CARS FROM 1890 TO 1906
Driving an automobile required a high degree to technical dexterity, mechanical skill, special clothing including hat, gloves, duster coat, goggles and boots. Tires were notoriously unreliable and changing one was an excruciating experience. Fuel was a problem, since gasoline was in short supply
The drivers of the day were an adventurous lot, going out in every kind of weather, unprotected by an enclosed body, or even a convertible top. Everyone in town knew who owned what car and the cars were soon to become each individuals token of identity.
The dirt roads were a challenge in any weather.before the roads were tarred
By 1910 Winfield paved the downtown streets with brick, horses were no longer welcome. The mule drawn trolleys were upgraded to electric streetcars.
1885 GERMANY -FIRST 'WOODEN MOTOR CYCLE'Gottllieb Daimler's workshop in Bad Cannstatt where he built the wooden motorcycle shown. Daimler's son Paul rode this motorcycle from Cannstatt to Unterturkheim and back on November 10, 1885
1890 Ransom E. Olds had built his second steam powered car
1893 the car built by Charles and Frank Duryea,:-[ Duryea was the first auto manufacturer with their 13 cars.]
Henry Ford had an engine running by 1893 :-
The first closed circuit automobile race held at Narragansett Park, Rhode Island, in September 1896. :-
1896-Ransom Eli Olds is at the tiller of his first petrol powered car. Riding beside him is Frank G. Clark, who built the body and in the back are their wives.:-
The Curved Dash Oldsmobile had a single cylinder engine, tiller steering and chain drive. It sold for $650. In 1901 600 were sold and the next years were 1902 - 2,500, 1903 - 4,000, 1904 - 5,000.;-
DE DION 'QUADRICYCLE' 1898
In 1899 and 1900, electrics outsold all other type of cars and the most popular electric was the Columbia built by Colonel Albert Augustus Pope, owner of American Bicycle Company;-
This Daimler of 1899 was owned by Lionel Rothchild. The European design is much advanced of the American designs of the same time. Gottlieb Daimler took part in the London-to-Brighton run in 1896 but died in 1900 at the age of 66 without ever meeting Benz.:-
1903, in Winfield,Kansas ;the first car in town. Acutally it was more like a truck and was used to haul customers out to see land
electric car 1904:-
Rolls royce 1904
1904 DE DION CAR
SINGER CAR 1904
The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost of 1906 :-
The 1908 Haynes in the back ground shows the rapid development of the petrol powered car when compared to the 1894 model in the foreground. in just about 10 years!
Steam power was widely used in the 1880's and 1890's on the farms of America. Cowley County had its share of these behemoths and had a large group of people with the ability to use, and the skill to fix and repair them. The smaller, less expensive automobile, with an internal combustion engine provided a new avenue of interest that was much more personal than the steam engine with its team of attendants.
Mr. Martin Baden of Winfield, Kansas and his new eight-cylinder Cadillac roadster. This car was especially built for Mr. Baden,
By 1915 racing had become a passion all over the United States.
Eventually the automobile change the face of small town America;and the world.
De Dion Bouton coupe
BELOW:-1906 FIRE ENGINE
EARLY MOTOR CYCLES
Early Gas-Powered Cycles:-
Early Mass-Production Gas-Powered Motorcycles:-
Early Steam-Powered Cycles:-
There are many claims on which machine was actually the first motorcycle: Gottlieb Daimler’s was probably first, in 1885. Felix Millet patented his rotary-engine in France in 1888, and a machine with a Millet- designed engine was entered in the Paris-Bordeaux race in 1894. His 1897 machine is pictured here.
1884 Plectocycle Front-Steering Tricycle
Being some of the first vehicles fitted with a differential gear, high wheeler tricycles such as this were the forerunner of the automobile.
1949 Cyclotandem Derny
1950′s Motorized tandems
Germany made considerable use of motorcycles, many produced by BMW, during WWII, mostly for patrols and courier duty. Some rifle regiments were motorcycle-mounted for fast movement. Germany also produced an unusual motorcycle hybrid, the Kettenkrad (left), which combined features of a halftrack and a motorcycle. Intended for offroad use or use where roads were bad or destroyed, it could be equipped with a small trailer and was sometimes used as a tractor or small truck. Some were produced after WWII as farm equipment.
A related post-war phenomenon is the motor scooter. Originating in Italy and rapidly accepted in Europe as a cheap mode of transportation in recovering war-torn economies, the scooter has also found a welcome in the developing economies of Asia. Long term residents of European and Asian countries are well aware of postwar transportation transitions from bicycles to motor scooters to automobiles as economies recovered
A more motorcycle-like device is the moped, a combination of bicycle and very small gasoline engine. Developed in the 1950s in Germany, it has spread throughout the world. It generally does not have to be licensed or insured as a road vehicle, except in Great Britain.
In its most recent incarnation, a mini-motor scooter has become popular among teenagers, who navigate their "chicken-power" engined vehicles through residential streets accompanied by a teeth-grinding howl from their high rpm engines. Ah, recognition: Pass the ear plugs!
Indian Motorcycle - 1907(MADE IN U.S.A.)
Indian Motorcycle - 1909
Excelsior Motorcycle - 1911
Harley-Davidson Motorcycle - 1911 & Indian - 1910
Indian Motorcycle - 1912
Indian Motorcycle - 1913
Harley-Davidson Motorcycle - 1914
Motorcycles In India:-
In 1955, the Indian government needed sturdy and reliable motorcycles for its Army and police to patrol the rugged border highways. The first batch of 350cc Bullet - the super bike in India of all times, from the Royal Enfield Company of UK were received and assembled at Chennai. Since then, bikes in India have been flourishing as a two wheelers segment, and Indian bikes gaining on popularity all across the world.
In 1893, the Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd was registered to manufacture bicycles. By 1899, Enfield were producing quadricycles with De Dion engines and experimenting with a heavy bicycle frame fitted with a Minerva engine clamped to the front downtube. In 1912, the Royal Enfield Model 180 sidecar combination was introduced with a 770 cc V-twin JAP engine which was raced successfully in the Isle of Man TT and at Brooklands.
1913 Enfield 425cc
In 1911, prior to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the company added Royal word with its name and became royal enfield. Royal Enfield supplied large numbers of motorcycles to the British War Department
1923 Royal Enfield 225cc
From 1955 to 1959, Royal Enfields were painted red, and marketed in the USA as Indian Motorcycles by the Brockhouse Corporation, who had control of the Indian Sales Corporation (and therefore Indian Motorcycles) and had stopped manufacturing all American Indians in the Springfield factory in 1953. But Americans were not impressed by the badge engineering and the marketing agreement ended in 1960, and from 1961, Royal Enfields were available in the US under their own name. The largest Enfield "Indian" was a 700 cc twin named the Chief, like its American predecessors.
The Redditch factory ceased production in 1967 and the Bradford-on-Avon factory closed in 1970, which meant the end of the British Royal Enfield. After the factory closed a little over two hundred Series II Interceptor engines were stranded at the dock in 1970. These engines had been on their way to Floyd Clymer in the US, who unfortunately had just died. His export agents, Mitchell's of Birmingham, were left to dispose of them. They approached the Rickman brothers for a frame. The main problem of the Rickman brothers had always been engine supplies, so a limited run of Rickman Interceptors were promptly built
Enfield India (1949 TO present)
Royal Enfield motorcycles had been sold in India from 1949. In 1955, the Indian government looked for a suitable motorcycle for its police and army, for use patrolling the country's border. The Bullet was chosen as the most suitable bike for the job. The Indian government ordered 800 350 cc model Bullets, an enormous order for the time. In 1955, the Redditch company partnered Madras Motors in India in forming 'Enfield India' to assemble, under licence, the 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras (now called Chennai). Under Indian law, Madras Motors owned the majority (over 50%) of shares in the company. In 1957 tooling equipment was sold to Enfield India so that they could manufacture components.
Royal Enfield India is still manufacturing in India and is being sold in India and is also being exported to Europe as well as America and Australia. Recently Royal Enfield has undergone a major retooling specially in the engine department with introduction of twin spark unit construction engine on all its models with EFI available on their flagship 500cc model. This retooling has sparked such an interest in these bikes that they have started double shifts at the plants. These bikes, which in spite of their modern engines look as much a classic as their 1950 counterparts, are on a 6 month wait-list.
BICYCLES AND TRICYCLES
Whereas bicycle clubs and runs tended to focus on competition, tricycling events were a social affair, often involving a parade around town followed by tea. Tricycles were more expensive, so tended to a more upmarket clientele. Tricycle enthusiasts soon started to look down on cyclists, especially as secondhand high wheelers were by now in the hands of lower-class youths, removing their snob appeal.
The Earliest Bicycle - 1790
High wheel bicycles and tricycles soon became obsolete, and enormous demand ensued for the revolutionary new, cheaper, safer, faster, and much more ridable bicycles.
During their brief reign high-wheel tricycles had an enormous influence on society, capturing the public imagination not only in Great Britain where they flourished but around the world too. As a result, bicycles, tricycles and, within 20 years, motorcycles and cars, were firmly implanted on the roads of the world. These tricycles are still considered to be the ‘aristocracy’ of the veteran cycling world.
HISTORY OF TRICYCLES:-
In 1901, the first official triporteur race took place from Paris to Versailles and back. In 1903 the course was 38km – from Ville-D’ Avray to Palaiseau and back.
From 1922 the Championnat des Triporteurs was held annually in mid-November; the course was 50km.
High wheel bicycles and tricycles soon became obsolete, and enormous demand ensued for the revolutionary new, cheaper, safer, faster, and much more ridable bicycles.
During their brief reign high-wheel tricycles had an enormous influence on society, capturing the public imagination not only in Great Britain where they flourished but around the world too. As a result, bicycles, tricycles and, within 20 years, motorcycles and cars, were firmly implanted on the roads of the world. These tricycles are still considered to be the ‘aristocracy’ of the veteran cycling world.
HISTORY OF TRICYCLES:-
The first tricycle was built in 1680 for a German paraplegic named Stephan Farffler, who lived near Nuremburg. He was a watch-maker and the tricycle had gears and hand cranks.
Two Frenchmen, named Blanchard and Maguier invented a tricycle in 1789, which prompted the Journal de Paris to coin the words ‘bicycle’ and ‘tricycle’ and publish them on July 27th to differentiate between the two types of machines.
Denis Johnson patented a tricycle in England in 1818, and a three-wheeled swiftwalker was introduced in 1819.
Denis Johnson patented a tricycle in England in 1818, and a three-wheeled swiftwalker was introduced in 1819.
On November 18, 1876, James Starley introduced the Coventry Lever Tricycle, a side-driven two-track, lever-driven machine, and that started the tricycling craze in Great Britain. It had two small wheels on the right side, that both steered simultaneously. A large drive wheel was on the left side. In 1877, he introduced the Coventry Rotary, one of the first rotary chain drive tricycles.
In 1879, twenty types of tricycles and multi-wheel cycles were produced in Coventry, England, and by 1884, there were over 120 different models produced by 20 manufacturers. Tricycles were used especially by those who could not ride high wheelers, such as women who were confined in the long dresses of the day, and short or unathletic men.
From 1881 to 1886 in Great Britain, more tricycles were built than bicycles, but this was primarily a class phenomenon, since tricycles were more expensive, perceived as more genteel, and the upper classes had the disposable income to buy them for the women in the family. As a result, tricycling remained popular in Great Britain long after riders turned away from them elsewhere. They even had regular racing.
In 1901, the first official triporteur race took place from Paris to Versailles and back. In 1903 the course was 38km – from Ville-D’ Avray to Palaiseau and back.
From 1922 the Championnat des Triporteurs was held annually in mid-November; the course was 50km.
Raleigh Street, Nottingham, was the site of a small workshop which in 1886 started producing diamond-frame safety bicycles at the rate of three a week. Frank Bowden, a successful lawyer and convert to cycling, bought the firm in 1887. Raleigh survived the Great Depression well. It acquired Humber cycles in 1932 and the following year started producing a three-wheeler car.
The name of its budget range, launched in 1938 as Gazelle, was changed to Robin Hood, and Raleigh acquired Rudge-Whitworth.Raleigh acquired two major rival groups: Triumph and Three Spires in 1954, and BSA (including New Hudson and Sunbeam) in 1957.
The Sawyer quadracycle: 1855.
The Coventry Rotary quadracycle: 1885.
he Rudge quadracycle: 1888.
The Canadian Royal Mail quadracycle: 1901.
Motorcycling prehistory: A chronology
It’s all in the name: motorcycle. To build a motorised bicycle you need three things: a bicycle that steers and stops on command; an engine that is small enough to fit the frame yet powerful enough to move the weight of bike and rider; and a fuel that is readily available and easily portable. Easy. All three became available during the second half of the 19th century and the standard history of the motorcycle, as rehashed countless times, started in 1885 with one Gottlieb Daimler. So the motorcycle is a 19th century invention which came of age as a practicable means of the transport in the 20th century.
But hang on a minute – the first self-propelled vehicles took to the road in the 18th century, as does the first frame running on a pair of wheels. The first engines and a determined quest for new fuels dates back even further – and it all depended on materials technology that took millennia to develop. So what about the metal ores themselves? Or the fuel? For the beginning of that story we have to go back to 300,000 years after the Big Bang, which was 13.7 billion years ago (depending where your clock is, but let’s leave time dilation in gravity fields to relativists who understand it).
