A Beginner’s Guide to Motorcycles

There are few things more liberating than a fast, powerful motorcycle. But they’re also dangerous and difficult to master. As such, there’s a whole subculture that grew up around them and has associated them with both freedom and danger. But if you’re just starting to look into getting your first bike, the jargon can be confusing.

The basics of a motorcycle are relatively simple: A gasoline engine turns the reciprocating motion of its pistons into rotary motion to drive the back wheel, which propels the vehicle forward. The rider steers the front wheel via handlebars by leaning one way or another, with two hand levers to control the clutch and front brake.

Unlike cars, which are large and slow to get going, motorcycles are small and agile – perfect for navigating narrow city streets and avoiding traffic jams. Their compact size also means they can fit into parking spots that a car wouldn’t be able to squeeze into.

While the early era of motorized cycles was dominated by steam and rail transport, the invention of the internal combustion engine changed all that. Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach were among the inventors who first incorporated the new technology into a bicycle-styled vehicle they called a Petroleum Reitwagen in 1885. It was the world’s first motorcycle, and it laid the foundation for the modern design of this incredible machine.