Friday, January 28, 2011

The engineering advances that led to the modern motorcycle

Modern motorcycles pack so much technology and so much performance into small – and surprisingly affordable – packages that we should all be careful not to let the government realize how much fun we’re having… otherwise, they’ll find a way to tax our riding pleasure!

Getting to where we are today took a series of engineering advances that almost all first appeared a surprisingly long time ago. Many of the gizmos on modern bikes were developed for use in aircraft, another field in which powerful, lightweight motors were highly valued. Others were invented and perfected by creative engineers in several locations at about the same time, or were invented long before they could be made commercially viable. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll outline ten key stages in the evolution of one very intelligent design: the modern sport bike.

Key advance #1: The Rover 'safety bicycle'

This early Rover bicycle still has an oversized front wheel somewhat reminiscent of a Penny Farthing, but it's lower seat height made it far less intimidating to mount. There's still a lesson here for motorcycle manufacturers that want to appeal to new riders.
The first motorcycles were all essentially bicycles to which a small auxiliary motor was fitted. Thus, for motorcycles to become practical, bicycles first had to become safe to ride. That was definitely not the case when the only bicycles were “penny farthings” with enormous front wheels – they were hard to get on and pedal and even worse, when riders fell, they crashed to the ground from seats as much as six feet high.

In the 1880s, the first bicycles with two small wheels, a low seat, and chain drive appeared. This basic design came to be known as the “safety frame” and was patented by the Rover bicycle company.

No comments:

Post a Comment