On this timescale the earlier dates are clearly approximate so for “300,000 years” read “about 300,000 years”. Similarly, latest estimates of the age of the planet we ride our bikes on might be out by a few million years (but let’s agree that it’s more than the 6,000 years proposed by religious nutters; I’ve got socks older then that). So it took 300,000 years after the Big Bang for various exotic forces and particles to settle down enough to sort themselves out into atoms. Which means the prehistory of the motorcycle starts
13.4 billion years ago
Say hello to the hydrogen atom, without which we would have no oil, and thus no petrol, no plastics and, almost as important, no water.
12.9 billion years ago
The first stars began turning hydrogen, helium and lithium into heavier elements, including useful stuff like iron.
4.55 billion years ago
The G2V star we simply call ‘the sun’ (one of more than 100 million G2s in our galaxy) fired up; the Earth was among the planets formed from the leftover bits, giving us somewhere to build and ride motorcycles as well providing everything needed to build them. Matchless riders might appreciate the whimsy that they ride their G2s under the light of a G2 [and I hadn’t realised the humble 1950s 250cc G2 had such a long history nor such a handsome ancestor – Ed].
3.8 billion years ago
The first life appeared so schoolboys (and girls) had to learn biology as well as chemistry.
700 million years ago
The first animals evolved but showed no inclination to build motorcycles.
200 million years ago
Mammals appeared and this was A Good Thing because mammals design motor cycles.
160 million years ago
Plants and animals that lived in the ocean died and sank to the bottom to be covered in mud, sand, and other mineral deposits. Their sacrifice gave us the hydrocarbons from which we get lubes and fuel so let’s be grateful.
Two million years ago
Hairy anthropoids climbed down from the trees, left the forest and migrated across the open savannahs in seach of a Harley dealership.
600,000 years ago
Hom Sap arrived on the scene with brains big enough to start the long climb from banging rocks together to building Panthers.
Our ancestors took their time, but fermented beverages were being drunk by this time (as were the people who drank them), judging by the discovery of beer jugs dating back that far. It’s been suggested that beer might have preceded bread as a staple, which shows they had their priorities right. By the way, pigs were first domesticated about 9,000BC but the first bread wasn’t made until about 2,000BC which is a bloody long wait for a bacon sandwich. In fact HP sauce didn’t come along till 1896 and now it’s not even made in Britain anymore. Shameful.
The wheel reached Europe and Western Asia, though a single wheel isn’t much to use anyone except a monocyclist so let’s not be too impressed.
Earliest known depiction of a wheeled vehicle (a two-axle wagon) on a clay pot excavated in southern Poland. Two-wheelers, as we know, came much later, proving that motorcyclists are more evolved than car drivers.
Writing appeared in Sumer, making way for motorcycle handbooks, bike mags, café menus and this website.
Iron tools were used in Egypt where copper metallurgy was also emerging, in good time for armatures and wiring harnesses.
The distillation techniques developed in China were just the ticket for extracting petrol, lubes and Bushmill’s BlackLabel.
Buttons were in use in India; they kept the draughts out of riding gear until zips came along.
The first paved roads built, in the Indus Valley, which would have been A Good Thing had there been such a thing as the Indus Valley MCC. But, as far as we know, there wasn’t.
Babylonians made maps on clay tablets which was all very well, but would they fit into your tank bag, that's the question.
Earliest known use of steel, at a site in Anatolia (which is Turkish territory nowadays but way back when was home to Hittites, Lydians and Phrygians, none of whom showed the slightest in motorcycling which might be why they’re no longer about).
Glass was produced in northern India, leading to bulbs, headlight glass and pint pots to replace those ancient stone beer jugs.
Iron was being made in India, so they had plenty of time to stockpile supplies. Some sensible chaps in Madras now put it to good use in Enfields.
Homer’s Iliad includes a tale that Vulcan, blacksmith by appointment to the gods, knocked together 20 trikes in a single day, “which, wondrous to tell, instinct with spirit rolled from place to place, around the blest abodes – self-moved, obedient to the beck of gods” Well, it’s nice to know they got transport as part of the job.
Hydraulic power was in use in China, but not for disc brakes.
Cast iron was used in China, but not for cylinder heads.
Wootz steel was invented in India; its arrival in Europe 2,000 years later helped develop the science of metallurgy.
Levers were described in Greece by Archimedes (though they were in use long before). They’re put to a variety of uses in motorcycles; not least the levers that help us lock up our brakes when sufficiently alarmed.
The odometer was invented to measure mileage, (probably) by Archimedes, leading to the speedometer, and speeding tickets.
The wheelbarrow was developed as a Chinese secret weapon and is still the transport of last resort to get that dead bike home in pieces.
Roller bearings were in use by the Roman navy and it’s a pity BSA didn’t make more use of them for the mains of A10s although you can now get a conversion kit, which is either evolution in action, too little too late, or both.
Hero of Alexandria described the ‘aeolipile’, a rotating ball spun by steam jets. It produced little power and had no practical application, but was the first device known to been moved by steam pressure. I had a boss like that.
The trip hammer, invented in China, set a trend for the heavy machinery needed to make motor cycles.
Paper was first made in China in good time for handbooks and gaskets.
Combination locks were used in the Roman Empire, which must have made life tough for chariot thieves.
Toilet paper became available in China, by which time there must have been a hell of a queue at the lavatory. It is still much in demand after fast cornering on wet roads.
Gunpowder was invented in China; it was to play a surprising part in the evolution of the internal combustion engine.
The streets of Baghdad were paved with tar, which must have speeded up all those horses and camels.
An engineer called Al-Jazari described a pump featuring a piston. conrod and crank, clever chap.
The first documented European use of gunpowder as a propellant, at the battle of Crecy.
Leonardo da Vinci drew a wind-up cart, and when it was built a few years ago it worked. Leo also came up with a ball bearing.
Taqi al-Din described a steam turbine-like device for rotating a spit. Barbecue, anyone?
Two-masted wind carriages were running in the Netherlands; one was claimed to do 20mph with a load of 28 passengers.
Giovanni Battista della Porta experimented with steam to create pressure or a vacuum.
Jerùnimo de Ayanz y Beaumont patented a steam-powered device for pumping water out of deep mines.
Salomon de Caus, who had been an engineer and architect under Louis XIII, published a book showing a device similar to that of Porta’s.
Father Ferdinand Verbiest, a Flemish Jesuit missionary in China, designed a toy trolley for the Chinese Emperor which was, quite possibly, the first working steam-powered vehicle. It was 650mm long and powered by steam generated in a ball-shaped boiler that was directed at a simple turbine like a water wheel to drive the rear wheels.
Giovanni Branca suggested using a steam turbine device similar to that described by Taqi al-Din to power pestles working in mortars. Fast food, anyone?
David Ramsey was granted a patent for various steam applications, but no description survives.
The Alldays & Onions engineering company can trace its roots back this far; 250 years later it would turn its attention to motorcycles.
Thomas Shirley experimented with “water which did burn like oyle” after finding gas bubbling from a ditch near Wigan.
Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquis of Worcester, published a selection of his inventions including an innovative steam pump. He built what was apparently the first industrial scale steam engine into the side of Raglan Castle.
Jean-Baptiste Colbert, a minister of French King Louis XIV, established the Academy of Sciences at Paris with a brief of “discovering and perfecting a new source of power capable of effecting a dramatic human advance”. He recruited multi-talented Dutch inventor Christian Huygens whose plans included “research into the power of gunpowder of which a small portion is enclosed in a very thick iron or copper case. Research also into the power of water converted by fire into steam.”
Huygens worked with German diplomat Gottfried Leibniz and Frenchman Dennis Papin to modify an air pump into an engine capable of transforming the force of exploding gunpowder into useful work. It incorporated a vertical cylinder and piston. The explosion was used indirectly. A small quantity of gunpowder exploded in the cylinder, expelling the air through check valves, and leaving, after cooling, a partial vacuum. The pressure of the atmosphere then drove a piston down to the bottom of the vessel, lifting a weight or doing other work. Huygens reckoned that burning a pound of gunpowder could lift 3,000lb by 30ft.
Sir Samuel Morland, 1st Baronet, patented a ‘plunger pump’ and experimented with using gunpowder to make a vacuum that would suck in water. He also worked on ideas for a steam engine.
Abbé Hautefeuille proposed the use of gunpowder to obtain power by using the partial vacuum formed as gases cooled following combustion. It was designed to raise water from a reservoir.
Isaac Newton made a brave attempt to use his recently published laws of motion in a rocket-propelled "steam wagon". Steam was produced by a boiler mounted on-board and squirted through a nozzle at the back. It didn’t generate enough power to move the wagon which, considering its lack of steering or brakes, is possibly A Good Thing.
Development of the gunpowder engine was abandoned. This was probably A Good Thing as it would be a real bugger if every motorcyclist needed an explosives licence.
Dennis Papin designed an engine with a piston and cylinder in which steam replaced the gunpowder charge of Huygens’s cylinder, creating a more complete vacuum under the piston to take better advantage of atmospheric pressure. He also described using his engine to drive a boat.
Thomas Savery introduced a steam pump he called the Miner’s Friend. Savery was granted an exclusive patent which would have given him control of any steam-powered device Papin might invent in England. There are still accusations of dark dealings by the British Royal Society – one US source claims: “The early history of the invention of the steam engine shows without doubt that the British Royal Society, including Isaac Newton personally, deliberately prevented the industrial and naval applications of steam power for nearly 100 years. In fact, the Royal Society was so intent on burying Denis Papin’s 1690 invention of a paddle-wheel-driven steamship, worked out in collaboration with Gottfried Leibniz, that it stole his work, and created a mythical story of how two British ‘Newtonian’ heroes, Savery and Newcomen, invented the steam engine, for the sole purpose of raising water from coal mines – a myth that has persisted in the history books until today.”
Papin put his ideas into practice in a working paddle steamer.
Thomas Newcomen developed the ‘atmospheric’ engine, which, unlike the Savery pump, featured a piston in a cylinder. It was far more powerful than its predecessors.
Papin collaborated on another steam engine, based on Savery’s design but using steam pressure rather than atmospheric pressure. In 1877 the Scientific American Prof Charles Joy reported on a trip to Germany where he saw original papers confirming that in 1707 Papin asked Leibnitz to help him win the consent of the Hanoverian Government to navigate the river Weser with a sidewheel steamboat. The letter, dated 7 July 1707, included the claim that “the new invention will enable one or two men to accomplish more effect than several hundred oarsmen." Joy wrote: “A mob of boatmen, who thought they saw in the embryo ship the ruin of their business, attacked the vessel at night and utterly destroyed it. Papin narrowly escaped with his life, and fled to England, where he endured great hardships and poverty, and all traces of him were soon lost, so that it is uncertain in what country he finally died or where he was buried.” An the professor added: “If Papin had been permitted to navigate the Weser with his ship, and to carry it to London, as was his intention, it is possible that we should have had steamboats 100 years earlier than they were given to us by Fulton. After the lapse of 100 years from the date of Papin's invention, when the first steamboat was put upon the river Rhine, the vessel was fired into by concealed marksmen on shore, and navigation was more dangerous than it is now on the upper waters of the Missouri in times of Indian hostility.” Those Indians... anyone would think they were being driven out of their homes...
Iron smelting using coke boosted efficiency and cut production costs in good time for the industrial revolution.
Thomas Newcomen and Thomas Savery installed the world’s first commercial steam engine; it was used to extract water from a coal mine in Dudley, West Midlands.
Humphrey Potter, a boy charged with manually operating the valves of the Newcomen engine, rigged up a system of cords to automatically open and close the operating valves. It made his job a doddle, and brought high-speed engines a step closer.
Henry Beighton introduced an improved and more reliable version of Potter’s operating system.
Desaguliers introduced an improved version of the Savery engine with safety valves.
German phycisist Jacob Leupold started to work on the manuscript of Theatri Machinarum, the first systematic analysis of mechanical engineering. It included, decades ahead of its time, a design for a high-pressure noncondensing steam engine in which two cylinders alternately received steam and then vented to the atmosphere. He attributed the concept to Papin.
Newcomen’s patent expired, by which time about 100 Newcomen engines had been built.
Rubber bounced into Europe, courtesy of French astronomer Charles Marie de la Condamine who came across locals wearing waterproof shoes while in Peru to measure an arc of the meridian. From their feet to your boots. It also makes jolly amusing novelty dog chews.
William Champion produced metallic zinc from calamine and charcoal, clever chap.
Benjamin Huntsman developed the crucible steel technique.
A practicable caged-roller bearing (and the bi-metallic strip) were invented by ace horologist John Harrison as part of his quest to win the £20,000 longitude prize with a series of ground-breaking time-keepers which helped give the Royal Navy command of the seas. (Is anyone surprised to hear that Parliament tried to rip him off? It took direct intervention by King George III to extract the dosh, in 1773.)
Benjamin Franklin (still technically a Brit, as the American colonies would not rebel against the Crown for another 30 years) coined the term “battery” to describe an array of charged glass plates.
A clockwork carriage was driven in Paris by versatile inventor Jacques de Vaucanson, probably. His main claim to fame was a mechanical duck that ate and pooed. No, really.
Doctor Robison of Glasgow University intoduced James Watt to the concept of steam engines and suggested that they could be used to propel carriages. Watt built models using tin steam cylinders and pistons attached to driving wheels by a system of gears.
