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The History of Motorcycles

Posted: 3-28-13 | Parker Flags

We’ve taken a look at motorcycles, racecars, and racing in general over the last several weeks on the blog here. Today we’d like to talk a little more about the history of the motorcycle. The first motorcycle was built by German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1885 in Cannstatt which is a city district of Stuttgart. This was the first petroleum-powered bicycle and they called their invention the Reitwagen which means “riding car”. Their invention encouraged many manufacturers of bicycles to adapt their designs to accommodate this new internal combustion engine. The number of companies manufacturing motorcycles actually decreased when more powerful engines were developed that were not suitable for the common bicycle framework. While Harley-Davidson maintains a high degree of popularity in America, British manufacturers held the dominant position in the motorcycle market until Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki began to dominate the industry in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. This was because the Japanese manufacturers were able to produce cheaper and better quality motorcycles and to develop and produce new designs more quickly.

So why are motorcycles referred to as hogs?

In 1920, Leslie “Red” Parkhurst broke numerous speed records on his motorcycle and became a racing legend. Each time Parkhurst won a race, he would carry a small pet pig along with him on his victory lap. The fans apparently loved this and would shout out, “The Hog won again!” While the word “Hog” initially became associated with Parkhurst’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle, it is commonly used today in association with any motorcycle. Had the racing fans been more knowledgeable they would have realized that this was not a large fully grown pig which is the definition of a hog, but rather a small pig or piglet. Motorcycles indeed today could be known as pigs or piglets instead of hogs! Parkhurst’s racing circuit must not have had many stops in the Midwest!

No matter if you have a hog on your bike when you’re riding it or not (which we strongly recommend you do not do) we hope that you’re thinking of Parker Flags when you see racing flags and cross the finish line.