November 10, 1885 – The first motorcycle ride… sort of.

What is often considered the first modern motorcycle, the Daimler Reitwagen (“riding car”) was first rode on this day in 1885 by 17-year-old Paul Daimler, son of German inventor Gottlieb Daimler, effectively making him the world’s first biker. The vehicle was built by Gottlieb and Wilhelm Maybach was the first motorcycle powered by a gasoline internal combustion engine. There were examples of other motorcycles built beforehand, but all were steam powered. This included the Perreaux and Roper, dating as early as 1867, and the 1884 Copeland. The other significance of the Daimler Reitwagen is that this was the forerunner of all vehicles, land, sea or air, to use an engine of this type, however, it was not the first. More on that in a minute. Some aren’t so quick to claim this as the first motorcycle as certain criteria gives skeptics something to chat. One issue is the fact that this motorcycle actually had four wheels, two of which could be likened to training wheels. Dubbed auxiliary stabilizers, the wheels were needed because the principles of rake and trail were not employed. Another consideration is Enrico Bernardi’s 1882 one-cylinder petrol powered tricycle, the Motrice Pia. This is the vehicle considered to be the first ever internal combustion vehicle and some call it the first motorcycle. The Reitwagen had a 264-cubic-centimetre single-cylinder four-stroke engine mounted on rubber blocks. It featured two iron tread wooden wheels and a pair of spring-loaded outrigger wheels for balance.The first ride was an interesting excursion for Paul. He traveled 3.1–7.5 mph from Cannstatt to Untertürkheim, Germany, during the trip the seat caught fire due to the hot tube ignition located directly beneath it. After a few improvements the project was abandoned in 1886 in favor of pursuing four wheel vehicles. The original creation was destroyed in a fire in 1903, but several replicas have been built. Images:Daimler Reitwagen replica at the Mercedes-Benz Museum – By Wladyslaw, CC BY-SA 2.0 deDrawings from 1884 showed a twist grip belt tensioner, complex steering linkage and used a belt drive. The working model had a simple handlebar and used a pinion gear drive. – By Gottlieb Daimler – Public Domain

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