Swiss clergyman JH Genevois suggested mounting small windmills on a cart to wind springs that would turn a wheel. The idea might have been inspired by a windmill cart built about 1714.
James Watt was sent a Newcomen steam engine to repair and found a way to make it more efficient. He produced a steam engine that cooled the used steam in a condenser.
Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Manufactory engineering works in Handsworth.
French Army engineer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot designed a self-propelled vehicle based on a model he had made six years before; it was built at the Paris Arsenal by a mechanic called Brezin. His fardier a vapeur (steam dray), a military tractor, had a top speed of 2mph, running on two iron-rimmed wheels at the back and one at the front. It had to stop every 10 minutes to rebuild steam pressure to continue but still managed to cause the world’s first RTA when it ran out of control and demolished a garden wall. Nonetheless chapeaux off pour le garcon Cugnot.Dr Johnson's famous aphorism could hardly be more apt: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all!" As far as I can ascertain from books, magazines and latterly the web, he was the first human being to move across the face of the earth by the power of his own invention. Imagine the admirable Valentino Rossi to be the Chuck Jaeger of motorcycling and Cugnot would be one of the Wright Brothers. So France takes the honours; you'll have to scroll down to 1801 before that great Cornishman Richard Trevithick takes to a British road. But as Cugnot was trying to make Napoleon's war machine more efficient, I'm glad he didn't do it better, while applauding him lustily for doing it at all.
John Smeaton experimented with Newcomen engines and built improved engines with a much longer stroke delivering up to 80hp.
James Watt was granted a patent on his improved design. The increase in efficiency was enough for Watt and his partner Matthew Boulton to license the design based on the savings in coal per year, as opposed to a fixed fee.
Cugnot built a four-seat passenger version of his steam trike. Here's a 'what-if' for you: say Boney had grasped its potential. Given the resources of the Empire and 20 years to work in, could Cugnot have developed a self-propelled gun to use against 'perfidious Albion'?
Watt teamed up with Birmingham businessman Matthew Boulton. For the next 11 years Boulton’s factory produced and sold Watt’s steam engines, mainly sold to colliery owners. They were four times more powerful than engines based on the Newcomen design.
About 600 Newcomen engines were working throughout the UK in mines, water pumping stations and ironworks. Another 1,000 were in action by 1800, many of them in mills and factories. Several dozen improved Savery engines were also built.
Watt and Boulton entered into a formal partnership. Watt’s patent was extended by Act of Parliament for 25 years until 1800.
James Pickard fitted a crank to a Newcomen engine, producing rotary motion for the first time. He patented the idea the following year, but the patent was unenforceable.
Allesandro Volta featured spark ignition in a toy pistol in which an electric spark exploded a mixture of hydrogen and air to fire a cork.
Jonathan Hornblower patented a two-cylinder ‘compound’ engine which was more efficient than Watt’s single-acting designs but similar enough to his double-acting system that Boulton and Watt were able to have the patent overturned by the courts in 1799.
Watt developed the ‘rotative’ steam engine, driving a flywheel by means of the sun-and-planet gear rather than a crank, thus avoiding James Pickard’s patent. Watt won further patents.
Lord Dundonald, father of dashing naval hero Sir Thomas Cochrane, toured Britain with his Philosophical Fire Works.
Scottish engineer William Murdoch was working for Boulton and Watt [that's them on the left; you'll find the statue in Brummagen – Ed] when he became interested in steam-powered road vehicles and built a working model. This seems to have been Britain's first engine propelled vehicle, even if it was only a couple of feet long. It freaked out the local vicar, who thought it was the devil and took to his heels. Oh ye of little faith. Richard Trevithick, who was to build Britain’s first steam-powered roadster, was shown Murdoch’s model in action in about 1790; his full-sized steamer did seem to owe something to the Murdock design.
A state-of-the-art steam engine was installed at Boulton's Manufactory in Soho, Birmingham. Features included Watt's parallel motion, valve gear and centrifugal governor, which remains virtually unchanged to-day.
The first US patent for a road going steamer was granted to inventor Oliver Evans.
Following a century devoted to the development of steam/atmospheric engines John Barber patented “an engine for using inflammable air for the purpose of producing motion”. Gas produced by heating wood, coal or oil in a retort was to be cooled in a receiver, mixed with air and pumped into a vessel called the Exploder. Here it would be ignited; the resulting stream of flame would drive the vanes of a paddle wheel. How cool would that have looked at night!
Chromium was discovered (or re-discovered) in Europe.
Comte de Sivrac produced a wooden two-wheeler with no pedals, brakes or steering, but you have to startsomewhere. He called it the cheval de bois, or wooden horse, but it became known as the celerifere.
Philip Vaughan of Carmarthen patented a ballrace.
Robert Street patented a gas engine with a cylinder and piston. The gas was obtained by sprinkling turpentine at the bottom of a cylinder. And external fire heated the fuel to form an inflammable vapour. The up-stroke of the piston admitted air, which mixed with the vapour. A flame was then sucked in from outside the cylinder, through a valve uncovered by the piston. The explosion forced down the piston of a pump for raising water.
The modern lathe, capable of cutting threads with great precision, was invented by Henry Maudsley.
Richard Trevithick built his first high-pressure engine at Dolcoath tin mine in Cornwall.
William Medhurst patented an "improved aeolian engine" powered by compressed air. He dreamed of air-driven stage coaches relying on roadside 'compressor stations'.
Nelson obliterated the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile in Aboukir Bay. This has no direct relevance to motorcycling but was definitely A Good Thing.
Alessandro Volta made a copper/zinc acid battery.
Watt’s patent expired. By this time about 450 Watt engines and more than 1,500 Newcomen engines had been built in the UK.
Frenchman Philippe Lebon patented, but didn’t build, a double acting engine; the explosions of gas, ignited by electric spark, took place alternately on each side of the piston. As well as turning the crankshaft, the conrod powered two pumps which compressed the gas and air before they entered the cylinder.
Richard Trevithick took a bunch of chums for a run up Camborne Hill on his high-pressure steam trike which he called Puffing Devil. It was Britain's first road vehicle. A pal of Trevithick’s wrote: “In the year 1801, upon Christmas Eve, coming on evening, Captain Dick got up steam, out in the high road, just outside the shop [John Tyack’s blacksmith shop where the vehicle was built]. When we see’d that Captain Dick was agoing to turn on the steam, we jumped as many as we could, maybe seven or eight of us. ’Twas a stiffish hill, but she went off like a little bird.” The next run was made a few days later, as recalled by Trevithick's chum, one Davies Giddy: "The Travelling Engine took its departure from Camborne Church Town for Tehidy on the 28th December, where I was waiting to receive it. The carriage however broke down after travelling, in all, about three or four hundred yards. The carriage was forced under some shelter and the Parties adjourned to the Hotel & comforted their Hearts with a Roast Goose & proper drinks, when, forgetful of the Engine, its Water boiled away, the Iron became red hot, and nothing that was combustible remained either of the Engine or the house." So the trike broke down, Dick and his mates left the engine running and got pissed. What a trendsetter. Trevithick was also a noted wrestler, built and ran Britain’s first steam railway (albeit as a fairground ride) and could "hurl a sledgehammer over an engine shed" – which would have been at least as tall as a house. What a geezer.
And talking of geezers, while Trevithick was getting steam up let's not forget that Britannia was fighting for her life. On 5 May, just off the Spanish coast near Barcelona, a diminutive British brig sloop called HMS Speedy was busy snapping up Spanish gunboats when it was cornered by a Spanish frigate, El Gamo. Speedy weighed 158 tons and was armed with 14 four-pounders. Gamo was four times her size and carried 22 12-pounders, eight eight-pounders and a brace a 24-pound carronades. Speedy had 54 men and boys on board; Gamo carried a crew of 319. The little brig was also slower than the frigate, so clearly it didn't have a hope in hell. But Speedy's commander was Thomas Cochrane, a tall, thin, red-haired Scotwith a bad attitude. He attacked, fired upwards through the Spaniard's gundeck and, in the parlance of the time, "boarded in the smoke" with 52 men and boys (the Speedy's surgeon stayed at the tiller), some with cutlasses in their mouths just like in the pirate movies. They blackened their faces to spook the dagos who broke and ran below. By the time they realised how heavily they outnumbered the Brits they found the two 24-pounders pointing down at them, manned by grinning matelots. It was the greatest single-ship victory of all time and led a furious Napoleon to call Cochrane Loup de Mer – the Sea Wolf. On the face of it this has bugger all to do with motorcycles (though it is clearly a yarn worth endless retelling) but the demands of the Royal Navy forced the pace of the Industrial Revolution. The ‘wooden walls’ also protected the inward flow of raw materials and outward flow of export goods upon which it depended. And while you're raising a glass to Cochrane's memory, don't forget...
... when Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar gave Britain global domination of the world’s oceans; for the next century the Pax Britannica opened up global markets that were to be a happy hunting ground for British manufacturers who supplied the empire with Colonial models.
Having built a series of steam-powered vehicles in the late 18th century, Swiss engineer Francois Isaac de Rivaz built an engine powered by marsh gas (methane).
And in France brothers Claude and Joseph Niepce built a one-lunger reciprocating engine fuelled by coal dust and lycopodium (which, as you probably know, is a powder of club moss spores) with flame ignition. It was used to power a boat upstream on the River Soane.
De Rivaz installed his gas engine in a chassis to produce the first vehicle known to be powered by an internal combustion engine.
Baron Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Drais Von Sauerbronn, an officer in the Prussian army, designed and built a two-wheeler which he called the called the draisine. It was similar to the celerifere but with steering, which had to be A Good Thing. In England these early models were known as hobby horses, dandy horses or boneshakers, which implies roads then weren’t much better than they are now.
OK, it was probably no more than an artist’s fantasy, but stories persist that a draisine hobbyhorse was fitted with a steam turbine driving both wheels and demonstrated in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris on 5 April. And who could resist a vehicle called a Vocipedraisiavaporianna?
The curricle arrived – lighter than a draisine, with an adjustable saddle and elbow rest (no brakes, no suspension but it had an elbow rest… go figure).
The Rev W Cecil presented a paper to the Cambridge Philosophical Society entitled: On the application of hydrogen gas to produce a moving power in machinery; with a description of an engine which is moved by pressure of the atmosphere upon a vacuum caused by explosions of hydrogen gas and atmospheric air.He described an engine which he had constructed to operate “according to the explosion vacuum method” and claimed that at 60rpm “the explosions take place with perfect regularity”.
Samuel Brown won the first of a series of patents for gas engines based on the old Newcomen steam engine. Burning gas, rather than steam, expelled the air from a vertical cylinder and cold water was injected to “condense the flame and produce a vacuum”. It was the first gas engine to earn its keep in industry: the August 1824 issue ofMechanics Magazine reported that one of his multi-cylinder engines had raised 300 gallons of water 15ft on a cubic foot of gas.
Walter Hancock constructed the first of a series of steam vehicles, including a three-wheeled four-seater.
T Burstall of Edinburgh and J Hill of London collaborated to patent and build an innovative steam coach which pioneered the 'flash boiler' technology which made later steam cars practicable. It was also the first vehicle to boast four-wheel drive – not directly relevant to our story but still damned clever.
Great Dane Hans Christian Ørsted produced tiny amounts of metallic aluminium (8% of the planet’s crust is made of aluminium, and not a lot of people know that). It’s lighter than cast iron, of course, but as Ariel VB owners will know, the other difference is that iron heads don’t warp. By the way, Ørsted was also a pioneer in the field of electromagnetism, which led to generators, starter motors, regulators and solenoids. Nice one Hans.
JA Whitfield of Bedlington Ironworks reported that one of Sam Brown’s gas engine was fitted into a carriage with 5ft wheels, a wheelbase of 6ft 3in, a track of 4ft 6in and a tare, including gas and water, of a ton. The bore/stroke were 12x24in. In May this carriage climbed the steepest part of Shooter’s Hill in South-East London (“a gradient of more than 13in in 12ft”) “with considerable ease”.
Samuel Morey patented the USA’s first internal combustion engine, gas-fuelled and featuring cam-driven poppet valves.
Walter Hancock’s steam carriage Automaton carried passengers on a regular route in London for three months, running between London Wall and Paddington via Islington. He offered to carry the mail at 20mph. (Averaging 20mph? In London? It's a lot slower now – Ed).
British inventor Sir Goldsworth Gurney, inspired by his chum and fellow Cornishman Richard Trevithick, began to build a series of a vehicles known as Gurney’s steam carriages with room for six passengers and a dozen more in a trailer.
In February 1829 Gurney drove one of his steam carriages 212 miles from London to Bath and back at an average of 15mph [exactly 150 years later it took me eight hours to nurse an M20 combo the 70 miles from London to Dover at an average of 9mph. That’s progress, that is – Ed]. Gurney's pioneering run was made at the request of the Quartermaster General of the army who clearly grasped the advantage of moving troops and equipment at high speed. It was a brave attempt to establish a reliable public transport system but there was widespread opposition to the new-fangled horseless carriages, and they were ultimately driven from the road by punitive tolls levied on horseless carriages and Luddites who resorted to throwing rocks and building barricades.
Michael Faraday built an electrical generator; later development were to be of great use to motorcyclists, despite Joe Lucas with his famous motto: "Don't go out at night."
Summers & Ogle built a three-pot steamer that made a run from Southampton the London at an average of 25mph. One observer rightly remarked: "This achievement is at once scarcely credible and terrifying to contemplate."
