A motorcycle often called a bike, motorbike, or cycle is a two or three-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycle design varies greatly to suit a range of different purposes: long distance travel, commuting, cruising, sport including racing, and off-road riding. Motorcycling is riding a motorcycle and related social activity such as joining a motorcycle club and attending motorcycle rallies.
In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first series production motorcycle, and the first to be called a motorcycle. In 2014, the three top motorcycle producers globally by volume were Honda, Yamaha (both from Japan), and Hero MotoCorp (India).
In developing countries, motorcycles are overwhelmingly utilitarian due to lower prices and greater fuel economy. Of all the motorcycles in the world, 58% are in the Asia-Pacific and Southern and Eastern Asia regions, excluding car-centric Japan.
In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first series production motorcycle, and the first to be called a motorcycle (German: Motorrad). Excelsior Motor Company, originally a bicycle manufacturing company based in Coventry, England, began production of their first motorcycle model in 1896. The first production motorcycle in the US was the Orient-Aster, built by Charles Metz in 1898 at his factory in Waltham, Massachusetts.
In the early period of motorcycle history, many producers of bicycles adapted their designs to accommodate the new internal combustion engine. As the engines became more powerful and designs outgrew the bicycle origins, the number of motorcycle producers increased. Many of the nineteenth century inventors who worked on early motorcycles often moved on to other inventions. Daimler and Roper, for example, both went on to develop automobiles.
At the turn of the century the first major mass-production firms were set up. In 1898, Triumph Motorcycles in England began producing motorbikes, and by 1903 it was producing over 500 bikes. Other British firms were Royal Enfield, Norton and Birmingham Small Arms Company who began motorbike production in 1899, 1902 and 1910, respectively. Indian began production in 1901 and Harley-Davidson was established two years later. By the outbreak of the First World War, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world was India producing over 20,000 bikes per year.
In the 21st century, the motorcycle industry is mainly dominated by the Chinese motorcycle industry and by Japanese motorcycle companies. In addition to the large capacity motorcycles, there is a large market in smaller capacity (less than 300 cc) motorcycles, mostly concentrated in Asian and African countries and produced in China and India. A Japanese example is the 1958 Honda Super Cub, which went on to become the biggest selling vehicle of all time, with its 60 millionth unit produced in April 2008. Today, this area is dominated by mostly Indian companies with Hero MotoCorp emerging as the world’s largest manufacturer of two wheelers. Its Splendor model has sold more than 8.5 million to date. Other major producers are Bajaj and TVS Motors.
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