A motorcycle is a powered two-wheeled vehicle that has an engine, a steering wheel, and somewhere for the rider to sit. Modern motorcycles are typically fueled by internal combustion, although some use electric motors. The earliest motorcycles had steam-powered engines. By the 1880s, inventors had begun experimenting with engines mounted on bicycles, but it wasn’t until 1884 that a British inventor created the first commercial design for a self-propelled motorcycle.
After World War II, sales of motorcycles exploded as American soldiers, who had been riding them in the military, returned home with a love for these powerful machines. Riders began to form clubs and brotherhoods based on their location or the type of bike they rode.
Most motorcycles are designed for speed, with lightweight frames and small tires that allow them to accelerate quickly. The tires are also rounded to enable leaning and maintain contact with the road in corners. A fairing or windshield is often used to shield the rider from the wind and help improve aerodynamics. At high speeds, the amount of power needed to drive the motorcycle increases with the square of the velocity, so reducing drag is a major consideration in motorcycle design.
Riding a motorcycle requires special training and skill. Even experienced riders should practice in a controlled environment before venturing out onto traffic-heavy roads. Before each ride, a rider should perform a safety inspection to ensure that the horn, mirrors, and brakes are in working order. The rider should also be familiar with the handling characteristics of their bike and learn to anticipate road hazards.