Four Sam Brown engines were powering pumps at Croydon; Soham, Cambs; and Eagle Lodge, Old Brompton.
Lemuel W Wright patented a gas engine powered by “the explosion of a mixture of inflammable gas and air” acting directly upon the piston, which transmitted power via a connecting rod to a crankshaft. The engine was double-acting, with the piston receiving two impulses for every turn of the crankshaft.
Walter Hancock’s steam carriage Enterprise was among several commercial enterprises in Britain that were hampered by turnpike tariffs up to 10 times horsedrawn levels and dirty tricks by equine-based operators, including barricades.
The refrigerator was invented, which would become A Good Thing for freezing interference-fit bearings (though proper beer, of course, should be kept well away from fridges).
Incandescent light bulbs would facilitate night riding and all-night spannering sessions (qv 1901: instant coffee).
Walter Hancock introduced the 22-seat Automaton which made over 700 journeys, carrying over 12,000 passengers and exceeding 20mph.
A patent was granted to Englishman William Barnet for the first recorded suggestion of in-cylinder compression. His flame-ignition system survived into 20th century. Lebon had described an engine using compression in 1799, but Bennett’s system was different enough to be considered new.
Driving levers and pedals were added to a draisine by Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan. The machine was propelled by a downward and forward thrust of the foot, allowing the rider to cover ground without getting his feet dirty.Robert Anderson of Aberdeen built an electric vehicle, showing that Scotsmen can be almost as innovative as Englishmen; Dane Sibrandus Stratingh built an ‘electromagnetic cart’ during the 1830s.
The development of steam-powered road vehicles had lost impetus and the heavy tolls imposed by the Turnpike Act had turned inventors away from steam, leaving the market to horse buses.
Joseph Whitworth sensibly proposed standardised fasteners. He had seen the problems of non-standardised fasteners while working at Joseph Clements, where they were trying to build Babbage’s calculating engine, the first computer.
Thomas Hancock, while working for Charles Macintosh & Co, patented vulcanised rubber, from which the first tyres were made in good time for the first punctures.
RW Thompson, a former employee of railway pioneer Stephenson, patented a pneumatic tyre. It comprised a hollow tube (he called it an "elastic belt") made of canvas bonded with a rubber solution. It was encased in leather strips bolted to the wheel rim and inflated via a pipe passing through the wheel rim. A horsedrawn carriage did more than 1,000 miles in six months on a single set of these leather tyres; production problems and repressive legislation killed off Thompson's venture and he went on to build successful heavy steamers. It was not until 1888 that John Boyd Dunlop re-invented the pneumatic tyres we rely on today.
Chromium was used for electroplating, but chrome plate only became widespread following the development of an improved process in 1924.
An emigree named Von Rathen built a compressed-air carriage and took it for a drive in Putney.
Invention of the safety pin, which can be used to secure the clevis pin on a BSA A10 rear brake rod.
Russian engineer FN Semyenov used a cable tool to drill an oil well, paving the way to plentiful supplies of lubes and petrol.
Steam-driven traction engines were hauling passenger coaches in Paris and Bordeaux.
Father Eugenio Barsanti of the Piarist Fathers of Scolopi and hydraulic engineer Felice Matteucci patented an advanced hydrogen/air engine in London (they chose London as Italian law offered little patent protection). A prototype was built in the 1860s leading some Italians to claim Barsanti invented the internal combustion engine. Schifezza!
John Ramsbottom invented steel piston rings which maintained a seal by outward spring tension on the cylinder wall, allowing much better sealing than earlier cotton seals.
Austrian Abraham Shreiner built a distillation plant to produce petrol from crude oil as a fuel for lighting. Petrol was also used as a cleaning fluid.
German M Davidson took to the streets of Darmstadt in a cart powered by an electric motor, though battery technology was too primitive to make it a practicable proposition.
The velocipede, the direct precursor of the modern bicycle, became popular in France. The frame and wheels were made of wood with iron tires, the pedals were attached to the hub of the front wheel.
The Bessemer converter was patented, making steel cheaper and stronger.
The rechargeable lead-acid storage battery was invented by Gaston Plante in France.
A welcome arrival for linoleum, which doesn’t stain as easily as carpets when building an engine indoors.
Belgian Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir and Pierre-Constant Hugon independently built engines fuelled by coal gas which was available as a by-product of coke ovens. Lenoir’s range of ½, 1, 2 and 3hp double-acting engines featured spark ignition and were the first gas engines to go into series production and win commercial success. Hugon relied on flame ignition. Lenoir set up a company in Paris to develop the engine, and built a three-wheeled carriage around it which he dubbed the hippomobile.
Whitworth fasteners were in general use in the UK. A second series followed with finer threads; nasty foreign AF and metric fasteners came later.
Experiments showed that ‘town’ gas gave more power than hydrogen, and that compressing the gas/air mix would give faster, more powerful ignition.
Birmingham Small Arms was founded by fourteen gunsmiths to supply arms to the British government during the Crimean War.Frenchman Pierre Michaux and his sons Ernest an Henri fitted cranks and pedals to the front wheel of a draisine as well as a ‘spoon’ rear brake operated by a twistgrip. So now we had a lightweight two-wheeler with brakes (well, a brake) as well as steering. We wouldn't have to wait long for an engine.
Legislation introduced a nationwide scale of tolls which, at £2 for a steamer a three bob (15p) for a horse coach) crippled the development of commercial steamers, helped by a 10mph speed limit, falling to 5mph in towns and villages.
Frenchman Alphonse de Rochas published a booklet in which he established the four prerequisites for an economical “explosion engine”. It amounted to a description of the four-strike cycle 14 years before Dr Otto independently re-invented it, but de Rochas never ventured beyond the theoretical stage.
Lenoir demonstrated a second three-wheeled carriage; in essence a wagon body mounted on a three-wheel tricycle chassis. It was powered by a 2,543cc engine fuelled by ‘liquid hydrocarbon’ (petrol) and rated at 1.5hp. It managed an 11km run from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont and back in about three hours. The Hippomobile MkII attracted the attention of Tsar Alexander II so one was sent to Russia, where it vanished.
Scientific American described tests of an internal combustion vehicle that weighed just 300kg and did 20mph.
Reading Ironworks built more than 100 Lenoir gas engines. Lenoir also built and drove an “experimental road carriage” powered by “a light volatile hydrocarbon, vaporised by a surface evaporating device”. This sounds suspiciously like a petrol-fuelled car with carburettor some 20 years before the Germans, or even Butler, but no more was heard of it.
Small, reliable steam engines led to a resurgence in steam coaches including a number of regular routes. One operator boasted “14mph at 3d a mile”.
Britain introduced the Locomotives on Highways Act, better known as the ‘Red Flag Act’, which imposed a speed limit of 2mph in towns and 4mph in the country. It required a minimum crew of three, one of whom “shall precede such Locomotive on foot by not less than sixty yards and shall carry a red flag constantly displayed, and shall warn drivers of horses and riders... and shall signal the [locomotive] driver when it is necessary to stop and assist horses, and carriages drawn by horses, passing said locomotive.” The act was designed to regulate the use of heavy traction engines hauling heavy loads but had a crippling effect on the development of lighter motor vehicles.
WO Carrett designed a three-wheeled 'steam pleasure carriage' for mill owner George Salt. Innovations included an early form of girder fork, a differential and was described by Engineering magazine of June 1866 as “probably the most remarkable locomotive ever made". Salt was put off by the new speed limit and flogged his trike to Frederick Hodges of Kent who dubbed the beast Fly-by-Knight. According to Engineering he "did fly, and no mistake, through the Kentish villages when most honest people were in their beds”. He picked up six summonses in as many weeks; one for doing 30mph – three times the national speed limit.
Otto and Langen’s atmospheric and free-piston engine attracted widespread interest.
The Otto-Langen engine, designed and manufactured by Nicolaus Otto and Eugene Langen at their factory in Cologne, was awarded the Grand Prize at the Paris Exposition of 1867 as the most efficient gas engine. It became the first commercially successful internal combustion engine – 2,650 were manufactured in Germany by 1878.
1868 Finally... the first (steam)-powered two wheelers!
Pierre Michaux teamed up with engineer LG Perreaux to develop the velo-a-vapeur, a steam engine shoehorned into a velocipede with belts running to pulleys on each side of the rear wheel (with pedals on the front wheel). The saddle was mounted just over the boiler, it was claimed to do 8mph and there were no brakes. Rather you then me, Pierre, mon brave.
It was a busy year in the USA. Sylvester Roper built a steam engine into a Hanlon boneshaker (featuring a hickory frame) and toured the Eastern states with fairs and circuses; drive was by locomotive-style conrods and cranks to the rear wheel and it featured twistgrip controls. New Yorker William van Anden fitted pedals to the front wheel of a velocipede; it boasted a free-wheel mechanism and a rear brake controlled by a twistgrip. WW Austin fitted a twin-cylinder steam engine into a ‘farthing-penny’ (with the big wheel at the back); pulleys mounted in front of the handlebars took power to the rear wheel. Back in Blighty Crossley Bros of Manchester signed an agreement with Otto and Langen of Cologne to manufacture a ‘free piston’ gas engine.
The word bicycle was coined, to describe a velocipede shod with (solid) rubber tyres. Which is why we had motorised bicycles, then motor-bicycles and eventually motorcycles rather than motorised velocipedes, motor-velocipedes and motorpedes. And why we are lumbered with the dismal word “biker” rather than the rather jolly “pedder”.
Austrian Siegfried Marcus built a single-cylinder two-stroke engine running on petrol, complete with a spray carburettor and low-tension magneto. He rigged it to drive the rear wheels of a cart and drove it for a couple of hundred yards. The engine was reputedly started by having a strong man lift the back of the cart and spin a rear wheel.
Julius Hock produced an engine which “took in a charge of air and light petroleum spray” but relied on a flame jet for ignition.
James began to make bicycles in Birmingham; motorcycles would follow in 1902.
American Dr JW Carhart, professor of physics at Wisconsin State University, and the JI Case Company built a steam car that won a 200-mile race.
James Starley developed the first two-wheeler incorporating most of the features of the so-called ‘ordinary’, or ‘high-wheel’, bicycle. The front wheel was much bigger than the rear wheel, earning it the nickname penny-farthing.
Amedee Bollee Snr built the first of a series of advanced steam cars.
Nicolaus Otto’s ‘Otto Silent’ gas engine was launched; it is generally accepted seen as the forerunner of modern four-strokes. All together now: “suck, squeeze, bang, blow.”
John Henry Knight, an amateur inventor from Farnham, Surrey, built a steam trike.
Messrs Bayliss, Thomas and Slaughter teamed up to make bicycles in Coventry under the trade name Excelsior.
1877 Otto-Langen & Co and Crossley Bros jointly patented the four-stroke cycle.
Electric welding was invented.
Otto’s engine won awards at the Paris Exposition.
Britain’s ‘Red Flag Act’ was revised to do away with the red flag, but every road going self-propelled vehicle still had to be preceded by a man to warn drivers of horse-powered vehicles.
Karl Benz patented a two-stroke engine which he had designed the previous year. His other patents included spark ignition using a battery, the spark plug, the carburettor and the clutch.
Italian Guiseppe Murnigotti of Bergamo patented a ‘bicicletta a motore’ with a four-stroke parallel twin fuelled by coal gas and driving the front wheel via conrods. Steering was by tiller to the rear wheel. It’s probably A Good Thing it was never built.
Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville of Rouen invented a ‘universal machine’ capable of cutting, milling, drilling and turning.
George Long, of Northfield, Massachusetts built himself a steam engine fuelled by petrol. Then he built himself a chassis in a local agricultural machinery workshop. The engine (it was a V-twin, the configuration that seems hard-wired into American DNA) drove the 5ft single rear wheel rear via a direct friction drive – and it had a two-speed transmission.
Harold James built penny-farthing bicycles, but he was not to live to see his company branch out into motorcycle manufacture, in 1902.
BSA began making bicycles. Legend has it that a guy named Otto demonstrated a prototype bicycle to the BSA directors by riding it up and down the boardroom table. And yes, there is an Otto cycle joke in there somewhere but I can’t be bothered.
Scot Dugald Clerk patented a two-stroke engine with a separate charging cylinder.
Charles Linford patented a ‘six-stroke’ cycle (inlet/compression/explosion/exhaust/drawing in air/expelling air). It seemed a formidable rival to the Otto until the Court of Appeal found in favour of Otto’s patent and against Linford’s.
The ‘safety’ bicycle arrived with wheels of nearly equal size (giving the rider a more gentle landing after a tumble, hence the name) and with pedals attached to a sprocket driving the rear wheel via gears and a chain.
Wheel World magazine commented that British anti-vehicle legislation had “cruelly and unnecessarily clipped the wings of many a lover of rapid locomotion”. Victims included steam trikes built by Meeks (1877) and Pateman (1881). The Parkyns-Bateman trike featured a twin-cylinder double-acting steam engine attached to a Cheylesmore pedal tricycle. It was fired by petrol, though it was not an internal combustion engine. Pateman’s sponsor, Sir Thomas Parkyns, was fined for “improperly riding” his machine.
The metal detector was invented. Great for finding a split link in long grass, if you happen to have one with you.
James Atkinson patented the Atkinson cycle engine which was claimed to be more efficient than the Otto cycle. Enthusiasts have built engines from the original drawings, and they work – and they're making a 21st century comeback.
