Friday, June 27, 2008

Yamaha Yzf-R15 Technology


Yamaha Yzf-R15 Technology

Yamaha’s path-breaking YZF-R15 flags off the advent of exciting technology on Indian bikes. We get out the magnifying lens and give you a macro view.

Yamaha’s been taking a thrashing in the Indian market for several years. Dwindling sales, umpteen model failures and a confused identity have kept this Japanese giant in the background several years.

Yet, the firm has proved it’s made of stern stuff by not throwing in the towel. Confirming they are in this game for the long haul the giant is back with a bang. No one doubts Yamaha holds the keys to cutting-edge motorcycle technology, still, it will soon become the first manufacturer to offer this to Indian models.
The YZF-R15 is built for performance, and shows the way forward to its competition in more ways than one. We peer beneath the skin of this adrenaline pumping model.



Liquid-cooling allows engineers to extract exciting performance from an engine, and is a technology that makes good sense for India, where the climate is often naturally hot and tough on engines.
Almost all motorcycles seen on our roads have till now used air-cooling. The R15 will break the mold deploying fluid to help it’s approximately 18bhp, 150cc, 4-stroke and single-cylinder engine maintain it’s cool. Liquid-cooled engines circulate a mixture of water and coolants with anti-freeze and anti-rust properties, constantly circulating this blend around galleries enveloping hot parts of the engine. The liquid serves to carry and transfer engine heat to the atmosphere by means of a heat exchanger, a compact radiator. Liquid-cooling involves the incorporation of jacket like passages tunneling into the cylinder and head, and promotes superior and uniform engine cooling.


Fuel injection will be used by the YZF-R15 resulting in acknowledged benefits such as easy starts, clean engine performance, good economy and greener emissions. Injection works its magic thanks to providing lightning quick and precise doctoring of the air-fuel ratio for optimal combustion.
Fuel injectors on the R15 shall be of a six-hole sort, relying on inputs from sensors supplying information to its nerve center, an Electronic Control Unit or ECU. Throttle position, airflow, engine temperature, intake air temperature, intake pressure, and engine speed will be factors accounted for by the ECU before it decides on the perfect air-fuel recipe needed to be fed to the engine.

DiASil cylinder

DiASil stands short for Die-casting Aluminum-Silicon, and is a Yamaha breakthrough that enables manufacturing a light, yet strong engine-cylinder that mates 20 percent silicon content with an alloy of aluminum. DiASil is an all-aluminum die-cast cylinder that manages 60 percent better cooling performance while also enjoying a 30 percent cheaper production cost compared to a conventional cylinder. This Yamaha expertise provides outstanding resilience, with another benefit being the prevention of oil vaporization from the cylinder. The R15 shall utilize a DiASil tech enabled cylinder similar to that used by its bigger brother, the formidable YZF-R1.

A 4-Valve, Hemispherical Combustion Chamber

The YZF-R15 is set to operate 4-valves within its head in the latest Yamaha’s quest to encourage respectable performance at high engine speeds.
Four valves serve to open vast surface area in the cylinder during the inlet and exhaust strokes. A two valve construction cannot allow past as much volume of air-fuel mixture unless the valves are large. And then, an oversize valve footprint means adding inertia to the valve-train that is a hitch at high rpm where valves must open and shut at lightning speed. Extra valves promote swifter gas velocity and rake up high turbulence within the cylinder. This translates into enhanced filling and mixing of air and fuel, which means better combustion at high engine speeds. An extra surface area is further welcome because valves open only briefly at higher rpm during when there is a need to cram the cylinder with a high volume of charge.
In addition to four-valves, the R15 deploys a hemispherical combustion chamber with its spark plug screwed into the center. Yamaha say this is to ensure an even flame spread and allows relatively complete combustion.

Forged Piston

Forged pistons start life formed from a solid billet in a die under pressure, as opposed to a cast piston that takes form from molten metal poured in a mold. Forging as a process compresses alloy molecules densely, this making the piston more resistant to the thrashing it must endure during combustion. Forged pistons are often used in high performance engines such as be used by the YZF-R15, as they are better suited to extreme temperatures and high rpm operation.

