The world’s first motorcycle, the Reitwagen (“riding car”) or Einspur (“single track”), was patented

Saturday 29th August 1885

The world’s first motorcycle, the Reitwagen (“riding car”) or Einspur (“single track”), was patented. It was essentially a wooden bicycle, with foot pedals removed and powered by a single-cylinder, Otto-cycle engine. This invention is a key milestone in automobile history, as engines up until this point had only been used on stationary machines. The original design of 1884 used a belt drive, and twist grip on the handlebars which applied the brake when turned one way and tensioned the drive belt, applying power to the wheel, when turned the other way. The plans also called for steering linkage shafts that made two right angle bends connected with gears, but the actual working model used a simple handlebar without the twist grip or gear linkage. It had a 264-cubic-centimetre (16.1 cu in) single-cylinder Otto cycle four-stroke engine mounted on rubber blocks, with two iron tread wooden wheels and a pair of spring-loaded outrigger wheels to help it remain upright. Its engine output of 0.5 horsepower (0.37 kW) at 600 rpm gave it a speed of about 11 km/h (6.8 mph). Daimler’s 17-year-old son, Paul, rode it first on November 18, 1885, going 5–12 kilometres (3.1–7.5 mi), from Cannstatt to Untertürkheim, Germany. The seat caught fire on that excursion, the engine’s hot tube ignition being located directly underneath. Over the winter of 1885–1886 the belt drive was upgraded to a two-stage, two-speed transmission with a belt primary drive and the final drive using a ring gear on the back wheel. By 1886 the Reitwagen had served its purpose and was abandoned in favor of further development on four wheeled vehicles.The original Reitwagen was destroyed in the Cannstatt Fire that razed the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft Seelberg-Cannstatt plant in 1903, but several replicas exist in collections at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the Honda Collection Hall at the Twin Ring Motegi facility in Japan, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Ohio, and in Melbourne, Australia. The Deutsches Museum lent their replica to the Guggenheim Las Vegas The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition in 2001. The replicas vary as to which version they follow. The one at the AMA Hall of Fame is larger than the original and uses the complex belt tensioner and steering linkage seen in the 1884 plans, while the Deutsches Museum’s replica has the simple handlebar, as well as the ring gear on the rear wheel.

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