Top 6 Motorcycle Innovations

Motorcyclists can be an odd lot when it comes to innovation. Car drivers get all excited about cup holders and iPod docks, but we want new stuff that concentrates on making our bikes and biking faster, sexier or safer.

There's always going to be new gadgets for your bike, but for here's a list of some of the most technologically impactful innovations that came to the motorcycle scene, and never really left.

1. Engine Placement
In early motorcycle history, bicycle producers simply adapted designs to accommodate an engine which they would fit wherever they liked, often by the back wheel. The more advanced 1902 Morette had a two-stroke engine mounted off the forks which drove the front tire by means of a friction drum. Around the same time, two Russian brothers, Eugene and Michel Werner were experimenting with putting the engine in every possible position. They finally decided that the best place for the engine is where manufacturers still put 'em today: under the fuel tank.

2. Clutch
How we take this simple tool for granted. Motorcycles built before 1914 were clutchless with direct drive from engine to rear wheel. Imagine using that in today's traffic jams!

3. Gears
Even when more modern, multi-ratio boxes became common, gears are still selected using a hand lever. Today's positive stop foot shift was patented by Velocette; their 1928 KTT featured the first positive-stop foot gear change on a motorcycle.

4. Chain Drive
Phelon & Rayner made the first chain-driven motorcycle in 1900. Chain final drive is still considered the most efficient way of transferring power to the rear wheel: it only absorbs around 3% power whereas belt drive suffers circa an 11% power loss and shaft drive suffers around about a 31% power loss due to extra gears in the shaft.

5. Twistgrip throttle
Early bikes often used a throttle control fuel slide lever instead of a twistgrip throttle. Indian Motocycle claimed to have invented the twistgrip in ads for their 1904 range, although the first use of the twistgrip throttle control was on the Roper steam velocipede of 1867-69.

6. Disc brakes
Disc brakes are actually a very old idea – patented by Lanchester Cars in 1902 – but didn't enter mainstream biking until increasing speeds started to overpower traditional drum brakes. Honda put a single front disc brake on its 750cc Four in 1969, and by 1972, drums were old hat and discs were where it was at.