6-Speed Close Ratio Gearbox

The YZF-R15 is equipped with a six-speed, close-ratio gearbox that will allow riders to exploit the best from their motorcycle. Expect the new gearbox to shift in a one-down and five-up pattern. This transmission when used properly shall aid sporty performance and good acceleration with a consistent feel of power at all speeds.

Fairing Protection

The R15 will become one of the few bikes in India to use a fairing and twin headlights when it launches in the middle of 2008. Apart from adding to style, a fairing shields riders from wind buffet when riding at high speeds. Yamaha tell us the R15 fairing is designed in a wind-tunnel, so as to minimize drag and keep the bike as aerodynamic and slippery as possible.

Delta-Box Frame

Among the most crucial advances to be provided by the YZF-R15 will be Yamaha’s Delta-box frame, a Japanese pioneered technology that will be deployed for the first time in an Indian motorcycle. Bikes here have long since used tubular frames, these perched a generation behind this superior type of chassis. The R15 frame shall use generously proportioned frame spars running from the steering head down to the swingarm pivot, providing superb rigidity, perfect stability and control that will allow riders to harness their motorcycle’s potential.

Linked Type Monocross Rear Suspension

Around the globe, single central suspension systems with innovative linkages have replaced dual suspension units at the rear of a bike. Honda’s Unicorn already uses a mono-shock to India. Yet, the YZF-R15 improves on that to use a linked type single suspension system at the rear known as Monocross by Yamaha. This advanced suspension provides progressive rate suspension that is certain to excel at pampering a rider’s spine on rough Indian roads. The Monocross system will be a key factor helping the R15 achieve the best possible handling under any given condition.  

Rear Disc Brake

The R15 will enjoy the reassuring safety of a rear disc brake. Most motorcycling enthusiasts in India have already experienced the superior strength, bite, and fade-free brake character offered by a front disc brake. And there already exist few bikes like the Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi and TVS Apache RTR 160 FI offering a rear disc unit too.

Snail Cam Chain Adjusters

The YZF-R15 uses snail cam chain adjusters that are superior kit as compared to the simple nut and bolt systems used across almost all Indian motorcycles (barring Royal Enfield models). Snail cam adjusters are relatively simple to work with, and offer accurate alignment of the rear wheel each time the drive chain is adjusted for play.

The YZF-R15 marks a turning point for Indian motorcycles. With this bike Yamaha gets back to doing what it excels. A technology rich and focused approach to our market loudly proclaims they are not interested in joining the rat-race to make more copy cat bikes that provide good fuel economy. Bold as it is, the YZF-R15 shatters all benchmarks en-route to delivering Indian bikers the whole gamut of motorcycle technology possible on a small capacity model. Built to excel in Indian conditions, it will be impressive to see whether the R15 lives up to all the hype and still stay affordable.
The R1 junior proves there’s often a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes a big blinding one.

Tvs Apache Rtr Fi Rt


Tvs Apache Rtr Fi Rt

Another new premium bike hits the road. TVS’s RTR already touches the hearts of many motorcycle enthusiasts. Can a good thing get still better?

Good Fierce brake bite, good power delivery
Bad Side-stand interferes with foot, ill-fitting mirror boots

The sporty Apache RTR only just showed us the TVS Motor Company aren’t just in our market to make economy bikes the like of the Victor and StaR, and the exciting new fuel injected RTR proves their brave new philosophy is here to stay.

Injection promises to permeate the Indian biking scene. Undoubtedly the next big thing already happening, the technology offers easier starts, greener emission laundering, crisp throttle response as well as Shylock (or uncle Scrooge)-friendly fuel economy that will eventually demote old school carbureted motorcycles to the scrap yard. We ride the pants of the new TVS flagship to find out just how good this motorcycle is.
Design & Engineering

9 stars
TVS’s Apache RTR FI looks a twin of its predecessor, but those with an eye for detail won’t miss the new FI decal clinging to the tail fairing. It’s a mobike that looks really dashing in a sunny yellow shade and one that uses black to colour much including its six spoke rims, engine side panels and exhaust can. Pleasant touches that shout out the FI’s sporty focus are a daring Ford GT style stripe bisecting the bike, belly pan, exposed chain as well as racy pin stripes running the circumference of its wheels.
The new RTR retains an excellent headlight, as well as an exquisitely detailed triple clamp section with sweetly turned out clip on handlebars. Smart digital instrumentation is the order of the day, with blue backlighting as well as an illuminated tachometer needle in place.

