Motorcycle builders were experiencing birthing pains at the dawn of the 20th century. Many early examples were so wonky the ideas should have been aborted prior to ever going from paper to metal. Ford’s Model T and the production line upon which it was constructed had yet to revolutionize the auto industry, giving motorcycles an early advantage as affordable utilitarian vehicles unlike the recreational vehicles they’re regarded presently.

More than 100 years ago there was no lack of imagination pushing the boundaries of what comprised a motorcycle. These men didn’t have tradition – they were building many of the traditions we hold so dear today. From these early inventions we’ve selected 10 of the most historically important models from the golden age of motorcycle design.


American Sylvester Roper invented the first motorcycle, if your definition of a motorcycle includes being powered by a steam engine. The first four-stroke, internal-combustion engine to power a two-wheeler (if you ignore the training wheels) is accredited to German Gottlieb Daimler.