Who Invented The Motorcycle? Who Made The First Bike?

Along with passenger cars, motorcycles are considered the basic means of transportation, being around the corner for as long as one can remember. I’m sure keen motorbike enthusiasts must be dying to know who made first motorcycle and made all these achievements possible!

You have come to the right place; my insightful guide will dig deep into its inventor and historical developments. Let’s head in!

Who Was The Inventor of Motorcycle?

The first motorcycle was crafted in 1885 in Germany by Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimle. The two devised the first internal combustion bike strikingly resembling what we have got today. But the term “motorcycle” was coined later by Joel Pennington in 1893.

Gottlieb Daimler & Wilhelm Maybach
Gottlieb Daimler & Wilhelm Maybach

Other contributors deserve some credit, which I will explain below:

1. Pierre and Ernest Michaux

Pierre Michaux is credited for inventing the first bikes, though quite different from today’s models, with attached pedals, which were then called “velocipedes.” Ernest (his son) also contributed to the invention by devising small steam engines to fit into the frame.

Pierre and Ernest Michaux
Pierre Michaux

Still, whether Piere should be considered the inventor of the first motorcycle is questionable; after all, he only upgraded the already existing design (bicycle) by adding a couple of pedals. 

If anyone deserved the title of “the motorbike inventor,” it would be Earnest instead. Aside from the engines and pedals, he also built a motorcycle that – along with two other motorbikes – is labeled “among the first.”

2. Edward Butler

During the 1800s, Edward Butler from England devised a 3-wheeled, petrol-powered vehicle, using a 4-stroke engine and handlebar throttle valves to fuel the rear wheels. Once done, he decided to name it “Butler Petrol Cycles.”

Edward Butler
Edward Butler

Though not necessarily the first motorcycle developer, Edward Butler is recognized worldwide for being the first person to make petrol-engined tricycles, whose structured design motivated him to make the first modern car only years later. 

His 3-wheeled creation received an explosive debut at Karl Benz show (later the founder of Mercedes-Benz) and eventually developed into Benz Patents Motor Cars. 

3. Joel Pennington

To clarify, Joel Pennington is by no means the first motorcycle inventor. However, as he was the one who thought of the name “motorcycle” we are all familiar with today, some credit should still be given to him.

Joel Pennington

That’s right; Pennington used the term since 1893 – particularly in the title of his motorcycle company, “Motor Cycle of Ohio, Cleveland.” As such, he held rightful claims to his patency for motorcycles in general.

4. Gottlieb Daimler & Wilhelm Maybach

Wilhelm Maybach
Wilhelm Maybach

Daimler is regarded as “the motorcycle father” despite not inventing the very first motorbike model in the world. His motorcycle was the first one that operated on internal combustion engines – very similar to modern bikes we see on the streets today.

Nicolaus Otto and Wilhelm Maybach developed the first 4-stroke engine – an idea that Daimler took and refined, modifying the ignition and fueling numerous times to increase better RPMs.

When Otto left the field, Daimler continued joining Maybach to develop a carburettor, scale up the engines and place them in wooden bicycle frames with four wheels (two main ones and two extra outriggers). And that’s how the first internal combustion motorcycle was made!

As time passed by, Dailmer’s scaled-up engines only got more sophisticated. He eventually started to produce and sell motors for different automobiles and formed “Daimler-Benz” with his colleague Karl Benz – which later grew into “Mercedes-Benz” everyone knows today.

Why Were Motorcycles Invented?

Young couple on motorbike

Despite differences in designs and mindsets, all early motorcycle inventions shared the same purpose: to make riding more effortless than horses, more enjoyable than riding a bicycle or walking, and cheaper than driving a car. 

Maybach and Daimler might have had a slightly unrelated goal in the beginning – as they only wanted to test the engines rather than developing the transport vehicles themselves – but changed direction once they realized the power behind their ideas.

The Development and History of Motorcycles 

After the invention of steam engines (Pierrer/Ernest Michaux) and internal combustion (Gottlieb Daimler), motorcycles officially entered mass production, resulting in intense market competition from Japanese, American, and European giants.

  • Early 19th century: Bicycles and steam engines were combined, leading to the global realization that motorbikes could revolutionize public road transportation.
  • 1860s to 1880s: Pierre/Ernest Michaux and others experimented with pedals and steam engines.
  • 1885: Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler released the very first bike type with internal gas combustions, advancing modern motorcycles.
  • 1880s to 1900s/early 20th century: Mass production of motorbikes started expanding, with giants like Indian Motorcycle, DKW, Royal Enfield, and Harley-Davidson motorcycles invading the market.
  • 1960s: Japanese manufacturers (Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki) emerged, gaining stellar success due to a micro-focus on efficient, smaller designs.
  • 1990s: European and American motorcycle producers reclaimed their market shares in the motorcycle industry as BMW, Victory, and Ducati became increasingly popular.
  • Today: 200 million motorbikes are in use, making them among the best and most affordable motorized transportation forms.

The Future of Motorcycle Technology

With motorbike technology advancing every second to accommodate daily commute and motorcycle racing, one could expect great changes for future models: less charging time, greater board range, safety system, and ergonomics focus. 

Let’s wait and see what the future holds!

Yamaha MT-10 top speed


My article has lent critical insights into who invented motorcycles by listing out four influential names in the development of motorbikes. A full timeline is also given, ensuring a deep understanding of how these two-wheels rise to their current fame. 

Write to me if you still have questions about these powered machines.

See more:

Share on:

Daniel Barker


Daniel Barker was introduced to racing in 2006 when he experienced his first track day on his Suzuki sv650. With more than 15 years of experience on his track. Daniel is known as for his high-energy riding, drifting, precision stoppies and technical riding ability on virtually any motorcycle.

Leave a Comment