Motorcycle firsts and the people who did them

Motorcycle firsts and the people who did them

Posted by Ben Baker on Jan 17th 2017

There can be only one, at least when it comes to pioneers. Everyone else follows. The motorcycle world has plenty of pioneers, people who were the first to do something on two wheels. Here is a look at some of them.


Who created the first motorcycle? That depends on whom you talk to. Two-wheeled motor-driven vehicles were under development in a bunch of places at the same time. Most people credit Gottlieb Daimler and assistant Wilhelm Maybach with the first one in 1885. The wood-framed ride had what we call training wheels today.

Down the road just a bit, the first bike with mass appeal is more clear. "What is beyond dispute is that the German Hildebrand and Wolfmuller in 1894 was the first commercially successful motorcycle, while in France De Dion was building tricycles in 1895," says an article from the UK.


In the beginning of driver's licenses, a license covered cages and bikes, if the law required a license to ride a motorcycle. M-Class licenses are standard now for those who want to drive on two wheels legally. But that was not always the case. Florida began the M-class in 1983.


George Wyman was the first rider to make the trip from one shore to another. In 1903, he left San Francisco in mid-May and ended in New York City on July 6. That's 50 days and 3,800 miles. He did it on 1.25 HP 90cc bike. Read more.

The first ladies to cross the US on two wheels were the mother and daughter pair of Effie and Avis Hotchkiss. They road a 1915 Harley V-twin. They left New York and made it to San Francisco. They turned around and went back, a trip of 9,000 miles. The elder Hotchkiss rode in a sidecar. Read more.

The van Buren sisters went coast-to-coast more than 100 years ago. Roads at the time were mostly dirt. For women to ride a motorcycle was unusual. The ride was recreated last year and included relatives of the two pioneering ladies.

Bessie Stringfield was nicknamed "The Motorcycle Queen of Miami." She crossed the US eight times in total. Why is she remarkable? In her own words, "If you had black skin you couldn’t get a place to stay," she said. "I knew the Lord would take care of me and He did. If I found black folks, I’d stay with them. If not, I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle." She laid her jacket on the handlebars as a pillow and rested her feet on the rear fender.

She founded the Iron Horse MC, won and was denied the prize money after winning a race and is in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. She was a WWII dispatch rider for the military. Read more.


When was the first motorcycle race? Probably the same day two motorcycle riders met for the first time. While that date is lost to history, we do know more about organized motorcycle races. The first official race was a 400km ride in France.

Read more about the first official motorcycle races here. Warning, it's pretty gruesome in parts.


How about balancing a motorcycle on your head? Yes, there's a record for that, 14.93 seconds to be exact. Need more record trivia, check out Record Setter. Guinness World Records has more unusual motorcycle records.


The only first motorcycle ride that counts is yours. Remember when you sat in the saddle for the first time? We'd love to hear your story about your first ride. Post your comment below.