In the USA George A Long built a steam trike which was discovered and restored in the 1940s and now resides in the Smithsonian Museum.
Gottlieb Daimler designed a ‘high-speed light oil’ (petrol) engine.
Siegfried Marcus won a patent for a low-voltage “magneto-electric ignition system”.
Delamare-Deboutteville built a single-cylinder four-stroke running on gas but he also came up with a carburettor to run it on petrol, as well as mechanically operated overhead valves, coil-and-battery ignition and a sparkplug. Hey, Delamare, no one likes a smartarse.
Etienne Lenoir designed a four-stroke engine for Parisian machine builder Rouart Freres, leading to a suit for patent infringement. Otto lost in the German and French courts because the four-stroke cycle had been conceived by Parisian Alphonse Beaus de Rochas in 1862. This decision placed the Otto technology in the public domain. The original Otto Silent engine was too cumbersome and slow to power a vehicle.
In a bid for financial backing Edward Butler showed detailed plans for his Velocycle, petrol-engined trike at the Stanley Show. To avoid hassles with the Otto patent Butler built a Clerk-style two-stroke engine.
Thomas Parker, who was responsible for electrifying the London Underground, built an electric car. Many years later his great-grandson said smoke and pollution in London turned his great grandfather’s thoughts to more eco-friendly driving. How cool is that?
Lucius D Copeland of Arizona fitted a 1/4hp steam engine into a Star farthing-penny. It did a reputed 15mph but Copeland had to add a third wheel before finding backers.
Delamare-Deboutteville patented a twin-cylinder engine and built it into a modified horse-drawn wagon.
Karl Benz launched a three-wheeler. Ixion drove one in 1898 and was impressed by the advanced transmission but concluded: “I refuse to accept it as a motor cycle.” That’s good enough for me.
Gottlieb Daimler, one of Otto’s engineers, and his assistant, Wilhelm Maybach, developed a 462cc, 110lb, 600rpm vertical single ‘high-speed’ petrol engine developing 1.1hp at 650rpm. This is generally accepted as the prototype of modern engines. It featured hot-tube ignition, an automatic inlet valve and a surface carburettor. The engine ran in 1886, was installed in a horse(less) carriage and driven in March 1887.
Daimler and Maybach built the wooden Einspur two-wheeled testbed, with stabiliser wheels as the saddle was too high for the rider’s feet to reach the ground. It’s believed that Daimler’s son Paul, 17, completed the first run on a petrol-engined motorcycle from Canstatt to Unterturkheim and back (about eight miles) on 10 November 1885... and the heat of the engine set fire to the saddle. Within a year Daimler had discarded this temporary test rig and gone on to develop twin-track vehicles. Nonetheless it is generally accepted as the first motorcycle so from this point, with the petrol-engined motorcycle a reality rather than a dream, it is appropriate to rename this chronology. And for its Golden Anniversary issue in 1953 The Motor Cycle coined the perfect heading...
Milestones of Progress
Happenings of Importance and Interest in the Motor Cycle Movement from its Early Days Up to the Present Time
Happenings of Importance and Interest in the Motor Cycle Movement from its Early Days Up to the Present Time
Daimler developed a primitive two-speed transmission, though changing gear entailed stopping the bike.
Joseph Dunlop developed a practicable pneumatic tyre, paving the way for the first punctures.
Crossley Bros abandoned the slide valve and adopted hot-tube ignition as well as a conical-seated valve timed and controlled by a cam.
Frenchman Felix Millet, clearly not one to do anything the easy way, built a five-cylinder ‘stellar’ rotary engine into the front wheel of a bicycle. Rotation was supposed to cool the engine, which lacked fins.
Joseph Day designed a crankcase-scavenged engine, using the area below the piston as a charging pump, to avoid infringing Otto’s four-stroke patents. One of his workmen, Frederick Cock, introduced the piston-controlled inlet port, leading to the classic piston-ported two stroke.
Keen cyclists Heinrich and Wilhelm Hildebrand, fed up with the steep hills of their native Bavaria, fitted aSerpollet-type steam engine into a duplex frame – part of a final burst of interest in steam bikes before petrol ruled the roost.
Edward Butler, discouraged by the government’s anti-vehicle attitude, dropped plans for his trike. He wrote in the magazine The English Mechanic: “The authorities do not countenance its use on the roads, and I have abandoned in consequence any further development of it.”
John Marston and Co expanded its output of kitchen goods to include bicycles; to find out what they called their motorcycles you’ll have to wait until 1912.
Herbert Akroyd Stuart built the first cold-start compression-ignition engine – the following year an experimental higher-pressure version achieved self-sustaining ignition with ignition alone.
Rudolf Diesel developed a compression-ignition engine burning powdered coal dust. He was awarded a patent the following year.
JD Roots developed a water-cooled, two-stroke trike featuring shaft drive.
In Paris Compte Albert de Dion teamed up with Georges Bouton to produce a 138cc lightweight single inspired by the Daimler engine in the Einspur. Like the Daimler it had an automatic inlet valve over an mechanical exhaust valve, but while the Daimler would only spin at 750rpm the de Dion-Bouton managed 2,000rpm. Power output was ½hp.
In Germany Alois Wolfmuller patented a 1,428cc/2.5hp water-cooled four-stroke twin which would become the first bike to sport pneumatic tyres, thanks to a deal with Dunlop. Brakes comprised a steel ‘spoon’ pressing against the front tyre and a pedal operated lump of metal that could be forced down against the road surface. He formed a partnership with the brothers Hildebrand to put what is generally seen as the world’s first motor cycle to go into series production. Unlike its contemporaries the Hildebrand & Wolfmuller was not a powered bicycle; its frame was built to house the engine, which drove the rear hub via connecting rods, like a steam locomotive. Claimed top speed was 25mph but the H&W was not a long-term success.
Anglo-German Frederick Simms, a chum of Daimler’s, obtained the British rights to Daimler engines. In 1895 he sold those rights to Harry J Lawson, who went on to found the British Motor Car Club and the Automobile Club (later the RAC) in 1897.
Professor Enrico Bernadi of Verona built a four-stroke, water-cooled 265cc single and named it the Lauro, after his son. It featured overhead inlet and exhaust valves and a spray carburettor with air and fuel filters. He mounted the Lauro horizontally in a monowheel trailer and rigged it behind a conventional bicycle. Control was via a rubber bulb which controlled a carburettor diaphragm.
Millet improved his design by moving the engine to the rear wheel. Unlike the H&W with its dodgy hot-tube ignition the Millet relied on a coil and lead-acid battery. Other features included probably the first centre stand to be fitted to a motorcycle. Claimed top speed and endurance were 34mph and 12 hours on a single tank of petrol.
The Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race over 732 miles was won by a Panhard et Lavossar car with a 750rpm/4hp twin-cylinder Daimler Phoenix engine at an average 15mph.
John Henry Knight built another trike, “the first petroleum carriage for two people made in England”. He was eventually stopped for allegedly speeding up Castle Hill; legend has it that his was the first English speeding ticket.
The De Dion engine (inspired by Daimler's Einspur engine but spinning at up to 2,000rpm) powered trikes including the (French) Gladiator and (British Beeston).
1896At last! HP sauce arrived to complement the bacon sandwiches which sustained those hard riding pioneers.Two strokes were being built in the USA under licence.
Butler broke up his machine for scrap in 1896 and sold the patent rights to Harry J Lawson who continued to manufacture its engine to power motorboats.
The British speed limit was raised from 2mph in towns and 4mph in the country to a breathtaking 12mph. On 14 November this was marked by the Emancipation Run between two Hotels Metropole (in Whitehall and Brighton); the run also coincided with the first London Motor Show.
Excelsior began experimenting with motorised bicycles; the firm claims the honour of being the first British manufacturer to market powered two- (as opposed to three-) wheelers. Machines were available for demo rides at a Crystal Palace exhibition, which must have been another first.
Major Henry Capel Lofft Holden of the Royal Engineers produced the world’s first four-pot motor cycle, with a capacity of 1,047cc. It featured water-cooling and railway-style conrods driving the rear wheel.
Benz and Lanchester produced flat-twin engines.Hippolyte Labitte built a tidy little four-stroke engine and offered it to Russian emigrees Michel and Eugene Werner to power the kinetoscopes (film projectors) they were importing from the Edison company. Michel fitted one over the front wheel of a bicycle to produce the Werner Motocyclette.
Humber, famous for supplying bicycles to the Royal Family, fitted an engine. The bad news is that the project was under the control of Harry Lawson who, while a sharp businessman in his own right, paid £100,000 to arch Yankee conman EJ Pennington for the rights to his ‘Kane-Pennington’ engine. The Autocar was impressed: “The first practical motor cycle built in this country was completed last week when Messrs Humber and Co finished a bicycle fitted with a Pennington two-horse power motor, made at their works in Coventry. The machine was taken down to the Nunhead Grounds, and tried there in the presence of a number of witnesses, and although the motor required some little alteration, the speed developed was said to have varied from 30-40mph.” Which goes to show how much they knew.
A Hildebrand & Wolfmuller was the first bike to run on Japanese roads.
Frederick Simms worked with Robert Bosch to develop the high-tension magneto.
The Stanley Brothers begin selling lightweight steam cars, more than 200 were produced.
German emigrees Siegfried Bettman and Maurice Schulte set up the Triumph works to produce bicycles; in 1902 they began to fit 220cc Minerva engines. Joe Stevens began to build engines in Wolverhampton; scroll down to 1909 to see what his four sons got up to.
The Werner Brothers launched the Motocyclette in Paris where a dozen were sold in the first year – not bad considering none of their customers would have seen a motorcycle before (so there were no awkward questions about instability problems due to the engine being mounted over the front wheel, nor about the hazards of falling off with a naked flame heating the platinum ignition wire right under the petrol tank).
The Coventry Motor Company began to produce motorcycles in Coventry, where Beeston and Humber were also in business.
Labre & Lamaudiere of Paris developed a 64cc four-stroke single claimed to spin up to 2,000rpm with battery/spark ignition.
The first American production motorcycle was the Orient-Aster, built by the Metz Company in Waltham, Mass. Its engine was a copy of the DeDion.The tapered roller bearing was patented by Henry Timken.
In a race from Berlin to Potsdam a Beeston/Humber trike took the flag ahead of a Daimler car and a Clement trike; a rare victory for the nascent British industry.
Ariel started production of De Dion-engined trikes.
Werner Bros sold 300-plus Motocyclettes, including a number in Britain.
The Collier Brothers put Woolwich on the map with the first Matchless – initially, like other pioneering British manufacturers they relied on proprietary engines. Laurin and Klement began production in the Austro-Hungarian empire using De Dion engines.
In Italy a youngster named Ettore Bugatti built his own trike with a De Dion-type engine. He rode it to victory in four races and three more in 1900. Another young enthusiast, Carlo Maserati, built a bike which he raced to victory at a number of races for the Marquis Carcano. Yes, it was that Bugatti and that Maserati. Ferdinand Porsche designed a battery powered car with an electric motor powering each wheel. Yes, it was thatPorsche.Sarolea began making engines in Belgium.
Andre Boudeville began manufacture of high-tension magnetos in Paris.
Launch of the 211cc Minerva engine.
Raleigh fitted engines into its bicycles.
First races, at Friedenauer Cycle Track (Germany) and Exelberg (Austria).
Harry Lawson bought the UK rights to the Motocyclette for £4,000; his Motor Manufacturing Co began production.
Werner replaced dangerous hot-tube ignition with a trembler coil.
For the first time a motorcycle was exhibited at the Stanley Show.
1900Werner sales passed 1,000 but De Dion was the world's biggest engine manufacturer, churning out 3,200 in the course of the year. Including engines made under licence it is estimated that De Dion powered up to 150 makes of car and motorcycle. The 160cc engine was good for about half a horsepower; a complete De Dion trike weighed in at 90lb. Yours for about £50. American manufacturers made 1,681 steam, 1,575 electric and 936 petrol cars. In a poll, visitors to the first National Automobile Show in New York City favoured electric cars as their first choice, followed closely by steam.
At least 14 motorcycle manufacturers were active in Britain.
Rudolf Diesel demonstrated a diesel engine in the 1900 Exposition Universelle using peanut oil as fuel. There’s nowt new about biodiesel.
OK, not a bike story but a whimsy that made me smile. By 1900 a major distributor for Daimler and Maybach was entrepreneur and diplomat Emil Jellineck. He sponsored and specified a revolutionary sports car to be named after his daughter, Mercedes. So if she’d had a different name yuppies might still be boasting about their Brunhildes or Ermintrudes. Also, 40 years later Hitler was swanning about in a huge armoured Merc. You have to wonder if he knew that Emil Jellineck’s parents were both rabbis. It’s a funny old world, eh Adolph?
The Werner Brothers moved the engine down to the bottom of the frame, just in front of the pedals, producing the New Werner that was for a time the most popular model in Europe.
James Lansdowne Norton relied on Swiss Moto-Reve engines for his first bikes with French Peugeot engines for bigger models but from 1908, when the 633cc sv Big Four joined the range, Norton was as British as roast beef.
Instant coffee arrived for those all-night spannering sessions, as did the vacuum cleaner (initially horsedrawn monsters). The vacuum cleaner is A Good Things because it allows a wise enthusiast to get the filings out of the carpet before the mem-sahib arrives home from her karate lesson.
In the US Swedish-American Oscar Hedstrom built the first Indian.
