Be the life of the party at your next motorcycle gathering with these 38 motorcycle facts that explore the last 100 years of motorcycling. Learn how motorcycle companies started, about new laws that sound ludicrous, and trivia on your favorite movies involving motorcycles. We bet there are a few that can stump the best of motorcycle historians out there. So what are you waiting for? Let’s test your knowledge and see how many of these motorcycle fun facts you know!
- In 1887, Yamaha started as a piano manufacturer, but today is a multinational conglomerate that still produces musical instruments. They have added boats, car engines, swimming pools, industrial robots, wheelchairs, RVs, electronics, and golf carts, and motorcycles.
- The record for the longest-ever backwards motorcycle ride was set by Dipayan Choudhury in Jabalpur, India on October 7, 2014, lasting 125.52 miles (202 kilometers).
Legend has it that the origin of the term “hog”, when referring to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, was from the early part of the 1900s Harley’s racing team, the Wrecking Crew. They had a small pig as a mascot and one of the riders would do victory laps with the pig sitting on the bike’s gas tank. In later years, HOG became the official acronym of the Harley Owners Group and is the trading symbol of Harley-Davidson on the New York Stock Exchange.
- Recognized around the world as a leader in motorcycle helmet manufacturing, Arai Helmets started as a hat-making company in Japan in 1926 making gear for the construction industry. Company founder Hirotake Arai was once a motorcycle stunt rider and the company is still privately owned today and run by the Arai family.
- The world’s longest motorcycle was built in Gujarat, India in 2015 by Bharat Sinh Parmar, sitting at 86 ft 3 in (26.29 m) long.
- Sixty-eight percent of the female motorcyclists who died in crashes in 2016 were passengers, and their deaths represented 92 percent of the passenger deaths. The vast majority of male motorcyclists who died were drivers.
- Engine sizes of motorcycles whose drivers were killed in crashes have gone up dramatically. Among motorcycle drivers killed in 2016, 33 percent drove motorcycles with engine sizes larger than 1,400cc, compared with 9 percent in 2000 and less than 1 percent in 1990.
- The Isle of Mann TT (a high-speed motorcycle race) is held on closed public roads and the current lap record is just under 17 minutes with an average speed of 133.9 miles per hour (215 kph).
- On the 1970s TV police series, CHiPS, actor Erik Estrada suffered a very serious motorcycle accident while filming an episode. Until he recovered, he literally shot his scenes from his hospital bed.
- Did you know that modern sport bike tires don’t contain any natural rubber? The tread of a tire is composed of synthetic rubber, which has been compounded to give a compromise between durability and traction.
- Motorcyclists in Indiana only have to stop for 120 seconds (2 minutes) at a red stop light. They can treat the stop light as if it were a stop sign, then proceed through the intersection cautiously. The law was nicknamed “The Dead Red” law, but officially is designated IC 9-21-3-7b-3 signed in 2015.
- Honda began selling pushbikes in 1946 fitted with two-stroke 50cc generator engines originally designed for use with army field telephones. In 1992 (another 46 years later) it launched one of the most complex production motorcycle ever made with the Honda NR750. The NR boasted oval pistons with two connecting rods and eight valves per cylinder. Initially made as a racing only model, Honda later made 300 road versions of the NR available to the public.
- Suzuki originally began making weaving looms for Japan’s silk industry in the early part of the 1900s. Company founder Michio Suzuki wanted to diversify his company and began an engineering firm that started making small cars and engines during the 1930s. The first Suzuki motorcycle appeared in 1952 and was a motorized bicycle called a Power Free. It had a two-stroke 36cc engine that featured a double-sprocket gear system for the rider to either pedal with engine assistance, pedal without the engine, or simply disconnect the pedals and use the engine. Today, along with motorcycles, Suzuki makes cars, marine engines, wheelchairs and is Japan’s second largest manufacturer of small cars and trucks.
In 2010, Rocky Robinson used a streamliner-shaped motorcycle to set a world record for the fastest motorcycle at just over 376 miles per hour on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
- A man in North Carolina buried his Harley-Davidson on his property and claimed it stolen in 2006. He was paid for the stolen motorcycle and his loan also paid off. The motorcycle was discovered in 2012 by a new owner of the property having some grading done by a contractor.
- Prior to 2008, the leading age category for motorcycle fatalities was 29 years old and less, but 2008 saw a decrease in that category and lead change to the 50 years and older crowd.
- The longest distance riding a motorcycle in 24 hours is 2023.5 miles (3256.5 kilometers) and was achieved by Matthew McKelvey aka “Bushy” at the Phakisa Freeway in Welkom, South Africa, on 8 October 2014.
