How Have Motorcycles Evolved Over the Years?


Motorcycles, just like every other form of transportation, have been undergoing a number of changes and improvements over time. These changes are generally made with the aim of improving safety, appeal, and, of course, thrill. Thanks to technology, most of these details have been realized, with modern motorcycles becoming a marvel of innovation to a considerable extent. Here are some of the ways in which motorcycles have evolved over the years.

Engine Placement

From the time that motorcycles were invented, the engine has been moved around quite a bit. The first motorcycles in production, therefore, featured the engine anywhere that the manufacturers pleased, which was often by the back wheel. After a lot of deliberation and experimentation, the position between the wheels and under the fuel tank was found to be the ideal spot. This is generally the case for a majority, if not all, of the motorcycles that were registered in the United States both by private citizens and commercial organizations in 2011, as shared by the most recent report by the Department of Transportation. This is a staggering number, and to put it into perspective, one person out of every 36 people that you meet in the United States probably has a motorcycle.

Oil Pump

For the first motorcycles created, there wasn’t an oil pump. In its place was splash lubrication. This worked exactly as the name implies, which is by having the oil splash around as a result of the motion of the connecting rod. This was through a trough of oil in the crankcase, and it’s a method that lasted for quite some time. In fact, even the first high-performance vehicles made use of splash lubrication for their rod bearings.

Additional Gears

The current design of a motorcycle’s gears was another result of trial and error over the years. The first experiments along these lines and before a gearbox featured setups like having a number of gears in the rear hub. There were also adjustable engine pulleys at some point, which changed the overall ratio of gears. There was even an alternative drive ratio that made use of two chains selected by either a handle or foot lever.

With the current multi-ration boxes, it was still common practice to select the desired gear with a hand lever, a design that was changed to a stp foot shift and patented by Velocette. It’s important to be sure about the setup of a motorbike right from the moment that you hit the road, since a slight error with something like gear selection can lead to an accident. This is especially the case if you’re distracted or fatigued, with driver fatigue known to cause around 30% of all commercial truck accidents, for instance.

Electric Lighting

Electric lighting on motorcycles is yet another modern improvement. Most original motorbikes made use of carbide or acetylene gas lamps. These produce and burn acetylene that’s created by the reaction of calcium carbide with water. While this sounds steampunk and perfect for a motorbike, it was a bit cumbersome and the lighting was feeble in comparison to its electric counterparts. This means that you can expect to find electric lamps on the motorcycles sold in the last few years. This includes the sales of all on-road motorcycles for the full year of 2021, which was up 14.2%.

Clearly, motorcycles have come a very long way since the first original ones all those years ago. That said, they still hold the allure of a thrilling way to get around, with many people becoming motorcycle hobbyists. It can be expected that there are still going to be more improvements, with manufacturers looking for ways to get the ultimate design that will offer a safe experience to each rider while making the most of fuel or whichever alternative source of energy motorcycles may evolve to use in the future.

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