The Basics of Motorcycles

Motorcycles are motorized vehicles for transporting one or more riders, and may have three or four wheels. Unlike automobiles, they can reach very high speeds and provide an exhilarating sense of freedom. Motorcycles also have a much lower rate of fatal accidents per unit distance than passenger cars.

The earliest motorcycles were essentially steam-powered bicycles, first invented by Sylvester Howard Roper in 1867, and then improved by a number of inventors throughout the 1800s. The first commercial design was a three-wheeler, conceived by Edward Butler in Great Britain in 1884. This “Motorcycle Petrol Cycle” used a single-cylinder gasoline engine mounted between two steerable front wheels and connected to the rear wheel by a chain.

Today’s modern motorcycles are powered by internal combustion engines that run on either gasoline or diesel fuel, and may have a single or a pair of wheels. Their center of gravity is low, and their engines can achieve very high fuel efficiencies. However, their exposed riders and engines designed for goals other than fuel economy can create significant aerodynamic drag and reduce the vehicle’s ability to cut a clean path through the air.

Whether you ride to work, enjoy the camaraderie of group rides on weekends, or like to challenge yourself with off-pavement excursions, a motorcycle can be an ideal way to connect with the world around you and experience life in a completely different way. But before you can enjoy all that motorcycling has to offer, it’s important to understand the basics of the motorcycle.