The Basics of Motorcycles

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When a bike has been fitted with a sidecar, it allows the rider to carry a passenger. This can be useful for touring, or just allowing the wife and kids to come along on a jaunt.

There are many types of motorcycles, and within these you can get further sub-categories. You have your street bikes designed for urban riding and tarmac roads, you have sport bikes for canyon carving and track racing, and there are cruisers and tourers for leisure rides.

The earliest motorcycles were steam powered, such as the French Michaux-Perreaux steam velocipede built around 1868 and the American Roper steam velocipede of the 1860s. However, it was in the early 1900s that motorcycle production really took off. Firms such as Royal Enfield and Triumph started producing motorcycles, followed by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in 1903.

Motorcycles have a gasoline engine that converts reciprocating piston motion into rotary motion that turns the rear wheel and propels the vehicle forward. This rotary motion is controlled by a transmission system and transferred to the front-wheel sprockets via a chain or belt. The throttle and clutch are operated by twist-type controls located near the hand grips, while the brakes are controlled by levers on the handlebars or by foot pedals.

The low weight of motorcycles and their compact, simple engines give them excellent acceleration performance – most middleweight or big-bore bikes will easily out-accelerate all but the very fastest cars on the road. However, they are not very aerodynamic. Having the rider sat out in the breeze, and having exposed wheels and messy engine designs, means they suffer from high levels of drag compared to the smooth, sleek car design. This increase in drag increases as the square of speed, meaning that doubling your velocity requires four times as much power.