10 Oldest Motorbikes in the World

Motorcycles have a longer history than we often think and their history dates back to the late 19th century. Over the years, these two-wheeled machines have evolved, setting the foundation for modern-day motorbikes. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the past to explore the ten oldest motorbikes in the world. Each of these iconic bikes holds a significant place in the annals of motorcycle history, representing the ingenuity and innovation of their time.

10. Douglas Model W (1929)

Year Created: 1929
Engine Type: Flat-twin, 348 cc
Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Douglas Model W (1929)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The Douglas Model W was an innovative motorbike that featured a flat-twin engine layout, setting it apart from its contemporaries. Its advanced engineering and efficient design made it a favorite among motorcyclists. The Model W’s influence extended beyond its production years, as its engine layout became popular among other motorcycle manufacturers.

Did You Know? 

The Daimler Reitwagen’s engine produced around 0.5 horsepower, and its speed was limited to a walking pace due to its wooden frame and the primitive nature of early internal combustion engines.


9. Excelsior Super X (1925)

Year Created: 1925
Engine Type: V-twin, 1,000 cc
Country of Origin: United States

Excelsior Super X (1925)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The Excelsior Super X was a true powerhouse of its time. Its 1,000 cc engine churned out an impressive 45 horsepower, making it one of the fastest motorcycles of the era. The Super X set numerous speed records and won prestigious races, establishing itself as an icon of speed and power.

Did You Know? 

The Excelsior Super X was America’s first forty-five cubic inch motorcycle, and its introduction led to the establishment of the forty-five cubic inch class in dirt-track racing, where legendary motorcycles like the Indian Sport Scout and Harley-Davidson WR, KR, and XR would compete for years to come.


8. Harley-Davidson Model 5-D (1917)

Year Created: 1917
Engine Type: V-twin, 989 cc
Country of Origin: United States

Harley-Davidson Model 5-D (1917)Photo Source: Hemmings

The Harley-Davidson Model 5-D, also known as the “Silent Gray Fellow,” was a notable motorbike produced during the challenging times of World War I. It gained popularity for its smooth and quiet engine operation, which made it stand out among its competitors. The Model 5-D was a symbol of resilience for the Harley-Davidson brand during the war years.

Did You Know? 

The Harley-Davidson Model 5-D was popularly referred to as the “Silent Gray Fellow” for its smooth and quiet engine operation.


7. Triumph Model H (1915)

Year Created: 1915
Engine Type: Single-cylinder, 550 cc
Country of Origin: United Kingdom

Triumph Model H (1915)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The Triumph Model H, often referred to as the “Trusty Triumph,” gained fame for its reliability and robust build. This war-era motorbike was widely used by the British military during World War I. Its sturdy design and dependable performance earned it a reputation as one of the most durable motorcycles of its time.

Did You Know? 

The Triumph Model H earned the nickname “The Trusty” during World War I due to its exceptional reliability as a despatch rider motorcycle for the British Government, effectively replacing horses for effective communication with front line troops.


6. Indian Single (1907)

Year Created: 1907
Engine Type: Single-cylinder, 303 cc
Country of Origin: United States

Indian Single (1907)Photo Source: Pinterest

The Indian Single, built by the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company (later known as Indian Motorcycle Company), gained popularity for its reliability and performance. It featured a 303 cc single-cylinder engine and was the bike of choice for law enforcement agencies across the United States. The Indian Single played a significant role in shaping the early motorcycling culture.

Did You Know? 

The Indian Single’s fame extended beyond its excellent performance; it was the bike of choice for law enforcement agencies across the United States.


5. FN Four (1905)

Year Created: 1905
Engine Type: Inline-4, 350-750 cc
Country of Origin: Belgium

FN Four (1905)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The FN Four, also known as the FN Type 1905, was a revolutionary motorbike designed by Paul Kelecom and Antoine Fenal. This iconic bike introduced the world to a four-cylinder engine configuration, setting a precedent for future motorcycles. Its unique design and engineering excellence made it a sought-after motorcycle during its time.

Did You Know? 

The FN Four, produced from 1905 to 1923, was the world’s first production inline-4 motorcycle and held the title of the fastest production motorcycle from 1911 to 1912.


4. Hildebrand & Wolfmüller Model 2 (1897)

Year Created: 1897
Engine Type: Twin-cylinder, 1,500 cc
Country of Origin: Germany

Hildebrand & Wolfmüller Model 2 (1897)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller Model 2 was an improved version of the original, featuring a more robust construction and a powerful 1,500 cc twin-cylinder engine. It boasted a top speed of 50 mph, making it one of the fastest motorbikes of its time. However, production issues and fierce competition led to its eventual demise.

Did You Know? 

The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller Model 2 featured a distinctive belt drive system instead of the chain drive used in its predecessor.


3. Werner Motocyclette (1897)

Year Created: 1897
Engine Type: Single-cylinder, 144 cc
Country of Origin: France

Werner Motocyclette (1897)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The Werner Motocyclette was built by brothers Louis and Marcel Werner. This early motorbike showcased a stylish design with its front-wheel-mounted pedals. It featured a 144 cc, single-cylinder engine capable of producing 1.5 horsepower. Despite its short-lived production, the Werner Motocyclette significantly contributed to the development of motorcycles.

Did You Know? 

The Werner Motocyclette’s engine design was based on the Lenoir internal combustion engine, which was one of the earliest successful gas engines.


2. Hildebrand & Wolfmüller (1894)

Year Created: 1894
Engine Type: Twin-cylinder, water-cooled
Country of Origin: Germany

Hildebrand & Wolfmüller (1894)Photo Source: hemmings

The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller is credited as the first commercially produced motorbike. Designed by Wilhelm Hildebrand and Alois Wolfmüller, it featured a water-cooled, twin-cylinder engine, and a maximum speed of about 28 mph. This iconic motorbike paved the way for future innovations and set the stage for the motorcycle industry’s growth.

Did You Know? 

The Hildebrand & Wolfmüller’s production came to an end in 1897 due to safety concerns related to its wooden wheels and lack of suspension.


1. Daimler Reitwagen (1885)

Year Created: 1885
Engine Type: Single-cylinder, four-stroke
Country of Origin: Germany

Daimler Reitwagen (1885)Photo Source: Wikipedia

The Daimler Reitwagen, also known as the “Riding Car,” is widely recognized as the world’s first true motorcycle. Invented by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, this innovative two-wheeler was powered by a single-cylinder, four-stroke, gasoline engine mounted on a wooden frame. 

The Reitwagen’s successful test ride in 1885 marked a groundbreaking milestone in the history of motorcycling.

Did You Know? 

The Daimler Reitwagen’s first successful test ride took place in Mannheim, Germany, and was ridden by Daimler’s employee, Gottlieb Daimler’s son, Paul Daimler.


Conclusion

Motorbikes are widely used across the world. While often considered unsafe, with the proper gear such as helmets and jackets, it is the most convenient way to travel. These motorcycles existed for a few centuries now. 

From Daimler Reitwagen to Douglas Model W, we have traveled through the life of 10 of the oldest motorbikes in the world. Some of them have surpassed the test of time and are still in production or at least in use.

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