Posts Tagged ‘Untertuerkheim’

First Motorcycle

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

On this day in history – on 29 August 1885 – The German inventors, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, built the first motorcycle. In a greenhouse in Bad Cannstatt in the south of Germany, the two men invented the first gas-powered internal combustion engine. It put out 0.5 horsepower and fit under the seat of a wooden bicycle frame. The tires of their invention were studded with metal. Two outrigger wheels kept the contraption upright. Its maximum speed was 7.5 miles/hour, about the speed of a bicycle.

Daimler-Maybach had built the first motorcycle in the world, but at first, they did not call it “motorcycle.” Since its leather seat was shaped like a saddle, they initially called it Reitwagen auf zwei Raedern (riding car on two wheels.) For Daimler, the Reitwagen was only an experiment. He was looking toward showier groundbreaking inventions. Therefore, he never rode the Reitwagen himself and asked his son, Paul, to test the contraption’s performance on its initial 2-miles test run between Bad Cannstatt and Untertuerkheim.

Initially called Reitwagen auf zwei Rädern (riding car on two wheels), the first motorcycle had a speed of 7.5 miles/hour

The first motorcycle was invented by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1885

In the early days, the two-wheeler failed to catch on, aside from being popular in some upper circles in French society. German mass production did not start until the turn of the century. At that time, the Bavarian company, Hildebrandt and Wolfmueller, patented the invention under the name of Motorrad (motorcycle). The motorcycle reached its heyday in the post WWII years when it became an affordable means of transportation. With 78 miles/hour, it was fast compared to a bicycle. Then, in the 50s and 60s, people began to abandon motorcycles again in favor of cars. But starting in the 70s, motorcycles made a comeback. Ownership became synonymous with rebellion, freedom, and adventure.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.