Little Known Facts About Motorcycles

By: Steven Symes
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Were you born to be wild? Do you think real vehicles only have two wheels? Is picking bugs out of your teeth just a part of everyday life? You might be a motorcycle nut. 

While many people look at motorcycles as dangerous and impractical, plenty of people have fallen in love with them. There's a lot to like, considering motorcycles get excellent fuel economy, are relatively cheap, and often will outperform cars in acceleration. Not only that, there's a rebellious and ruggedly individualistic image associated with anyone who rides a motorcycle. 

Edward Butler, a British inventor, is credited with coming up with the term "motorcycle." He actually created a three-wheeled motorized vehicle in 1884, so some might take issue with that detail. Since then, motorcycles have evolved from being closely related to bicycles to being increasingly car-like. There are even motorcycles today with advanced safety features, including concepts that balance themselves. Despite these innovations, motorcycle ridership is steadily falling in the United States. 

Do you have more motorcycle knowledge than your average person? See how many of these little-known facts you know by taking the quiz now! 

What did motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha get its start making?

In 1887,​ Yamaha began operations strictly as a piano manufacturer. The company still makes pianos, plus many other musical instruments, but also manufactures motorcycles, watercraft, and other vehicles.

Motorcycle helmet maker ARAI started out making what?

When you learn that the company's founder, Hirotake Arai, was a motorcycle stunt rider, it makes sense that he would return to his roots and make something for fellow riders.

What state allows motorcyclists to stop at red lights for only two minutes before proceeding through the intersection?

Nicknamed "The Dead Red" law, which was put on the books in 2015, it makes red lights more like elongated stop signs for motorcyclists as a way to keep traffic flowing.

What did Harley Davidson start off selling?

The company wasn't making motorcycles until 1905, when it produced a whopping five of them in Davidson's shed.

How many states, including the District of Columbia, require all people on motorcycles to wear a helmet?

Plenty of studies have shown that helmets are especially effective at reducing fatalities from motorcycle accidents, but a few states don't require helmets at all, and the majority only require them for certain riders.

The Type SD was Triumph's first motorcycle to have what feature?

Triumph started out making bicycles in 1888, before it started churning out motorcycles. Interestingly enough, it didn't make any bikes that had a chain-driven rear wheel until the Type SD in 1920.

Where did Triumph open its first factory?

Triumph actually took over a facility that made ribbons, setting up its bicycle operations there in 1888. Needless to say, the company had to make modifications to the facility.

What did Kawasaki make long before it made motorcycles?

Kawasaki got into the motorcycle business when it purchased Meguro Manufacturing, which was a failing motorcycle manufacturer. The new venture was called Kawasaki Motor Sales, and the rest is the stuff of legend.

What does a unique emblem say on the fuel tank of certain early Kawasaki motorcycles?

In the early days of making motorcycles, Kawasaki still very much thought of itself as an aircraft company first and foremost. That would change as the motorcycles became a greater source of income.

What term did Harley Davidson unsuccessfully try to trademark in 1999?

Even though plenty of people refer to Harleys as hogs, the company didn't win the legal fight to exclusive rights of the name, which traces back to a group of farmers from the 1920s.

What bike maker got its start making motorized bicycles?

Before WWII, Honda was a big player in the motorized bicycle market. Of course, today it makes a wide range of motorcycles, plus other vehicles and small engines.

When did Honda become the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world?

Through smart business moves and a reputation for making solid small engines, Honda was able to rise from the ashes of post-war Japan and become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world

From where does the Dodge Tomahawk get its engine?

People understandably were aghast at the Tomahawk, which uses a Viper's V-10 engine and has dual rear wheels, making for one truly wild motorcycle.

From where did Suzuki get the Hayabusa name?

To honor the aircraft used during WWII, Suzuki used this legendary name, which is also a type of Peregrine falcon, so the motorcycle could be thought of as a tribute to either.

What important speed-related first did the Brough Superior SS100 achieve?

In 1924, this motorcycle set the record, with each one certified to hit 100 mph through testing on public roads, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Which of the following wasn't one of the many other firsts the Brough Superior SS100 racked up among retail motorcycles?

Not only did the SS100 attain all those achievements, it was also the first retail motorcycle to come with interconnected silencers and a 1,000 cc V-twin engine, making it highly advanced for 1924.

What was the name of Suzuki's first motorcycle?

In 1952, the Power Free debuted, but it really was just a bicycle with a 36 cc engine strapped to it and the option to pedal the bike manually to conserve gas.

What year did BMW temporarily stop making boxer twin engines?

For whatever set of reasons, BMW brass decided in the '80s that all bikes should use three- or four-cylinder engines. Thanks to irate customers, the brand was pressured to continue making the boxer twin engine, which it had been manufacturing since 1923.

Which is the most stolen motorcycle brand?

Thanks to the fact many Hondas have expensive parts and promise thrilling performance, they are hot targets for theft. Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Harley Davidson round out the top five brands for theft.

Which motorcycle manufacturer first patented a design for telescopic forks?

In 1932, BMW put these telescopic forks on its R12, showing how truly innovative the company could be in its designs.

What did motorcycles have before gearshift levers?

In 1927, Harold Willis, who worked for Velocette Motorcycles, invented the gearshift lever, making it far easier to ride a motorcycle.

What did Suzuki start off doing as a business?

At the turn of the 20th century, Japan's silk industry was booming, so Suzuki capitalized on that by making looms to weave the silk. It got into the motorcycle business not too long after that.

What expanded product line did Harley Davidson market in its early days?

Harley Davidson actually had a hand in a few different product lines beyond motorcycles in the early part of the 20th century, helping it to stay afloat financially.

For what was Harley Davidson's Buckboard motor supposed to be used?

In the early 20th century, one of the many product lines Harley Davidson relied on for financial vitality was the Buckboard industrial motor, which was practical for a whole range of industries.

Which state has the fewest motorcycles registered?

Apparently people in Delaware aren't born to be wild, with just over 28,000 motorcycles registered there in 2016. California was the top state with well over 800,000 motorcycles. Florida took the second spot.

What did Harley Davidson use for the carburetor on its first production motorcycle?

To say that the brand came from humble roots is an understatement, but today it is a huge financial empire.

What were the engines on Honda's first bikes originally designed to power?

Making use of what it had at hand in 1946, right at the end of WWII, Honda repurposed the 50 cc generator engines, showing how resourceful it could be.

What was the first state to legalize lane splitting?

Even though the practice was in a legal grey area for years, the state legislature finally made lane splitting legal in 2017.

What sound did Harley Davidson try to patent?

That distinctive exhaust sound from Harleys is termed "potato potato potato" or just "potato potato" by enthusiasts, but the company failed to patent it in 2000.

What percentage of motorcycle theft do insurance companies think is fraud?

Insurance companies say that about 20 percent of all motorcycles that aren't stored inside garages are stolen, but that about a quarter of those are hidden and sold or chopped and used to build a new bike.

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