3 Apr: The First Motorbike

Gottlieb Daimler’s patent for his high-speed petrol engine (dubbed the “Grandfather Clock”) on 3rd April, 1885, wasn’t just a technological breakthrough—it inadvertently birthed the motorbike. 

Teaming up with Wilhelm Maybach, the duo had crafted a compact engine featuring float-metered carburetors and mushroom intake valves, all powered by hot tube ignition. This engine found its way into their first vehicle prototype, the Petroleum Riding Car, which bore little resemblance to today’s motorcycles but represented a pioneering step towards motorised transportation.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how it was not Daimler, but his son, Paul, who became the first-ever motorbiker; consider the steam-powered predecessors that could potentially lay claim to inventing the motorbike; and explain how Daimler took what he’d learned from these experiences to establish Mercedes…

Further Reading:

• ‘An Overview of the Motorcycle’s History’ (ThoughtCo, 2019): https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-motorcycle-1992151

• ‘History Channel’ (Motoring World, 2017): https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Motoring_World/Pt0xDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Daimler+Reitwagen&pg=PA26&printsec=frontcover

• ‘The riding car – a Daimler patent’ (Mercedes-Benz TV, 2010):