The disc brake was invented in England by Frederick Lanchester.
Launch of Puch and NSU (NSU used swiss Zedel engines).
Alfred Angas Scott began to develop his two-strokes in Yorkshire.Japan staged its first race, round an oval track in Ueno park Tokyo) between a two-wheeler (a US-made Thomas Auto-Bi) a three-wheeler (Thomas Auto-Tri) and a quad (a French-made Gladiator). Their measured speeds were each 36km/h, 25km/h and 29km/h.An Orient was the first US machine to be exported to Europe.
The drum brake was invented by Louis Renault, though a less-sophisticated drum brake had been used by Maybach a year earlier.
The Stanley Motor Carriage Company began manufacture of the Stanley Steamer, the most popular production steam-powered car.
The first Ariel motorcycles hit the road, powered by White & Poppe engines.
James also bowed in, at first using FN engines.
If the Collier family made Woolwich famous with Matchless, the Tessier family did the same for Penge with the BAT (not 'best after test' as I was told as a wide-eyed stripling; more prosaically the designer's name was Batson).
Humber built its first successful motorcycles using state-of-the-art engines built under licence from Phelon & Moore.
The first issue of The Motor Cycle appeared, dated 31 March. Its actual launch date was 1 April but April Fool’s Day was held to be an inauspicious launchpad.On the other side of the Atlantic Messrs Harley and Davidson produced their first motorcycles and the Wright Brothers had a date with destiny at Kittyhawk, using an engine they built themselves. The ability to extract a lot of power from a lightweight engine was the key to flight as well as motorcycling.Having used Minerva, JAP and Fafnir lumps, Triumph made its own 3.5hp sv single.
The Auto Cycle Club, forerunner of the Auto Cycle Union, was formed as the motorcycle committee of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland (in turn forerunner to the RAC). In its first year the ACC ran a major 1,000-mile trial over 14 days.
Launch of the four-cylinder FN; for many years FN was Belgium's leading manufacturer.
In France Buchet launched one of the first vertical twins. This was before kickstarts were in common use, but with a capacity of 4,245cc it's hard to see how a kicker would be of much use anyway. At the same time De Dion-Bouton put the world's first V8 automobile into production, displacing a modest six litres. The partners might have been surprised to know that a century later a similar sized V8 would power a production motorcycle.
The hot topic for debate among motorcycle enthusiasts was automatic vsmechanical inlet valves (an ‘automatic’ valve being a spring-loaded flap).
Launch of the Phelon & Moore sloper; the basic design was to stay in production until the mid-1960s.
Weller of London (later famous for its AC cars) pioneered a drum brake.
A V4 Clement won the Heavy Motor Cycle class at the Ostend road race, though a contemporary pundit sniffily remarked: “Despite the huge engine the machine did very little better than the Star-Griffon in the under-110lb class.”
A number of firms including Mills & Fullford, Liberty, Montgomery and Trafalgar, claimed to have built the first sidecars. The Liberty was the first to be widely advertised though in any case a cyclist by the name of Richard Tingey had built a chair-on-a-wheel for his bicycle some years earlier (older charioteers are still wont to refer to a sidecar as a chair).
BAT equipped a bike with rear springing for them as had the dosh to afford it; accessory manufacturers were happy to supply kits to make rigid forks springy. The Sharp concern even offered air-sprung conversions for forks and frames.
Harry Martin entered the Phoenix Speed Trials at Dublin on his Excelsior and completed a measured mile in 59.8sec – the first 60mph mile.
Husqvarna got Sweden into the game by fitting Belgian FN engines into its bicycles.
Tom Silver cut the John o’ Groats to Lands End time to 64 hours and 29 minutes on his 3hp Quadrant.
The urban/rural speed limit was raised to 12/20mph, or 5/10mph where nominated.Speeding riders were faced by a growing number of speed traps and unsympathetic courts. This prejudice was equally prevalent on the Continent (though the French seemed immune); some Swiss cantons banned motorised vehicles out of hand.
1904Under the Motor Car Act every road going vehicle had to be registered; cars and bikes had to carry front and rear registration plates. The act led to the first registration statistics so we know that by midsummer 21,521 motorcycles had been registered in Britain – 488 were exported. Car production in the same period was 18,340.John Alfred Prestwich offered Continental proprietary engine manufacturers some competition; until 1908 JAP also produced complete motorcycles.'Real motor cycles' were replacing powered bicycles; some even boasted sprung forks. As part of this process mechanical inlet vales were replacing 'automatic' flaps on springs; clutches were appearing; rubber/canvas belts were replacing twisted rawhide; 3in-wide tyres were being tried to replace the 2in standard. In the US Indian adopted twistgrips way ahead of the pack, though this technology had been pioneered, for racing, by Werner.
France staged the first Coupe Internationale race for motorcycles weighing up to 110lb over five laps of a 34-mile course (170 miles in case you hadn't worked it out), limiting entries to three per country. Britain was represented by a JAP, a Lagonda (yes, the same company that was to make such exotic cars) and a Quadrant. They took on three Griffons from France, three Progresses from Germany, two Laurin-Klements from Austria-Hungary and a Humber-based Jurgensen from Denmark. Nails scattered on the course created havoc, the French took top three spots, the Brits protested about the nails and on various technicalities and the race was declared null and void. But one of those fragile 110-pounders achieved 76.5mph.
Tricars and forecarriages were outselling trailers so passengers no longer had to eat dust (but did serve as cushions in the event of a collision).
The MCC hosted the first 24hr London-Edinburgh trial and Inter-Club Team Championship.
Debut of the first flat twin – the Fee (later renamed the Fairy), forerunner of the Douglas.
Indian came up with a 500cc V-twin; so did NSU of Germany, Puch of Austria and Clement of France.
The Paris show featured vertical twins from Werner and Bercley (of Belgium) and a 363cc in-line four from FN which boasted a Simms-Bosch high-tension magneto, shaft drive running through a frame tube, leading link forks and drum rear brake.
Innovative engines included a four-pot rotary from Rivierre, the Boudreaux '1-stroke' and the Bichrone two-stroke.
The Autofauteil debuted with small wheels, an enclosed (427cc) engine below the 'fauteil' (armchair) and an open frame – in essence the ancestor of the motor scooter.
The Federation Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes was set up to improve the organisation of motorcycle racing following the 1904 Coupe Internationale fiasco; the Austrians won the Coupe Internationale. To get round the British ban on road racing the new Auto Cycle Club staged selection trials on the Isle of Man as part of the Gordon Bennett car races. The three Brits (an Ariel, a JAP and a Matchless) all failed to finish – built to comply with the Continental 50kg weight limit the racers were decidedly flimsy.
Peugeot set an unofficial world record by covering nearly 64 miles in an hour at the Parc des Princes velodrome in Paris.
BSA built its first motorcycle, using a Minerva engine.Some 22,000 motorcycles were registered in Britain but motorcycle sales fell, killing of a number of pioneer manufacturers.
1906Sidecars outsold tricars. First Land’s End-John o’ Groats trial.
Debut of the Druid spring fork; magneto ignition was becoming dominant.
The first TT races were held on the Isle of Man, where the authorities had a more enlightened attitude towards roadracing than their mainland counterparts. The single-cylinder class was won by Charlie Collier on the JAP-powered Matchless built by him and his brothers; twin-cylinder honours went to Rem Fowler on a Peugeot-engined Norton. Getting away from the odd Continental 50kg limit on racing machines, the name of the Tourist Trophy said it all. This was a race to encourage advances in real motorcycles – no weight limit, full-size saddle and mudguards and at least 5lb of tools to be carried. Fuel was limited, demanding 90mpg from the singles and 75mpg from the twins. So the fastest bikes on the road, out and out racers, were designed to run more economically than a 21st century commuter bike. Progress!American motorcycles arrived in British dealers, and in the States aircraft engine manufacturer Glenn Curtis shoehorned a monstrous 40hp V8 into a bike frame and hung on to do a claimed 136mph; an outright land speed record that would stand for 11 years..UK registrations neared 60,000.
The Auto Cycle Club became the Auto Cycle Union.
Douglas launched the flat twin range that was to make it famous.
Matchless launched a V-twin sporting swinging-arm rear suspension with leading links up front.
There was no sign of an upturn in sales; UK registrations fell from 11,039 in 1906 to 8,142 – and imports from France, Belgium and Germany were rising.
Despite the downturn technical innovation didn't cease; debutantes included a JAP in-line triple and Druid forks with their side-linked compression springs that were to remain in service with a number of marques for more than 20 years.
First motorcycle races held at Brooklands, on Easter Monday. The winner of the Motor Cycle Scratch Race was WE Cook, known as ‘Cookie’ to his chums, on an NLG (North London Garages). Among the riders he beat was TT winner Chas Collier.
Pedals were becoming obsolete for starting and what was euphemistically called ‘light pedal assistance’.
Hub gearboxes gained in popularity.The Zenith Gradua's variable gears, controlled by a distinctive 'coffee grinder' handle on the tank, gave it such an advantage over its competitors that a number of organising clubs banned raduas from their hillclimbs. Zenith milked this marketing gift with a five-barred-gate transfer.
After six years' development Alfred Scott launched his ground-breaking two-stroke twin. Despite a capacity off just 333cc it gave four-stroke manufacturers plenty to think about; advanced features included telescopic sprung forks, a kickstart, two-speed box and foot-operated gearchange. Before long the yowling two-stroke was condemned for being "overly efficient" so when racing four-strokes it was given a capacity handicap. Like Zenith, Scott made the most of this implied endorsement when advertising his road bikes. Nice one, Alf. [My Aunt Gwen, of blessed memory, rode a Squirrel in the thirties and sported a purple jacket to match the famous Scott livery – Ed]
The first TT race without a fuel consumption limit was won by Harry Collier on a JAP twin-engined Matchless.
WE Cook was back at Brooklands with a fearsome 2.7-litre V-twin on which he did an (unofficial) 90mph.
The MCC (Motor Cycling Club) broke away from the ACU (Auto Cycle Union), marking the first stage in the separation of roadriding and sport that was to mark out the British movement.
A 500cc Trump-JAP covered 48 miles in an hour.
Adjustable belt pulleys became a popular route to multi-geared transmission. Harry, George, Jack and Joe Stevens designed and built a 298cc sidevalve engine at the dad's factory and AJS took to the road.
Welcome to the first teabag, invented by Thomas Sullivan – so much more civilised than instant coffee (qv).
Motorcycle sales picked up; new models included America's first in-line four, the Pierce. The UK also got a new four – the Wilkinson-TAC. Just as BSA was known for guns, Wilkinson was a sword (and razor blade) manufacturer. The TAC referred to designer PG Tacchi. It was aimed at the luxury market, with a padded leather armchair in place of a saddle, leaf springing, three speeds, drum brakes and leading link forks. The Pierce and Wilkimson-TAC both survived four years.
Other new manufacturers included Miyapet, of Japan (well, it had to happen) and Michio Suzuki opened a factory producing machinery for textile manufacturers; Gilera opened a factory producing motorcycles.
BSA was at the Olympia show to launch its the first complete motorcycle, rated at 3½hp. And say hello too to Rudge Whitworth with an ohv 500.
Powell and Hanmer developed a dynamo lighting system.
The first show devoted entirely to motorcycles was held in London's Olympia.
Excelsior launched an 800cc sv single that must have been a joy to start on cold mornings.
Motor Cycling magazine was launched, adopting a somehow racier style thanThe Motor Cycle.
Countershaft gears were becoming standard...
…which helps explain why competitive hillclimbing was gaining in popularity.
Victor Surridge covered 60 miles in 60 minutes on a Rudge.
Indians! TT shock as the colonials took first, second and third places in the Senior, helped by two-speed gearboxes and all-chain transmissions (Charlie Collier was leading the race aboard his Matchless when herefuelled outside the authorised pit area and was disqualified). Indian did it again at Brooklands when Jake de Rosier (who was further down the TT field due to mechanical problems) went head to head with Collier in a three-race match at Brooklands and won two to one at an average 80.59mph. Having taken a look at the new mountain course, the laid back de Rosier Collier memorably remarked: "This ain't going to be no tea party." Collier restored British self-esteem within a few days by setting a world speed record of 91.37mph on his JAP-engined Matchless.
The Olympia show reflected the Indian's success to become known as the 'variable gear show'; more than 80% of the 275 bikes on show had some form of variable speed transmission; only utility lightweights soldiered on with a single speed.
Debutantes included Levis, with a range of solid lightweight two strokes and Sun, another two-strokespecialist.
TT replica Triumphs won high-profile races in Italy and Russia; Douglas and P&M shared top honours in the Auto Cycle Union's first International Six Days Trial, held in the north of England.
John Wooler made his first bike. It was a 344cc two-stroke which featured a diuble-ended piston to eliminate the need for crankcase compresion.
A Scott was the first two-stroke to win a TT.
Kickstarts were becoming common.
Petrol cost an average of 1s 2½d (6p) per gallon; using the retail price index that equates to £4.46/gal.
The ISDT moved down to the South-West; P&M led the field, ahead of Rover, AJS, Indian and Royal Enfield. British domination in long-distance trials led a Munich club to ban the Brits because they "diminished the home industry's chances of success".
Within a year of its launch NUT (for Newcastle Upon Tyne) was to win the Junior TT. Also new in 1912 was Sunbeam of Wolverhampton, whose big singles were to earn a reputation for superlatiive engineering.
