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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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The First Motorcycle Ever Built

Posted January 18, 2010 11:23 AM by dstrohl

We car guys can easily pinpoint the first automobile ever built, right? How about the first motorcycle? Bonhams will be auctioning what they describe as the first motorcycle built – an 1895 Hildebrand and Wolfmuller at the International Classic MotorCycle Show in Staffordshire in April. Interestingly, their pre-auction estimate is £40,000 to £60,000, or about $65,000 to $98,000. From the Bonhams press release:

"The Hildebrand brothers, Henry and Wilhelm, developed their motorcycle in partnership with Alois Wolfmüller and his mechanic, Hans Geisenhof. Their design was powered by a twin-cylinder, water-cooled, four-stroke engine displacing 1,488cc, which until relatively recent times was the largest power unit ever fitted to a motorcycle. Despite a maximum power output of only 2.5bhp at 240rpm, the H&W was capable of speeds approaching 30mph, an exciting prospect at a time when powered road transport of any sort was still a novelty."

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#1

Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

01/18/2010 5:38 PM

Great reading, but I just Wiki'd this;

The picture is stated to be of an 1885 motorcycle ?!? Either way you slice it, that's an interesting write-up dstrohl. Thanks.

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#2
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Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

01/19/2010 6:53 AM

Hello Chris, my request will be off this topic but my lack of pc knowledge has eventually forced me to ask the embarrassing question to something that must be quite simple. To say thanks to those CR4'ers who helped me out with info on my last project, I wanted to post pictures of the completed result of their input. How do I take an image from my pc and put it in this block without getting this: (file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Leon/My%20Documents/LEON/PHOTO%20LIBRARY/private/SCOOTS/20091130/Image017.jpg) any help would be greatly appreciated. thanking in advance, regards, leon.

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Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

01/19/2010 8:52 AM

Hi Leonf, not sure that I know, but there are two methods to get a picture onto CR4. The 'approved' method is to use the green camera icon that appears in CR4's Editor box;

The alternate way if to 'cut and paste', which is easiest done by right clicking the mouse. I've never bothered checking, but the latter method probably leaves a trail back to your root folder that contains the image. I suspect that loading the picture into CR4 the 'approved' way will obliterate the trail. Another possibility is to upload pictures to one of the hosting sites such as Flickr and copy across.

Hopefully one of the computer-savvy folk will pass by and be able to give you a more informed reply.

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Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

01/19/2010 10:04 PM

I don't get a toolbar with these options unless I go in via firefox.

Hence the reason I rarely put up photos, or use emoticons.

Typically I use my hotmail account come out of now Safari.

I've long forgotten my password.

I've got some gmail account, but frankly can't recall what its password is.

As far as the engines and the motorcycles, it is odd, don't you think, that they did not find utilization for early aircraft?

Makes me wonder what motorcycle engines now exist, that would be useful for aircraft designs.

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Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

01/20/2010 7:34 AM

Pasting up photo's can be useful, but isn't really essential in many threads. A good written description can be just as useful and had I the literary skills I'd try and do more descriptive. A fair number of folk are quite averse to smilies/emoticons, so it's a bit like 'you can't please all of the people all of the time'.

I use the (reportedly) leaky IE7, though occasionally log in via Firefox. Both work OK, though I understand that there are problems with other browsers. Giving a web-link is a good enough way of pointing people to an image if needed, and cuts down on page clutter. From what I've read, some people experience problems with pages loading slowly. If I understand correct, that can be in part due to loads of pictures on a thread.

The engine/aircraft thing is presumably down to weight/power. I'd dare not speculate further when CR4 has many experts (such as masu) who could provide an excellent discourse on the topic. I'm slightly out of my depth even venturing onto a motorcycle thread ! Still, it's interesting to go out of ones depth and read something new.

If it's any consolation, I'm forever forgetting passwords. Even when I write them down and store them in a 'safe' place, I usually forget where the 'safe' place is. On a distant thread, there still remain the embarrassing remains of my Guest posting to Chris and asking how to recover my CR4 password. I think they now have a 'password recovery' button, though on reflection my lapse (and subsequent pleading) was quite funny.

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#4
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Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

01/19/2010 1:58 PM

The second picture is probably of a facsimile of the first working motorcycle designed by Gottlieb Daimler. It had a wooden frame and a 264cc single cylinder engine (sorry, don't know what that is in American) but was lost in a fire in 1903. It was called 'Einspur' which translates to 'Single track' possibly because it only made or needed one track. The other machine is probably the earliest one still in existence and none the worse for that.

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#7

Re: The First Motorcycle Ever Built

04/17/2011 6:17 PM

Some people do accept the Hildebrand and Wolfmüller motorrad as the first motorcycle. Those who do so believe that the 1885 Reitwagen should not be considered a motorcycle due to the fact that Daimler and Maybach (the builders) had no interest in motorcycles and do the fact that the Reitwagen with it's 2 outrigger wheels was actually an automobile.

Others reject the Hildebrand and Wolfmüller for much the same reason, a lack of motorcycle appearance based on the basic appearance of motorcycles from the 1930s.

Perhaps the BEST alternative candidate for the first real motorcycle is the Laurin & Klement Slavia Model A. The logic in this instance is that the L&K was the first purpose built motorcycle with an IC engine, which is true. The H&W is based on the H&W STEAM powered motorrad, not on IC engine designs.

Another candidate, which some other people propose is the 1900 model of Werner Freres of Paris. The 1900 Werner IS the model of modern motorcycles and was patented with the engine at the bottom of the frame, which has proven to be the best location since. It was also a mass produced machine that made Werner Freres the world's largest maker of motorcycles in the early years of the 20th century.

For my opinion, I reject this too, as most of these early machines were actually mopeds. They were all started by pushing or pedaling and thus lose the right to be considered motorcycles. The exception being the first motorcycle, the Reitwagen which like later machines, was started by cranking.

These early engines had total loss oiling systems, were incredibly unreliable, especially those with electric ignition, or tended to flame up, which the hot tube units do. So I look for true modernity in a high quality engine and frame. I consider the 1923 BMW R32 model to the the truly correct first motorcycle which started by a crank, and had a closed oil crankcase, since the M2B15 engine was in fact designed to the same standards as an Aircraft Engine.

That engine was widely adopted and appeared in 1920 on the Victoria KR1, which was considered (by some) to be the highest performance motorcycle of that era (until the R32).

I accept the Reitwagen as the first true motorcycle based on several factors.

  1. It has a Liquid Petroleum Fueled internal combustion engine
  2. It starts by a hand crank
  3. It is propelled from the start by it's IC engine, not the rider
  4. It's engine lead to the development of the rest of the automotive industry
  5. It is the first Automobile
  6. It is a motorcycle because you ride ON it, not in it so it is NOT a car.

see http://www.rider-and-road.com for details.

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