Clever features engineered to hold an enthusiast’s attention come in the form of a top speed and 0-60kph acceleration time recorder, these in addition to the earlier experienced digital speedometer with twin trip facility, clock and even a due-for-service light. We noted the FI shares curiously large diameter palm grips and ill-fitting mirror boots with the old Apache, both of which are not to our taste. Yet, the bike mirrors are nice and broad and this is among the only Indian bikes to show off really smart buffed alloy levers. The FI also enjoys a really well chiseled fuel-tank, this stunning to behold when viewed from every angle. The RTR FI continues to excite with tasteful flank panels, and does well to deploy an alloy brake pedal and footrests. An easily rectified disappointment on our test bike was a poorly positioned side stand fouling with the gearshift foot. And we feel TVS can do better with styling of the LED equipped tail light section.

The RTR FI comes with a fantastic level of attention to detail, good paint quality and adequate fit-finish, rubber and plastic quality.

Engine, Gearbox & Performance

9 stars

There’s little chance of riders returning to a carbureted bike after experiencing the magic of fuel injection, this precisely what places the FI version a clear notch above the earlier RTR.

Easy starts are to be taken for granted on the RTR FI, with its fuel pump audibly whirring to life and tachometer stylishly rotating a diagnostic cycle each time the bike is cold-started. The RTR uses the same willing and short-stroke, 159.7cc, single-cylinder and air-cooled motor as first found on the Apache RTR. Its alloy engine casing looks smart with fine detailing and a muscular air. The bike uses a twin-valve and single spark-plug head. It also contracts friction murdering roller bearings for its rocker arms. And while power (15.7bhp at 8500rpm) and torque (1.33kgm at 6500rpm) output as well as performance on the new bike stay sadly near identical to the carburettor equipped cousin, power delivery feels clearly linear and smoother thanks to the new found injection. The FI shows the way forward for Indian bikes thanks to use of an exposed O’ring sealed drive chain.

It retains all the exciting short stroke rev happy nature of the RTR but riding feel has improved leaps and bounds thanks to the peppy engine adding on a useful helping of refinement as also lightning throttle response that rides hand-in-hand with fuel injection. There’s a new found smoothness to keep vibe levels at acceptable levels throughout a wide power band that peaks at a true 10500rpm. Our fastest 0-60kph run on the FI was 5.02 seconds, while top speed achieved was 119kph. A disappointment on the new TVS is a heavy speedometer error that we spotted on the test data.

The RTR FI enjoys a well sorted five-speed transmission box, as well as precise and well weighted clutch. It’s effortless to select gears via the sporty toe-shift lever, while another FI delight is its distinct and rorty exhaust note that strums out from the exhaust.  

Ride, Handling & Braking

9 stars

The latest Apache makes a surefire recipe to enchant riders that yearn the feel of a true sports motorcycle. Low slung clip-on bars, rear-set riding pegs and a compact feel are all a part of this sporty model. The FI uses a twin downtube frame with a rectangle section swingarm, telescopic front fork suspension and top spec gas charged twin shocks at the rear. Rim sizes are a blend of 17 inch in front and 18 at rear while the bike uses TVS’s very own tyres. And while enthusiasts will take to this bikes weight forward riding position like ducks to water, the unduly tall and those looking for commuter bikes will be well advised to steer clear towards more conservative and mundane bikes available in India by the droves.

