There are a lot of motorcycle manufacturers out there, and we all have a favorite, but did you ever wonder how these moto giants got their start? Let’s take a look back at a few of the most popular manufacturers, their history, and where they’re headed.
Harley-Davidson is one of the most well known and popular motorcycle American manufacturers. The company started out of a small shed in 1903 by William S. Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since the company’s inception, Harley-Davidson has remained a staple in the motorcycle community and is often considered to as an American classic. The company is known for producing cruiser-styled motorcycles, but they have also rolled out street models, racing models, and most recently they’ve come out with brand new models (including an all-electric bike) in the hopes of attracting new riders.
Indian is America’s oldest motorcycle brand. They got their start in 1897 when George M. Hendee founded a bicycle production company called the Hendee Manufacturing Company. At the time, they had bikes like Silver King, Silver Queen, and American Indian. American Indian was then shortened to just “Indian” and the name has stuck ever since. In 1901, Hendee hired a man named Oscar Hedstrom to build gasoline engine-powered bikes to help pace bicycle races – and soon after, Indian Motorcycle sales began. Indian has had some ups and downs throughout their history, but in 2014 Polaris bought the manufacturer and they have been growing nonstop ever since. The company is known for its famous Scout, Chief, and Spirit models and they plan on consistently expanding their bike selection in the future to attract new riders.
Image: Indian Motorcycle
Honda Motor Corp.
Honda Motor Corp was founded in 1946 by Soichiro Honda as Japan struggled to rebuild following the Second World War. Soichiro Honda saw the need for affordable transportation in Japan during this time period and began attaching two-stroke motors on to bicycles, and thus began Honda Motor Co. Since then, Honda has grown into one of the top motorcycle manufacturers in the world and has produced iconic models like the Super Cub, Honda CB, and many more. They continue to add to their lineup with innovative, technologically-advanced models, and remain a staple in the motorcycle community.
BMW formed in 1916 and began by producing truck and aircraft engines for Germany during WWI. After the war, the Treaty of Versailles banned the manufacturing of aircraft engines, so BMW steered their focus to motorcycles. BMW Motorrad, BMW’s two-wheel division, rolled out the first motorcycle under its name in 1923 – the R32. The R32 has two traits BMW bikes still have to this day – a shaft drive and the iconic Boxer powerplant. The model became the foundation for all future boxer-powered motorcycles. Since then, BMW has grown into an increasingly popular motorcycle brand and has recently come out with a self-balancing motorcycle and an electric scooter.
Yamaha was founded In 1955 when Genichi Kawakami acquired equipment used in the production of metal airline propellers to develop the first Yamaha motorcycle. Yamaha’s first product was the YA-1, a 125 cc two-cycle, single cylinder motorcycle. The YA-1 was a successful racing motorcycle and competed internationally. Yamaha is still well known for their racing models, as well as touring and street models, and they remain one of the most famous Japanese motorcycle manufacturers.
We’ve covered just a few of the top motorcycle manufacturers and it’s fascinating to see how far they have come in such little time. Each manufacturer started small and have since grown into world-renowned brands that we all know, respect, and love to ride today.