Did Motorcycles Come Before Cars?

Motorcycles and cars have both been around at this point for well over 100 years. However, you may be wondering which of these vehicles was actually invented first.

As it turns out, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think. Today, we’ll be talking about the history of the motorcycle and giving you the definitive answer on which vehicle came first.

Which Came First, Cars or Motorcycles?

This is a tricky question to answer because it depends on your definition of what a motorcycle is. The car wasn’t the first gas-powered vehicle to be invented, but the actual first vehicle wasn’t quite a motorcycle either.

We answer the question of whether motorcycles or cars came first, and give you a brief history of the motorcycle.

This vehicle was invented by German engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1885, just one year before Karl Benz invented the first car, the Benz Patent Motorwagen. Daimler and Maybach’s vehicle, the Daimler Reitwagen, was based on a bicycle and had a 0.5 horsepower single-cylinder gas motor.

What makes the Reitwagen not quite a motorcycle, however, was the fact that it had four wheels. It did have two large main wheels, one in front of the engine and one behind, but it also had two smaller supporting wheels on either side.

Therefore, you COULD consider the Reitwagen to be the first gas-powered motorcycle, albeit one with built-in training wheels. However, there exist earlier steam-powered vehicles that could also be considered motorcycles.

In short, if you consider the definition of a motorcycle to be “a gas-powered vehicle with two wheels”, then yes, the car came first. However, if you’re willing to expand your definition a little bit, then you could very well argue that motorcycles came first.

History of the Motorcycle

We’ve talked about the first gas-powered vehicle to resemble a motorcycle, but there are earlier vehicles powered by steam that are pretty similar to modern motorcycles. Steam engines have existed in one form or another for hundreds of years, with the first commercially successful steam engine being developed in the year 1712.

In the early 1800s, steam technology had developed to the point where it was now feasible to use steam engines to power moving vehicles. Eventually, in the 1860s, the first-ever powered vehicle resembling a motorcycle came into being.

This first motorcycle was invented by Ernest Michaux, the son of a Parisian blacksmith named Pierre Michaux. Aside from being a blacksmith, Pierre also made and sold bicycles. This first motorcycle was created when Ernest installed a small steam engine on one of his father’s bikes.

However, this wasn’t the only steam-powered motorcycle being created at this time. In 1868, an American named Sylvester H. Roper invented his own steam-powered motorcycle. Not only did it have only two wheels, but it had a twist grip to actuate the throttle, just like a modern-day motorcycle.

Eventually, this progressed to building motorcycles with gasoline engines, like the Reitwagen, and by the 1890s, there were many manufacturers making similar vehicles. Most of these manufacturers were former bicycle companies that adapted their existing designs to accommodate gasoline engines.

Most of the early motorcycle companies were based in Europe, but these days it’s Japanese manufacturers that tend to dominate the motorcycle industry.

Is it True that Cars Can Go Quicker Than Motorcycles on Turns?

All else being relatively equal, it is true that a car can go quicker than a motorcycle in turns. On average, motorcycles have better acceleration and can easily pass highway traffic made up of slower-moving cars that simply cannot keep up with a motorcycle. So why would it be the case that cars can be quicker on turns?

Why Are Motorcycles So Much Louder Than Cars or Buses?

Ever wondered why motorcycles seem to be louder than anything else on the road? As it turns out, there are several aspects of a motorcycle’s design that make them louder than other vehicles, as well as several reasons why motorcycles are permitted to be so loud to begin with.

What are Some Differences Between Cars and Motorcycles?

Ever wonder about the important differences between cars and motorcycles? Find out all you need to know! Other than the obvious motorcycles have 2 wheels and cars have 4 wheels, there are plenty of differences between the two. Let’s go over them.

What Is the Difference Between a Motorcycle and a Scooter?

Have you been wondering what the difference between a motorcycle and a scooter is? We explain the differences here. Indeed, both of these vehicles have two wheels, a twist throttle, and space for one or two people to ride on.