The RTR FI enjoys a comfortable riding saddle, with ride quality leaning a little to the firm side. Handling is sharp and sporty, just a wee bit heavy at low speeds thanks to the aggressive and radical riding stance, but just as the doctor ordered really stable and well planted in high speed situations. Cornering manners are equally well sorted, as are the brilliant set of brakes on this machine. The FI uses a top class 270mm petal type disc in front that offers fierce bite, also adding on a 200mm petal disc to the rear. While our test bike pictured here came with the rear drum brake option, we have ridden the rear disc brake version and can confirm this offers the right kind of progressive stopping power required from a rear brake. Our best stop on the FI had the bike coming to rest from 60kph in 17.76 meters.

Fuel Economy

7 stars
The RTR series are bikes built squarely to enthrall riding enthusiasts, yet fuel injection accords the FI a noticeable mileage advantage over its carburettor equipped relative. While negotiating a grueling city test route the fuel injected model delivered us 43kpl. The RTR FI also performed suitably on its highway run returning us 47.7kpl.


8 stars
The Apache RTR FI looks a treat, comes with ample frills and features and enjoys a sporty niche it can rightfully claim its very own. This flagship proves the TVS Motor Company bold enough to introduce the future in the present, with proven fuel injection technology bolted onto an enthusiastically tuned and rev-hungry power plant.
Don’t consider the FI if looking for a boring commuter bike, but there’s little doubt the RTR FI makes a sporty thoroughbred that is a must have for every motorcycle devotee looking at a bike in the vicinity of a 150.

Hero Honda-Hunk


Hero Honda-Hunk

Hero Honda has had its fingers sunk into the 150cc pie for a while now. Its CBZ launched as the first Indian 150 in early 1999. Hero Honda has just unleashed its Hunk, the model it believes will deliver the Pulsar a sucker punch. Can the Hunk succeed where so many have failed?:


A sleekly-proportioned motorcycle, the new Hero Honda attracts attention wherever it goes. It sports an exquisitely sculpted front bikini fairing, with a bright halogen-equipped headlight. And it offers the facility of a pass light switch and easily-cancelled indicators. The Hunk would have done well to move with the times and ditch its analogue clocks. It does win back some brownie points with excellent palm grips, nice levers and effective rear-view mirrors.

The Hunk has an awesome fuel-tank, with cowls jutting ahead to close the void to its front fairing, recesses that comfortably accommodate a rider’s knees and a smart alloy fuel-filler. Well thought out ergonomics delight on the bike, with a pronounced seat step adding to style, while simultaneously offering a nice feel. The engine looks trendy thanks to a black theme and noticeable red plug-cap. Moving to the rear, you will notice Hero Honda has excelled with the execution of its dual-tone rear fairing, which leads into a mudguard extending well beyond its simple tail-light. While our first impression had this overhang looking out of place, in time it actually grew on us. It uses handsome alloy wheels and subtle, yet excitingly-coloured front forks and rear shock-absorbers. Lustrous paint sheen, exemplary fit and finish, super attention to detail and top-drawer rubber and plastic are present on the Hunk.

The Hunk derives power from a near-vertically arranged single cylinder that is air cooled, displaces 149.2cc and uses aluminium-alloy for its head as well as cylinder construction. The twin-valve motor breathes via a CV carburettor and offers friction-reducing bearings between its rocker arms and valve contact surfaces. The Hunk generates 14.4bhp of power at 8500rpm. This Hero Honda engine note is docile until given the stick, at which point it takes on a lovely rorty tone and goads riders to rev harder.

The Hunk feels smoother than a Pulsar, although it surprisingly doesn’t match a Honda Unicorn for refinement, despite using almost the same Honda engine. The Hunk offers a one-down, four-up-shifting five-speed transmission and its positive gearbox is a pleasure to shift through. Clutch action is, likewise, enjoyable; smooth with a light, near-perfect pull. Riders with a penchant for a sporty feel will enjoy the toe shift lever of the Hunk. The Hunk delivers an exciting rush of power when called upon, and runs cleanly through its wide powerband to deliver good throttle response with low vibe levels. A standing start to 60kph run took the Hunk 5.56sec with the 100kph mark coming up in 22.75sec The Hunk manages a top speed of 107kph.

The Hunk uses a Hero Honda-typical single tube that reaches down to grasp onto its engine, a stressed member. Suspension bits are a constant, with preset telescopic forks used in front and gas-charged twin dampers provided in conjunction with a box-section swingarm on the rear the bike. The Hunk uses top-class MRF rubber.

