Edoardo Bianchi, who established his bicycle factory in 1885, sold the very first bicycles with pneumatic tires in 1888 and tested the first motorized vehicle in Italy, a tricycle with a De Dion engine in 1897. Bianchi continued to build motorcycles through the 1960s and is known today for high quality bicycles.
Gottlieb Daimler, who made the first internal-combustion motorcycle in 1885, built the very first V-Twin engine in 1889.
Emile and Armand Peugeot, who started making bicycles in 1885 and cars in 1891 in France, began building powered bicycles in 1899 and their own motorcycle engines in 1903. Today, Peugeot is known for cars, motor-scooters and bicycles.
The Princeps AutoCar company of England were the first to put a V-Twin engine motorcycle into production and advertise it for sale, in 1903.
The Triumph Company was founded in Coventry, England by German immigrants Siegfried Bettman and Mauritz Schulte in 1883 to build bicycles. Triumph built its first motorcycle in 1902 by installing a Belgian-made Minerva 240cc engine into a strengthened bicycle frame. After a brief shut-down in the 1980s, Triumph is still going strong today.
England established a national speed limit of 20 mph in 1903. Starting in 1907, sporting motorcyclists went to the Isle of Man (in the Irish Sea, between England and Ireland) to race motorcycles on the open roads. The 38 mile course was closed to the public for these events. Peugeot supplied the V-Twin engine to Norton to win the first Tourist Trophy. Motorcycle racing continues today on the Isle of Man and is one the last places on earth where races are held on roads as opposed to an enclosed track. Today, the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) also includes the TT Zero, the racing of electric motorcycles in which the e-bikes have achieved speeds of 154 mph.
The Birmingham Small Arms Company had built rifles and shotguns since 1861. In 1910 they began building motorcycles under the name BSA Cycles Ltd until 1972.
Moto Guzzi was founded in 1921 by three men who served in the Italian Air Force during World War I: Carlo Guzzi, Giorgio Parodi and Giovanni Ravelli. Moto Guzzi has continued production through today and is best known for their transverse V-Twin engine and long distance touring comfort without sacrificing sporty performance.
The Bayerische Motorenwerke (Bavarian Motor Works), better known as BMW, was formed in 1916 by the merger of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (Bavarian Aeroplane Works) and Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik (Gustav Otto Flying Machine Factory) and was a builder of flat-twin airplane engines. In 1921, their transverse opposed twin-cylinder airplane engine was modified for use in a motorcycle frame. The foundation of this "boxer" engine is still used on BMW motorcycles today. BMW branched out to building cars in 1929.
Fascinating Fact: The BMW logo, the circle with two blue quarters and two white quarters, is an image of a spinning airplane propeller.Part Two: Early European and British Motorcycles
Part Three: The First American Motorcycles
Part Six: The Later 20th Century: The Baby Boomers Become Young Adults
Part Seven: The Super Seventies
Part Eight: The American & Italian Connection