Also launched in Wolverhampton was the Villiers range of proprietary engines – known to generations as the leading two-stroke engine but they started with four strokes.
A Scott yowled to victory in the Senior TT; Douglas snatched first, second and fourth spots in the Junior.
Marston & Co, who became bicycle manufacturers in 1890, added a tidy 350cc sv engine; the name on the tank was Sunbeam.
Nearly 100,000 motorcycles were on British roads; 17,000 were exported.
The first QD wheels made puncture repair less of a hassle (but it’s still a hassle).
X-Rays were discovered and, sadly, were to become all too relevant to motorcyclists.
British bikes were storming ahead but for technical brilliance they had to bow to Peugeot, which came up with a dohc eight-valve unit construction vertical twin racer based on its 1912 racing car engine. It was regularly revamped and was still winning races in the late 1920s.
Triumph also built a promising vertical twin but was soon working flat out producing big singles for the army. We'd have to wait 20 years for its next vertical twin.
Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-born engineer developed the modern zip fastener; this traces its history to the ‘Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure’ which had been patented in the US by Elias Howe in 1851.
Rudge and AJS won the Senior and Junior TTs. Britain registered nearly 150,000 bikes and exported 11,000. A 496cc ABC did 80.47mph at Brooklands. And a Serbian nationalist dropped his sandwich to shoot an Austro-Hungarian Archduke whose driver had taken a wrong turning. It became known as "the shot that killed a million men", which was a tragic understatement.
Nearly 21,000 motorcycles were exported; presumably not to Germany.
Britain relied on Triumphs, Duggies, P&Ms, Clynos and Sunbeams for their military motorcycles; Germany turned to NSU and Wanderer; les Poillouts rode Gillets. Austrian squaddies had Puch, the Italians had Bianchis while Russians rode to war on British Rovers and Premiers (doubtless impressed by the British engineering that had helped the Japanese navy to obliterate their fleet nine years earlier).
Press pundits’ predictions of troops on motorcycles winning their spurs in a fast moving mechanised war encouraged thousands of young enthusiasts to enlist. Motor Machine Gun battalions were formed using Clyno and Enfield outfits armed with Vickers guns.
The Motor Machine Gun battalions were widely deployed in1915 as an adjunct to cavalry or cyclist units designed for the exploitation of breakthroughs. If only. As the western front bogged down into years of trench warfare motorcyclists were used as dispatch riders and, on outfits, as chauffeurs (or more often chauffeuses). Many others found themselves in the Heavy Branch of the Machine Gun Corps. Having been pioneer motorcyclists they became pioneer tank crews.
Sunbeam supplied military machines to France and Russia.
To cope with petrol shortages motorcycles were being run on paraffin.
In Germany BMW was established to make aircraft engines.
Triumph solos and P&M outfits were winning reputations that were to stand their companies in good stead after the war.
More than 10,000 readers of the Blue ’Un answered that magazine’s call to arms.
The cost of petrol was up to 3s 11d (20p) per gallon; that equates to more than £8.18/gal.
Petrol shortages led to the use of coal gas as fuel.
With peace came the motor scooter, often ridden while standing.
Sopwith, famous for building the superlative Camel fighter during the war, launched the ABC motorcycle, a sophisticated 398cc ohv flat twin with a four-speed box, all-chain drive and a sprung frame. It was state of the art and often seen as predecessor for the BMW but lacked development. ABCs sold faster than the company could make them but a stream of warranty claims killed of the project within three years.
A number of spring frames appeared on the market.
A top-flight 500 like the Triumph Trusty cost about £100 minus accessories (such as lights); in terms of earning power that’s about £16,000.
Nearly 280,000 motorcycles were registered in Britain, supporting an industry that now included more than 100 manufacturers.
'Red' Parkhurst took the world speed record past the ton – his Harley was clocked at 103.76mph at Ormond Beach, USA.
Brooklands hosted 500-mile races for the first, and last, time.
Amid the flood of short-lived manufacturers taking advantage of the post-war boom were some survivors,including Moto Guzzi (a tidy horizontal 500 single complete with rear springing) and Brough Superior. Also here that year (and gone by 1925) was the Megola, powered by a 640cc five-cylinder radial engine in the front wheel with neither clutch nor gearbox to its name. Wild. But a racing version still managed a creditable 88mph.
Registrations neared 375,000, the US managed 154,000.
Flat twins enjoyed a vogue; British manufacturers included Raleigh, Humber, Wooler, Zenith, ABC and Brough; even Harley got in on the act, as it would again in the Second World War. The striking design of the 500cc ohc Wooler TT model, including a bright yellow fuel tank that was extended round the steering head, inspired the immortal Graham Walker to dub it the Flying Banana. Wooler also won good publicity with a special test that squeezed a mind boggling 311mpg from a 350. Another lost secrets of the ancients, it seems.
BMW followed ABC’s lead by switching from aircraft engines to motorcycles. Yes, it used a (493cc) flat twin, but it was an in-line proprietary engine supplied to a number of small manufacturers. Better look again in 1923.
A Harley ridden by Otto Walker became the first motorcycle to win a race at an average speed of over 100mph. The first British ton-up kid was DH Davidson – also on a Harley.
CG Pullin restored British self-esteem by clocking up 100mph on a Douglas – and it only needed 500cc to match the speed of the big twin Harley.
The TT gained a Lightweight class to join the Senior and Junior.
CF Temple set a world motorcycle speed record of 108.48mph on a 996cc British Anzani.
The first Sidecar TT was won by FW Dixon on a Douglas.
Finally, disappointed by problems with its bought-in engines, BMW began to build complete machines in house, sticking with the transverse flat-twin that became the company’s hallmark.
Belt final drive was waning in popularity as chain drive became the industry standard.
The world motorcycle speed record was raised to 123mph by Bert Le Vack aboard a 996cc Brough Superior.
Raleigh proved its reliability with a round-the-coast stunt: the 3,429 mile run was completed in 11½ days.
A 350cc Chater-Lea joined the 100mph club, ridden by WD Marchant.
There were 500,000 motorcycles on British roads.
CF Temple was back on the record trail, covering 100 miles in an hour on a 995cc OEC-Temple.
The Senior TT was won by HR Davies aboard a new, and soon to be illustrious, marque: HRD.
A growing number of machines appeared with four-speed transmissions.
Bohmerland began making bikes in Czechoslovakia. Just one of many firms that sprang up in the twenties and died away in the thirties but it holds a place in history for being a three-seater and the fact that you can't see one without smiling. The 598cc one-lunger engine was too tall for a conventional saddle tank so the fuel lives in those cylinders hung on each side of the rear wheel (the third seat could be attached to the rack).
Dynamo lighting became standard on many machines; all the major players fielded ohv engines.
BMW offered ohv versions of its flat twin at 500 and 750cc.
Brooklands was lapped at more than 113mph by JS Wright and OM Baldwin on Zenith-JAPs
A Denley managed 100 miles in an hour on a 490cc Norton, and Alec Bennett won the Senior TT aboard the new cammy Norton, the CS1.
In Italy Agusta came up with a 125cc racer.
Saddle tanks swiftly superseded ‘flat’ tanks to give motorcycles a ‘modern’ look – and overhead valves were replacing sidevalves just as quickly, though some sidevalves were to survive into the sixties.
It was a sidecar outfit’s turn to lap Brooklands at a ton – the rider was Dixon and the machine was a Brough Superior.
The Blue ’Un launched a campaign for ‘Everyman’ motorcycles – designs that would be suitable for non-enthusiasts: ultra-reliable, quiet, economical and not oily. We got them too.
In Russia Izh launched a 1,200cc transverse V-twin featuring a pressed-steel frame incorporating a silencer.
Dirt track racing arrived in England from Australia where, according to legend, the port was invented by farmers who raced each other round oval dirt tracks. Douglas dominated the new sport in Britain though Rudge soon got in on the act, and JAP-engined models became the definitive speedway mounts.
The UK boasted a motorcycle park of 712,583, representing a third of the global total.
Ariel strutted its stuff by running a 500 and a 250 24/7 for 10,000 miles.
The War Office evaluated an OEC with hub centre steering and a pair of inline rear wheels running inside a caterpillar track.
AJW, Brough and McEvoy launched four-pot models at the Earls Court show.
Japan had just over 7,500 bikes on its roads; 60% of them were British.
A 350cc Dunelt lapped Montlhery for 25,000 miles at an average of over 45mph.
Chrome plate gleamed its way across the pond to brighten up British motorcycles.
British riders rode British machines to victory in the French, Belgian, German, Spanish and Dutch GPs.
As the depression bit US manufacturers fell like ninepins, leaving Harley and Indian to fly the flag.
The Sunbeam MCC launched the Pioneer Run.
Dunelt tackled the TT course with a 500 which completed 350 laps – 13,200 miles – at an average of 34.8mph.
Nylon paved the way to waterproof (but sweaty) wet-weather gear.
Wal Handley achieved the first sub-30 minute TT lap in the Senior.
JS Wright took the world motorcycle record past the 150mph mark.
Introduction of the Road Traffic Act and the Highway Code. The overall 20mph speed limit was abolished, but the minimum riding age rose from 14 to 16.
The Amateur TT was renamed the Manx Grand Prix.
Two innovative 600cc ohc fours livened up the Olympia show: the Matchless V4 Silver Hawk (which also sported a cantilever frame) and the Ariel Square 4. Brough got into the four-pot act with a Swiss side-valve in-line Motosacoche engine; Indian and Henderson pitched in with their own in-line fours.
JH Simpson rode his 490 Norton round the TT course at over 80mph (he’d previously broken the 60mph and 70mph barriers so no one was too surprised).
New Imperial went to the Netherlands where a 350 completed 25,000km in 25 days.
Ariel took the Maudes Trophy with the ‘sevens’ series of tests which included seven lads under 14 years old kickstarting a Squariel – six of them managed it first kick, the youngest needed a second go.
AJS ran into money problems and was bought by Matchless.
A law was passed linking roadtax to engine capacity; demand for lightweights under 150cc was boosted by a new tax class of 15s (75p) a year.
Ernst Henne took the world speed record to 151.86mph on a blown 750cc BMW.
Britain won the ISDT after a two-year lay-off.
Triumph launched the Val Page-designed 650cc 6/1vertical twin. It proved itself by covering 500 miles in as many minutes, helping Triumph win the Maudes Trophy.
Brands Hatch and Donington Park opened for business.
Norton continued its domination of the Junior and Senior TTs.
Germany won the ISDT, its team was captained by that man Ernst Henne.
Ariel, the UK’s second biggest manufacturer after BSA, went into receivership but lived to fight another day.
Germany became the world’s biggest user of motorcycles with more than 750,000 registered; DKW became the world’s busiest manufacturer with an output of 20,000 a year.
Ernst Henne and his blown Beemer took the world motorcycle speed record to over 152mph.
Florence Blenkiron won a Brooklands Gold Star for completing 100 miles in an hour.
1935TE Lawrence (of Arabia) died of head injuries suffered when he crashed aboard his Brough Superior SS100. It was Lawrence’s seventh Bruffsup; his eight was on order when he died. BMW introduced telescopic forks. Nearly 46,000 bikes were sold in the UK including 5,890 under 150cc, 16,960 from 150-250cc and 13,233 at 250cc and over; 4,567 were outfits.
The word "seminal" is overused but in the case of the Speed Twin that Edward Turner designed for Triumph, it is unavoidable. Even a Beeza rider has to admit it.
Eric Fernihough took the world speed record for Britain, piloting a JAP-engined Brough Superior to 169.71mph. Henne took the record back within six months, pushing it to 173.68mph.
Associated Motorcycles (AMC) was formed; eventually it was to incorportate AJS, Matchless, Norton, Francis Barnett, and James.
Germany invaded Poland, with BMWs and Zundapps an integral part of the blitzkrieg. Britain declared war and motorcyclists once again flocked to the colours where BSA, Norton, Ariel, Matchless, Velocette and James were among the manufacturers ready to send their bikes to war. Once again, the engineering know-how of the motorcycle manufacturers was at the nation's service in its hour of need. Once again a generation of adventurous young motorcyclists went to war, and once again their mechanical skills were a welcome resource in all three services.
The arrival of FM radio, without which no workshop is complete.
Pearl Harbour brought the USA into the war. Germany had to declare war on them to make it official, but raise a glass to the memory of the US heroes who gave up their citizenship to fly with the RAF in the Battle of Britain.
Between them Harley Davidson and Indian were to supply the US forces with more than 300,000 motorcycles. Most were 750 and 500cc SV V-twins, but to take advantage of shaft drive Harley came up with a flat twin while Indian came up with a transverse V-twin. Japan produced a Harley 45 replica, which wasn’t hard as Harley Davidson had built a factory in Tokyo before the war.
Russian engineers reverse engineer five BMW R71s (bought covertly via Sweden) and begin to produce M72 outfits.
When the war ended demand for motorcycles surged; many youngsters had been introduced to bikes as part of their wartime service.
With the economy on the rocks (saving the world for democracy doesn’t come cheap) the government enforced a policy of ‘export or die’ so few new models were available on the home market.
The Spanish industry swung into action with the arrival of Montesa.
Villiers bought a stake in JAP.
Triumph’s first post-war range included a 350cc vertical twin.
Telescopic forks became the first major post-war innovation; they’d been pioneered by Matchless on the WD G3.
Triumph, Norton and Rudge scooped the honours in the Manx Grand Prix.