The Hunk still embraces a similar weight-pushed-forward, yet roomy experience as first offered on the CBZ, with an ideal riding position. Ride quality — a dark area on several Hero Hondas — is thankfully now up there with the best on the Hunk.

This brings us to handling, a parameter for which the CBZ X-treme held the ‘best-in-class’ trophy till a short while ago. The Hunk goes one up on cousin X, displaying exemplary cornering manners, a reassuring, planted feel at all times and lightning-quick turn-in that allowed us to leave our apex geometry down to the last possible instant. It’s a bike that feels just as effortlessly at home in the mountains, as it does pottering around in crowded city conditions. Straight-line stability is fair, with excellent brakes also a welcome attribute. The Hunk achieves quick stops using a disc in front and drum at the rear.

In the city the Hunk went through a litre of fuel after 46.9kms, and on the highway it returned 50.2kpl.

Say hello to the new Hunk, a bike that does manage to lift the segment crown. The new Hero looks better than a Pulsar, offers a reliable Honda engine and a fantastic riding position, while lifting the handling bar a notch higher than any 150 thus far. Yes, a Pulsar still provides some extras lacking on the Hero Honda, like digital instruments and intelligent switchgear, but were you to ask us, the Hunk is the model that finally pulls past the Pulsar to perch atop a bustling 150cc segment.

Bajaj-Pulsar : - 220

 Bajaj-Pulsar : - 220

It doesn’t happen every other month but at times, you just know when a bike is destined to strike a high note. Hero Honda did it with its CBZ a few years ago and we think Bajaj’s Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi has the trappings of becoming a similar landmark bike in India. We first sighted the 220 at the Auto Expo last year, rode it for a few laps for our August 2006 issue and since then couldn’t wait to get our hands on one for a road test. But does this much-awaited bike successfully translate strategy to become a sought-after motorcycle? :


Pulsar ancestry is clearly visible in the new 220cc DTS-Fi. But what strikes the eye is how cleverly the bike hides its 150kg bulk. Bajaj’s latest creation is compact and will look just right to the average Indian rider. The voluminous front fairing packs away ample tuck-in area and houses a set of vertically stacked headlights that are clearly the best yet on any Indian bike. Twin 55W projector low beam and 70mm parabolic high beam transform inky nights into day, helping keep nasty surprises on the road at bay.

On the flip side, the attractive fairing-mounted mirrors reflect little other than the rider's elbows. The backlit switchgear feels perfect to the touch and is totally contact-free, also featuring self-cancelling turn indicators. Grips and brake and clutch levers are adequate. Look ma, no bulbs! Only amber-coloured LEDs are used for the instruments, dominated by a large analogue rev counter. A contact-free digital speedometer drive displays precise speeds in a digital read-out. An engine-redline flasher strobes out its communication when the bike is over-revved; the same light doubles up as a low-fuel warning icon.

Bajaj has persevered with the same tank on the 220, adding embossed decals and a tank pad. The stepped seat is adequately padded for both rider and pillion and ends in a smart two-piece grab bar. Angular side panels and a smooth tail fairing add panache, as do strips of nifty LED brake warning lights.

While a massive stainless steel and alloy silencer go a long way in adding zing to the 220’s presence, lightweight alloy is used liberally for its rims, steering head, footrest-mounts and fuel-filler lid. The new Pulsar offers a little under-seat storage cubby that can be unlocked via a cable release located under its lockable side panel.

Turn the ignition and you instantly hear a typical twin-spark hum. This 220cc motor lives sans a kick-starter and is Bajaj’s first fuel-injected bike. A battery-saving feature trips a circuit when the self-starter is engaged for too long. Also, the headlamp shuts by default when the starter engages.

DTS-Fi, an acronym for Digital Twin Spark-Fuel injected, implies the marriage of twin spark plugs and fuel-injection within its four-stroke cycle engine. Running two valves, the Pulsar DTS-Fi engine is air-cooled and circulates oil to an oil-cooler to further control temperature. Bajaj's largest powerplant employs roller bearings for the rocker arm pivots and camshaft interfaces, as well as an ExhausTEC chamber to beef up low-down power. This bike is amongst India’s most powerful with a healthy 20bhp developed at 8500rpm. Maximum torque of 1.95kgm twists out at 6500rpm.

