If your definition of motorcycle allows for a two-wheeled vehicle powered by any kind of motor, the answer has to be that the world’s first motorcycle was invented by an American. It was finished in approximately 1869 by Sylvester Howard Roper. The two-cylinder, steam-engine motorcycle was fueled by coal. Note to riders: You really want to sit in the right place on Roper’s invention, or you could be in for a rude awakening.
On the other hand, if you believe that a motorcycle must be powered by a gasoline engine, the first motorcycle was built in Germany. In 1885, Gottlieb Daimler’s wooden motorcycle was powered by a 4-stroke internal combustion engine. I got the chance to see a faithful reproduction of Daimler’s motorcycle at the AMA Hall of Fame Museum, and I have to say, it was a thing of strange beauty.
There you have it. In reality, only you can decide which was the first “motorcycle” ever built. So which was it – Roper’s steam-powered cycle or Daimler’s gas-powered version?
Sources: Smithsonian; AMA
Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com