Registrations bounced back to match the pre-war level, despite continuing petrol rationing.
BSA fielded the 500cc A7 to take on Triumph’s Speed Twin: Norton, Royal Enfield, AJS, Matchless and Ariel joined the in the vertical twin fray.
Vespa started to manufacture scooters; Lambretta wasn’t far behind.
Soichiro Honda went back to motorcycling’s roots by fitting engines to bicycles in a shed amid the wreckage of postwar Japan. The next year he established ‘Honda Research Institute Co’ and in 1949 launched the company’s first pukka motorcycle, the 98cc 3hp D-Type Dream.
Development of the germanium point-contact transistor opened the way to electronic ignition (but a good magneto still has a lot going for it, with a little plasticine to keep the wet out, and no need for a battery).
The FIM banned superchargers from racing bikes.
There was a surge in demand for 98cc ‘autocycles’.
During the 12 months to September Britain exported just over 55,000 motorcycles; more than the rest of the world combined.
The first Earls Court show in 10 years attracted 130,000 visitors.
BSA launched the 125cc two-stroke D1 Bantam; Velocette came up with the 150cc watercooled four-stroke LE which, enlarged to 200cc, became the standard-issue lightweight police bike. As such it was widely known as the noddy bike.
A group of enthusiasts with a love of old bikes set up a club. The Vintage MCC now has more than 16,000 members with more than 180 marque specialists.
Geoff Duke bursts onto the roadracing scene; Norton dominated the TT with hat-tricks in both the Junior and the Senior. Ducati and Laverda both hit the autostrada. The first Dukes were pretty little 48cc and 65cc singles; the world famous V-twins would not arrive for another 20 years. Laverda, which was an agricultural machinery manufacturer, started with 49cc, 74cc and 99cc singles. Its big vertical twins and triples followed in the late sixties and early seventies.Rear suspension was flavour of the month. Triumph fitted a sprung hub; BSA opted for the plunger frame and swinging arms were in the pipeline.
Hola to two more Spanish marques: Ossa and Derbi.
Britain exported night on 92,000 bikes.
Motorcycle production started in China, initially concentrating on a 500 for the People’s Liberation Army.
British exports fell to just over 70,000 as foreign competition stiffened.
BSA won its second Maudes Trophy with three A7s that were taken from the production line and ridden off to the ISDT.
NSU took the world motorcycle speed record by extracting 180mph from a blown 500. Its 350cc stablemate managed 173mph.
1953The Wild One set the trend for a new genre of ‘biker movies’. Marlon Brando boosted sales of black leatherjackets, but it was his rival gang leader, Lee Marvin, who was way ahead of his time with a cut-off denim jacket and stripey top. Most of the bikes in the movie were British – in fact the Triumph importers complained about the number of Triumphs on the screen. The Wild Onewas banned in Britain until 1968, when it was finally shown at the 59 Club [the year before I joined – I finally saw it at a clubnight in the late seventies – Ed].The crop of post-war 500cc vertical twins were growing to 600, 650 and 700cc – but exports were down to 63,000.
Douglas launched the pretty little 350cc flat-twin Dragonfly.
Suzuki built its first motorcycles, and they wouldn't have looked out of place 50 years earlier. The E1 Power Free was little more than a powered bicycle with a 60cc two-stroke single developing just 1hp, though it was quickly superseded by the Diamond Free with twice the power. But they must have been big horses because a Diamond Free won the 27km Fount Fuji hillclimb. Production rocketed to more than 6,000 a month and Suzuki Loom Manufacturing Company was renamed Suzuki Motor Company. No one in the dominant British industry seemed too bothered, though at BSA the penny finally dropped that bikes were good business so they set up a separate division called BSA Motor Cycles.
Yamaha, well established as a musical instrument manufacturer (hence the three tuning forces in its logo) went into the motorcycling business. Its first contender was the YA-1, powered by a 125cc two-stroke single which successfully completed a 10,000km endurance test before winning its class in the third Mount Fuji hillclimb.
Vincent finally went to the wall, despite fighting for survival with NSU lightweights and 35cc Firefly powered wheels for bicycles. The marque was gone but the legend was to grow from strength to strength.
Velcro arrived as the perfect complement to those zip fasteners.
The world speed record passed the 200mph mark at Daytona Beach, USA – but the rider was Wilhelm Hertz of Germany aboard an NSU.
JAP merged with Villiers.
Learner riders were restricted to 250cc, which seemed restrictive at the time (though in these safety-conscious/obsessed times learning to ride on a Black Shadow does seem a dodgy plan.
In response to lurid press reports of motorcycling tearaways some of the bigger bike clubs got together to form the Federation of National and One Make Clubs.
A Velocette Venom became the first 500cc motorcycle to complete 24 hours at more than 100mph at Montlehery in France.
MoT tests, but only for vehicles over 10 years old.
Honda began to expand its range – its 50, 60, 125, 160 and 250cc four-strokes were joined by an ohc 305cc twin. Suzuki and Yamaha were offering a line-up of two-strokes ranging from 60-250cc.
The last JAP engines were produced before the company's assets were fully consolidated into the Villiers Engineering Company.
The British industry had contracted to 14 marques with most of the major players inside one of the two major groups: BSA-Triumph and AMC (comprising AJS, Matchless, Norton, James and Francis Barnett).
And just as the British motorcycle industry was entering its final chapter, the people who rode its products were organising to protect their right to ride. The Federation of National and One Make Clubs expanded to welcome individual members and local clubs under a new title, the British Motorcycle Federation which now has more than 350 affiliated clubs.
More than 30,000 bikes were imported into the UK, most of them Japanese lightweights. But we still sold more than we bought: exports were nearly 59,000, most of them vertical twins. Bike and accessory exports were valued at £14m, 80% of which was earned by BSA-Triumph.
AMC and Villiers became Norton Villiers.
Scooter sales rose to almost 21,000.
Honda’s biggest bike to date reached these shores: the 450cc twin was soon dubbed the Black Bomber.
BSA-Triumph’s export success was rewarded with the Queen’s Award for Industry.
Honda pulled out of racing.
MoT tests on all vehicles over three years old.
Norton squeezed more life out of its ageing vertical twins by launching the 750cc Commando.
BSA-Triumph took another route by slapping another pot onto the side of a short-stroke 500cc Triumph twin to create the Triumph Trident and its badge-engineered stablemate, the BSA Rocket III. Initial production was exclusively for the US market.
Yamaha pulled out of racing.
Kawasaki became the last of the Japanese big four to start producing motorcycles, though it can trace its roots back to 1878 when the company was set up as Kawasaki Dockyard, and it made some effective fighters during World War Two.
OK, so the arrival of my provisional licence hardly warrants a mention in this timeline. I mention it only to warn the reader that from this point personal recollection is going to creep in. So here's a personal motorcycling memory: Standing in a packed crescent of enthusiasts at the Racing & Sporting Show in London's Horticultural Halls gazing up at a slowly revolving Honda CB750 and, despite a total lack of motorcycling knowledge, realising from the awed reaction of the leather clad riders around me that this was something entirely new. Many years later I remembered that moment as I was browsing through a 1969 Glass'sGuide Checklist, as you do, and found that for five months the last M120 Panthers were lined up in dealers' showrooms alongside the first CB750 Hondas. That’s no doubt symbolic of something or other.
Panther wasn’t the only veteran manufacturer to close down in 1969; we also bid a sad farewell to Royal Enfield (though the Redditch firm’s Indian offshoot was to survive its parent’s demise).
The film Easy Rider hit the screens, and had a huge influence on motorcycle design [by 1971 I was riding an A10 with 24in apehangers, a stars-and-stripes tank in tasteful sticky-back plastic and a tip-up exhaust that filled up with water in the rain. More South London than West Coast, I fear – Ed].
UK scooter sales were down to 8,700.
Velocette, always one of the classier British marques, went into voluntary liquidation.
BMW lost the world sidecar roadracing title to URS, but launched a revamped range of 600 and 750cc sports tourers.
British exports remained strong at just over 56,000.
Italian exports were also doing well; the first of Moto Guzzi’s classic transverse V-twins reached the UK.
American ace Don Vesco took the world speed record past the 250mph mark, riding his Yamaha at 251.92mph along Daytona Beach.
The final Velo Thruxton rolled out of the Hall Green site.
The old AMC works finally closed its doors.
Villiers production ceased – the industry’s best known proprietary two stroke engines had powered lots of well known marques, including James, Francis Barnet and Ambassador.
The first 90º Ducati V-twins joined Guzzi on UK roads.
Compulsory passenger insurance came into force.
The minimum age limit for motorcycling was raised to 17, restricting 16-year-olds to mopeds.
BSA-Triumph closed its competition department in the face of huge losses, although the Tridents and Rocket IIIs had acquitted themselves well in Production TTs, Daytona and the world Formula 750 championships. One particular Trident, dubbed Slippery Sam, became one of the best known and best loved racing motorcycles ever built.
Suzuki launched the water-cooled GT750 two-stroke triple, which soon became known as the kettle.
As the once world beating British industry wet into its final convulsion BSA-Triumph merged with the remains of AMC to form NVT. As well as Norton, Villiers and Triumph, the group owned a clutch of famous names, including AJS, Ariel, BSA, Matchless and Sunbeam. As part of the inevitable ‘rationalization’ NVT closed Triumph’s Meriden works to concentrate production at BSA’s Small Heath plant. But no more BSAs would emerge from the site. BSA, once the world’s biggest manufacturer, was no more. As a result the Edward Turner-designed 350cc ohc BSA Bandit and Triumph Fury twins were stillborn. [I got to ride a prototype Bandit and was impressed – 'lost opportunities' could have been adopted as a motto by the British industry in its declining years – Ed].
To rub salt into British wounds Kawasaki upped the 750cc ante with the 900cc Z1.
The crash helmet law was introduced despite determined resistance from tens of thousands of riders. The British Motorcycle Federation organised a major petition that was delivered to 10 Downing Street and lobbied vigorously against the law. A generation of motorcyclists was politicised by the campaign, leading to the formation of the Motorcycle Action Group which adopted more radical tactics including a series of major demos and protest runs. After the law came into force a number of activists refused to pay fines for non-compliance and served jail sentences.
1974As the British industry collapsed Laverda hit our roads with some butch 980cc triples. Honda squeezed a 1,000cc liquid-cooled flat four into a bike frame with the Gold Wing. At the time it looked huge; now the 'Wing has grown two more pots and expanded to 1,800cc.
Yamaha also got into the act with its first four-stroke, the vertical twin 650cc XS1. Talk about dead man’s clothes… good bike, though.
Kawasaki and Suzuki were selling a selection of fast two-stroke triples. The Kwaks earned a reputation for scalded-cat performance combined with three-legged-camel handling. Inevitably this made them all the more desirable.
Don Vesco was back at Daytona on a Yamaha known as Silver Bird to do a triple-ton – he boosted the world speed record to 302.93mph.
Gore-Tex fabric would lead to waterproof riding gear that isn’t sweaty (qv nylon).
New mopeds were limited to a design top speed of 30mph.
Hoorah, the cell phone was invented, so now you can call the RAC wherever you happen to break down. Say what you like about more advanced bikes, clothing and equipment – what really transformed my life was the knowledge that I could always contact a nice man in a van who'd come and take me and the bike home.
Right-hand sidecars banned but not retrospectively, which must have been good news for the Wermacht.
New registrations set a new record at more than 315,000.
Launch of the two-part motorcycle test.
Learner riders were restricted to 125s.
Motorcyclists' rights organisations from France, Germany, UK, Austria, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg met in Strasbourg to protest against unfair motorcycle legislation coming from the EU. They got together and formed the Federation of European Motorcyclists.
The Triumph name returned with the launch of the 1,200cc four-pot Trophy.
Global Positioning System technology had military roots but it's just the thing if you really can’t read a map.
The arrival of Viagra means you no longer need to think about your bike when ’er indoor demands her conjugals.
China produced 40,000 electrically powered bikes (e-bikes). The Federation of European Motorcyclists and the European Motorcyclists Association merged to form the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations which now maintains a permanent presence in Brussels. It represents 24 national riders' rights organisations from 19 countries.
Suzuki launched the GSX1300 Hayabusa with a top speed approaching 200mph. Japanese humour: Hayabusa translates as Peregrine Falcon which, besides being very fast, preys on Blackbirds. Until the Hayabua’s launch Honda’s CBR1100XX Super Blackbird was the world's fastest production motorcycle. Geddit?
To avoid the threat of mandatory EU power limits the European and Japanese manufacturers agreed to a self-imposed speed limit of 186mph – so the Hayabusa could well be the fastest production bike of all time. We’ll never know if the speed limited Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R would have been faster than the Hayabusa.
Chinese output of e-bikes passed 10 million a year.
American Grand National Champion Chris Car snuggled down inside a streamliner built by legendary Dennis Manning and blasted across the Bonneville Salt Flats to set a world record of 350.88mph.
Carr was back because he's lost the record in 2008. Once again Manning worked his magic with BUB7, a three-litre turbocharged V4 developing 500hp (BUB stands for his nickname, Big Ugly Bastard – who says speedfreaks take themselves seriously?) So as this timeline brings us up to date the fastest bike on earth has managed a two-way average of 367.38mph – and plans are afoot to go for 400mph. Glenn Curtis (scroll back to 1907 in case you've forgotten him) would be proud to know his countrymen are continuing with the quest for speed. The obsession lives on!