedia, mentioned the introduction of an electric motorcycle with a range of 75 miles (121 km) to 100 miles (160 km) per charge. It had a three-speed controller, with speeds of 4 miles (6.4 km), 15 miles (24 km) and 35 miles (56 km) per hour.
In 1919, Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies made a prototype electric sidecar motorcycle – with batteries fitted under the seat of the sidecar in 1919 but it was never produced commercially.
The Limelette brother of Brussels, Belgium produced electric motorcycles between 1936 and 1948 for their company Socovel (Société pour l’étude et la Construction de Vehicules Electriques or Company for research and manufacture of electric vehicles).
During WWII, Merle Williams of Long Beach, California produced an electric motorcycle – with towed single wheeled trailer.
Zero Motorcycles was started in 2006 as Electricross by former NASA engineer Neal Saiki. They launched the Zero S in 2010. Zero motorcycles use the Agni electronic motors.
The Pikes Peak record for motorcycles was set on an electric motorcycle in 2013. Riding a Lightning, Carlin Dunne clocked the 12.42 miles (19.99 km) course in 10 minutes 00.694 seconds, 20.7 seconds faster than second-placed Bruno Langlois on his Ducati Multistrada 1200 S.
Annually, 13 million electric motorcycles or scooters are sold globally, 10 million in Chinese but only 2 thousand in the United States.
Stars on motorcyclists
Real drugs were used in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, which was written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda, directed by Hopper, and starred Fonda and Hopper as two bikers who travel through the American Southwest and South after selling a large score of cocaine.
Many famous people ride motorcycles, including:
Get on your bike!
“It only takes 12 horsepower to ride around the world. The rest is just wheelspin.” – Mark Sampson, Big Dog Adventures.