there were some problems with the steam-powered bike, including a lack
of power, a tendency to explode now and again, and having to constantly
reach down and insert water and lumps of coal into the hissing, smoking
engine. Inventors looked for other approaches. One, the "Cynophere";
invented by M. Huret of Paris in 1875, was powered by two dogs running
inside the two rear wheels.
Finally, the internal
combustion gasoline engine came into being, built by N. A. Otto of
Germany in 1876. Nine years later, his former assistant, Gottlieb
Daimler, fathered the first modern motorcycle. Not that it was perfect
yet the spark plug hadn't yet been invented,
and so Daimler used a bunsen burner to heat up a metal tube that extended
into the engine's cylinder to ignite the gas and air mixture. The
problems, of course, were that the flame occasionally ignited the
rider, blew out in the wind, or, in the event of dumping the bike
over, ignited the spilled gasoline.
Finally 1895 brought
the miracles of both electrical ignition and the inflatable tire.
Up until then, "motorcycles"; were just bicycles with motors
added. Finally, in 1901 a French company actually designed a motorcycle
in which the engine was not just a clip-on, but an integral part of
the design. So confident were they that their motor would dependably
propel the cycle that they even left off the bicycle pedals.
was this first motorcycle that the world copied. First the Europeans,
then the Americans (see HARLEY) and finally, in 1908, the Japanese.
Still, it wasn't until after World War II that Soichiro Honda started
his own company and unleashed an explosion of Japanese bikes.
company had been bombed back to the stone age by Allied bombers, and
he decided to go into a new line of work at age 41. Deciding that
motorbikes might be useful in postwar Japan, he bought 500 army-surplus
generators and attached them to bicycles. They sold quickly, However,
there were no more generators available, so he designed his own motorcycle.
It took another decade before he started exporting motorcycles to
the United States with the slogan (meant as a slap at Harley and its
biker-gang customers) "You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda."
motorcycles account for more than half of the US market.