The Pulsar DTS-Fi uses a sweet-shifting five-speed, one-down-and-four-up gearbox complemented by a well-weighted clutch. Feel through the sporty toe gear-change lever — which may not go down well with commuters — offers just the right resistance. A significant feature on the DTS-Fi is an exposed ‘O’ ring sealed drive chain that comes with all links pre-lubed and sealed for good reliability and long life.

Fuel injection technology is the raison d’etre for the bike’s fabulous throttle response and wafer-crisp power-delivery throughout the power band. The exhaust note is soft, yet throaty near idle, but can get alarmingly raucous when revved hard. Engine flexibility is fantastic, the bike pulling cleanly away in top gear from speeds as low as 23-25kph. Not that many riders will be able to ride at those speeds for the Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi is a bike that constantly tempts you to pull out a whip and whack it hard.

The Pulsar DTS-Fi can thunder past 60kph in 4.42 seconds and whiz past 110kph in only 18.79sec. Top whack is an impressive true 131kph. It’s a bike that comes into its element the moment rpm climbs over 6K and is at ease cruising between 100-115kph. Speedometer error is negligible.

The DTS-Fi’ got an unabashedly sporty riding position with low clip-on handlebars and decidedly rear-set footrests. And, it’s built to seat a rider high that will please shorter riders. The DTS-Fi uses substantial forks, a twin-member tubular frame and an elliptical swingarm mounted on needle roller bearings. Gas-charged twin shocks are used at the rear. Chunky MRF tubeless tyres —90/90 x 17 inches in front and 120/80 x 17 inches at the rear — are as good as they get.

The bike belies its 150kg kerb weight, flicking through tight corners with ease. It’s planted and stable even around the 100kph mark. Ride quality is pleasantly plush without any sign of wallowing, while cornering manners remain neutral and safely predictable at all times. Which brings us to the super brakes — a potent front 260mm disc complemented by a 230mm rear disc.

Fuel economy and performance never go hand in hand. So one cannot expect to own a bike as quick as the Pulsar 220cc DTS-Fi and yet expect wallet-friendly behaviour. Nevertheless, the latest Pulsar delivers 37.7kpl in crowded city-riding conditions. At speeds around 80kph on the highway, the bike returned 36.2kpl.

Striking styling, more features than we could imagine, a crisp and potent 220cc fuel-injected 20bhp motor, as well as solid handling make the new Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi a bike that only happens once in a while in India. The Pulsar DTS-Fi offers it all, and then some more, with only one question tucked away for now. Reliability is this question to which only time holds the key. Bajaj’s latest creation is priced well too and earns India’s most desirable motorcycle tag.



R15 - Exclusive prices

Passing on the “R series” DNA

- Humachine Technologies & Sensual Racing Form - The YZF-R1 and YZF-R6 are equipped with under cowls that are based on the image of a diffuser, to give them the best form for aero-management. These are not cowls for simply enclosing the engine, but forms composed of blade surfaces that actively control airflow. This spirit has been directly inherited by the YZF-R15. “Harmony between rider and machine.” YAMAHA's Human Technology involves studying the form of the motorcycle actually in motion with the rider on it. The R series is the embodiment of 1) a wide frontal space that protects the rider, 2) an easy to ride seating area that gives riders the freedom of movement and allows them to steer effectively, 3) the glamorous tail treatment that takes into account the management of airflow behind the rider, and 4) a sensual racing form that brings all 3 of these elements together in a harmonious package. These characteristics have been splendidly reproduced in the YZF-R15. Additionally, the designs were developed in the same modeling room where YZF-R1 designers worked. Information was shared, ensuring that the R lineage would be transmitted. In addition, the model also incorporates a multitude of adjustments for the Indian market including seat shape that allows for tandem riding (integrated with the main seat), tandem grips that are easy to grip and also contribute to the supersport design, and a riding position that takes into account comfort, etc. In other words, the YZF-R15 is characterized by a hybrid design that combines the world-class design of the “R” series with localized functions. The YZF-R15 was created to lead the supersport category in India.

