When was the first motorcycle created? (Part 1)

After much debate, most experts agree that the Reitwagen, built in Germany in 1885, is the world's first motorcycle.


The idea of motorcycles seems to have been in the minds of many engineers and inventors, especially in Europe, after the inventions of steam engines (James Watt), electric engines (Michael Faraday), bicycles, internal combustion engines (Etienne Lenoir),… in the late 18th century and early 19th century.

After much debate, most experts agree that: “The Reitwagen made in Germany in 1885 is the first motorcycle in the world.”

“The first bicycle” belongs to the Germans

The Reitwagen was created by a German named Gottlieb Daimler (1834 – 1900) in 1885. With patent number DRP 36.423, Daimler was awarded the patent on August 11, 1886, in Germany. The original prototype of the Reitwagen was lost in a major fire in 1903 at Daimler’s DMG factory in Cannstatt, so the exhibited Reitwagen in some museums are accurate replicas based on its drawings and records.

The first motorcycle ever created? (P.1) autodaily-lichsuxemay-(3).jpgGottlieb Daimler and the Reitwagen motorcycle

How did Daimler build the Reitwagen? Driven by his passion for mechanical engineering, Gottlieb Daimler showed his passion for mechanical engineering while still in high school. In 1852, Gottlieb Daimler chose mechanical engineering instead of his father’s baking profession and left his hometown to start a mechanical engineering job in Graffenstaden.

In 1857-1859, he returned to study mechanical engineering at the Stuttgart University of Technology. Then, to expand his knowledge of engineering, he went to several European countries to work on JJ Lenoir’s internal combustion engine, locomotive engines, etc.

In 1863, Daimler formed a friendship with Wilhelm Maybach, a 19-year-old new industrial designer who later became his long-term partner. In 1872, Daimler and Maybach went to work at Nikolaus Otto’s company. In the company, Daimler and Maybach joined the engineering team with Otto focusing on building four-stroke gasoline engines.

The first motorcycle ever created? (P.1) autodaily-lichsuxemay-(1).jpgDaimler built the Reitwagen from his passion for mechanical engineering

In 1877, Otto was granted a patent for a four-stroke internal combustion engine. In 1882, Daimler and Maybach left Otto’s company with the idea they had formed before, they established a production plant to research and develop small high-speed engines to be installed on a range of ground, river, and airborne vehicles.

Daimler and Maybach knew the limitations of the current Otto engine in terms of ignition and fuel supply systems – This was the difficulty that the two gentlemen had to solve. Maybach found inspiration in a drawing by English engineers Watson. After many experiments, Maybach came up with the “hot-tube ignition system” that ensured stable ignition and could increase engine speed as desired.


The first motorcycle ever created? (P.1) autodaily-lichsuxemay-(4).jpgThe engine structure on the Reitwagen

The system is structured and operates according to the principle: a tube heated from the outside, directed into the cylinder at the position of the future spark plug. When compressed by the piston in the cylinder, the fuel mixture is pushed against the hot tube and naturally ignites. During the construction and research process, the creative activities of the two gentlemen were kept strictly confidential.

The patent race

Although they knew that Otto’s patent for the 4-stroke gasoline engine (DRP 532) was still valid, with the difference in the size of the engine, the ignition system built, and especially with G. Daimler’s eloquent language, the patent for the “horizontal 4-stroke gasoline engine with hot-tube ignition” was granted on December 23, 1883. Expecting a patent race with Otto, Karl Benz, and other inventors, just one week after the patent for the “horizontal 4-stroke gasoline engine with hot-tube ignition” was granted, G. Daimler continued to submit another patent for a “speed control system of the engine by controlling the exhaust valves” to protect his invention.

The first motorcycle ever created? (P.1) autodaily-lichsuxemay-(5).jpg The first motorcycle ever created? (P.1) autodaily-lichsuxemay-(2).jpg 

A later improved version of the engine was the four-stroke engine with a vertical straight cylinder, named “pendulum clock” (because it looked like a pendulum clock) and patented in April 1885. In the “pendulum clock,” the crank mechanism and flywheel were for the first time enclosed in a dust and oil-proof housing, on top of which was the cylinder air-cooled. It was designed to be compact and suitable for installation in various types of equipment: weight 60kg, cylinder capacity 264cc, power 0.5 horsepower (0.37kW) at 650rpm. This is considered the precursor to modern gasoline engines.

To be continued

Thao Anh compiler (TTTĐ)