- Did you know Steve McQueen’s famous 65 foot motorcycle jump in the movie ‘The Great Escape’ was done by stand-in rider Bud Ekins and he did it in just one take?
- In the earliest days of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, small advertisements were placed in the Automobile and Cycle Trade Journal offering bare Harley-Davidson engines to the do-it-yourself trade that could assemble their own motorcycle. By April 1905, complete motorcycles were in production on a very limited basis. That year, the first Harley-Davidson dealer, Carl H. Lang of Chicago, sold three bikes from the five built in the Davidson backyard shed.
Peter Fonda wore the Captain America jacket and rode his chopper a week around Los Angeles before shooting began on the movie Easy Rider, to give them a broken-in look, and to get used to riding the radically designed bike. The American flag on the back of the jacket, and on the gas tank of the bike, caused him to be pulled over several times by the police.
- Aside from making motorcycles, Kawasaki also manufactures personal watercraft, ships, electronics, construction equipment, tractors, trains, helicopters, jet engines, missiles and space rockets.
- Only 3 states in the US do not require a helmet for any motorcyclist, while 28 states require a helmet for certain riders and the other 19 states plus the District of Columbia require a helmet for any rider (called a universal helmet law).
- The highest three months for motorcycle theft are July, August and September while the lowest are February, December, and March.
- Dodge built and sold nine motorcycles with a Viper V-10 engine called the Dodge Tomahawk. The motorcycle featured 500 horsepower with dual front and rear 20” wheels and tires. Each sold for between $500k and $700k.
- Only about 30% of all stolen motorcycles are recovered, which is half of all automobiles at 60% recovery.
- Actual motorcycle clubs were on the set of the 2003 movie Biker Boyz to aid with tricks, stunts, and racing. They include Valiant Riders, Black Sabbath, G-Zer Tribe, Ruff Ryders, Soul Brothers, Total Package, Chosen Few, Rare Breed, Brothers of the Sun, Sisters of the Sun, Deuces, and Black Sabbath New Breed.
- Honda motorcycles in California were the most stolen cycles in 2011 while Harley-Davidsons were the least stolen of the top five brands that made the list.
- The Givenchy ‘motorcycle jacket’ was listed in 2016 as the most expensive jacket on the market. At $9,100, the women’s Hooded Biker Jacket is clearly one of those pieces that was designed for the sake of fashion rather than wearing while riding. Most of the jacket is made of lambskin, but pillowy lamb fur lines the collar and inside of the hood.
- An estimated 10 cents of every $1 in insurance premiums goes toward payment of fraudulent claims, according to the North Carolina insurance department as of 2012.
- The longest motorcycle jump on record was set by Robbie Maddison in Melbourne, Australia, jumping 346 feet (107 m) to set the world record.
- Doug Domokos was inducted in the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Hall of Fame in 2002. He was nicknamed “The Wheelie King” and once held the record for the longest wheelie at an amazing 145 miles in length. That record stood for over 8 years.
- The sound made by the “motorcycle” that Chris Pine rides to the shuttle departing to Starfleet Academy in the film Star Trek is the same sound used on The Jetsons from 1962 for the “cars” they fly.
- The 2007 movie, Wild Hogs, features quick cameos from Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Teutul Jr. of American Chopper: The Series (2003) . The two famous bike builders appear in the Wild Hogs’ favorite bar as the bar owner and a background patron. The olive-drab green bike the character named Jack (played by actor Ray Liotta) was riding is made by Orange County Choppers and features their logo on the motorcycle in the movie.
- In 2016, California reported the highest amount of registered motorcycles in the country (842,106 registered); Delaware had the least amount (28,156).
- Emilio Scotto holds the world record of the longest motorcycle ride, spanning. 10 years, 279 countries and a total distance of 457,000 miles
- Harley-Davidson is the leading motorcycle manufacturer in the U.S. market, producing $5.6 billion dollars in revenue in 2017.
- The first company that advertised a motorcycle’s top speed of over 100mph was Brough Superior. That claim was made for its SS100 in 1924. Considered even today to be innovative and beautifully designed machines, Brough motorcycles were the first to have prop stands, twin headlights, crash bars, interconnected silencers and 1000cc v-twin engines. Every SS100 was road tested on public roads to check that it could reach 100mph. If it didn’t, it was returned to the factory for further work until it could reach that feat.
- In 2017, California became the first state to legalize lane-splitting through the AB-51 Bill.