R15 - Exclusive prices

R15 - Exclusive prices



Yamaha - Exclusive prices


YZF-R1 - State-of-the art race technology

The YZF-R1 is a legend of the supersport world, an acclaimed one-litre performer that’s become a motorcycling icon, an all-powerful World Superbike race-winning machine that’s also a monument to the power of beauty. The R1’s performance is electrifying and yet what makes this motorcycle truly remarkable is its superbly rider-friendly character because Yamaha’s avant-garde, race-bred technology puts you confidently in control.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

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Main article: Motorcycle history
Replica of the Daimler-Maybach Reitwagen
Replica of the Daimler-Maybach Reitwagen
A 1913 Fabrique National in-line four with shaft drive from Belgium
A 1913 Fabrique National in-line four with shaft drive from Belgium
A  pre-war Polish Sokół 1000
A pre-war Polish Sokół 1000

The inspiration for arguably the first motorcycle was designed and built by the German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt (since 1905 a city district of Stuttgart) in 1885.[1] The first petroleum-powered vehicle, it was essentially a motorised bicycle, although the inventors called their invention the Reitwagen ("riding car"). However, if one counts two wheels with steam propulsion as being a motorcycle, then the first one may have been American. One such machine was demonstrated at fairs and circuses in the eastern U.S. in 1867, built by Sylvester Howard Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts.[1]

In 1894, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first motorcycle available for purchase.[2] In the early period of motorcycle history, many producers of bicycles adapted their designs to accommodate the new internal combustion engine. As the engines became more powerful, and designs outgrew the bicycle origins, the number of motorcycle producers increased.

An historic 1941 Crocker
An historic 1941 Crocker

Until the First World War, the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world was Indian, producing over 20,000 bikes per year. By 1920, this honour went to Harley-Davidson, with their motorcycles being sold by dealers in 67 countries, until 1928 when DKW took over as the largest manufacturer.

After the Second World War, the BSA Group became the largest producer of motorcycles in the world, producing up to 75,000 bikes a year in the 1950s. The German company NSU Motorenwerke AG held the position of largest manufacturer from 1955 until the 1970s.

NSU Sportmax streamlined motorcycle, 250 cc class winner of the 1955 Grand Prix season
NSU Sportmax streamlined motorcycle, 250 cc class winner of the 1955 Grand Prix season

In the 1950s, streamlining began to play an increasing part in the development of racing motorcycles and held out the possibility of radical changes to motorcycle design. NSU and Moto-Guzzi were in the vanguard of this development both producing very radical designs well ahead of their time.[3] NSU produced the most advanced design, but due to the deaths of four NSU riders in the 1954–1956 seasons, they abandoned further development and quit Grand Prix racing.[4] Moto-Guzzi produced competitive race machines, and by 1957 nearly all the GP races were being won by streamlined machines.[citation needed]

From the 1960s through the 1990s, small two-stroke motorcycles were popular worldwide, partly as a result of East German Walter Kaaden's engine work in the 1950s.[5]

Today, the Japanese manufacturers, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha dominate the motorcycle industry, although Harley-Davidson still maintains a high degree of popularity in the United States. Recent years have also seen a resurgence in the popularity of several other brands sold in the U.S. market, including BMW, KTM, Triumph, Aprilia, Moto-Guzzi and Ducati.

Outside of the USA, these brands have enjoyed continued and sustained success, although Triumph, for example, has been re-incarnated from its former self into a modern world-class manufacturer. In overall numbers, however, the Chinese currently manufacture and sell more motorcycles than any other country and exports are rising. The quality of these machines is asserted to be somewhat lower than their Japanese, European and American counterparts[citation needed].

Additionally, the small-capacity scooter is very popular through most of the world. The Piaggio group of Italy, for example, is one of the world's largest producers of two-wheeled vehicles. The scooter culture has, as yet, not been adopted widely in North America.[citation needed]