The B. F. Goodrich Company published a book containing the history of the motorcycle and the motorcycle tire in 1918 which may make for a good read. That book is the source for this article, and it is listed below. 

German inventor, Daimler, was credited with designing and building the first motorcycle in 1886.  “Unlike his predecessors who had been working along the lines already laid down by steam engineers, Daimler’s invention was based on an internal combustion engine, a principle at that time almost entirely new.” 

The notion of a horseless carriage was eclipsed the desire for a two wheeled machine and Daimler’s patents and invention were purchased and applied to a four-wheel power vehicle.  “Thus the motorcycle was lost in the shuffle of automobile experimenting and we do not again hear of a two wheeled power vehicle until the French machines were introduced to us in 1898”.

The first American motorcycle was made by the Thomas Motor Co. of Buffalo, NY in 1900.  They attached a single cylinder gasoline engine to an ordinary bicycle and tweaked it until it reached, “a fair rate of speed”. 

Next, the Hendee Mfg. Co. of Springfield, Mass., introduced a machine in 1901 with an engine suspended in the lower part of a specially designed heavy frame.  Several others followed their lead in building similar machines, but the authors thought the Hendee machine was the, “real beginning of motorcycle development”.  [Hendee built and sold Indian motorcycles]

Improvements followed between 1902 and 1904 such as stronger frames, grip controls, and more comfortable saddles [seats].  The first twin cylinder engine was introduced in 1905 and the magneto ignition in 1908.  Improvements developed slowly and the author thought the reason was due to the lack of capital and credit by the manufacturers. 

In 1909, Hendee released a model with a direct transmission, band brakes, and a “new” heavy frame construction.  Prior to that time, “the motorcycle, like the bicycle, was constructed with its wheels bolted rigidly to the forks, and the rider, therefore, was dependent upon the cushioning properties of the tire, supplemented in a few cases by spring saddles for comfort in riding.”

Springs were invented and improved upon between 1901 and 1915 that continued to improve the comfort of the rider and increased the popularity of the motorcycle.  Kick starters, electric lights, and, “most of the attachments found on the automobile”, were adopted enabling riders to travel rapidly over country roads safely, conveniently, and comfortably.

“During this period of development”, sidecars were offered which accommodated a passenger, or enabled a rider to carry bundles and packages paving the way for the motorcycle’s use as a delivery vehicle. 

Quite naturally, considering the book was published at the request of the B. F. Goodrich Co., the author claimed the single most valuable feature in the evolution of the motorcycle was the pneumatic tire. 

In the early days motorcycles were equipped with common bicycle tires, but as the machines became heavier and faster they required a stronger tire that would carry the weight of the machine, the rider, and often a passenger.  Thus was born the B. F. Goodrich 2” in 1903, the 2 1/4” in 1904, and a two-ply tire of heavier fabric, heavier tread, and sidewalls in 1909.  By 1912, tires were available in 3”, “made identically like an automobile tire, except in shape and bead construction”. 

Rims were produced in a standard width for motorcycles in 1905, after the manufacturers met and agreed, “for safety’s sake”.  That’s a story in itself, though, and too lengthy to burden the reader with here. 

SOURCE:  Best in the Long Run What?  Goodrich Pneumatic Tires.  The Sales Training Dept. of the B. F. Goodrich Rubber Co.  1918.  Akron, Ohio.   

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