1900 To understand the present and scrutinise the future it is indispensable to know the past; so let us return in our memory to the times of our motorcycles, starting from their origins.
The first example of a motorcycle, constructed and put up for sale by the German company Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, goes back to 1895 but everything really started in 1900, the century which must be recognised as that which ferried humanity from pre-history into science fiction, the hundred years that changed the world, upsetting it completely.
The flywheel of this epochal change was the internal combustion engine, whose relentless push triggered an era of progress hitherto unimaginable, but whose life coincided with the history of the twentieth century, overlapping in a common destiny.
The method of transport was so ingrained with time so as to fully represent it so much so that the end of the cycle time coincided with the end of its icon, which, by now exhausted passed the baton to its ecological counterpart, the electric motor, which the world has relied on to confront the future, obscure and uncertain, of the third millennium.
Among the many applications of the internal combustion engine, the motorcycle was the model that best identified it, extolling all its best attributes.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the world of motorcycling, still bound to the design of the motor bicycle, was completely different from what we can imagine today.
We were really in its infancy, so much so that almost all the then existing brands were extinct for a long time, while most of those today were born well after 1915.
Until that date, motorcycle factories could be counted on the fingers and were mainly allocated between the United States (Harley Davidson and Indian) and Europe, principally Belgium, France, Germany and Italy, with a maximum concentration in England, where factories were already active such as the prestigious BSA, Triumph, Norton, AJS, Matchless, Ariel, Velocette and Royal Enfield.
The diffusion of the motorcycle was very slow and, for the first few decades, the use of this staggering mechanical method of transport remained strictly elitist.
The bike was still very far from ordinary people, not only for its intrinsic driving difficulty but especially for the high purchase costs and maintenance. The mere fact of being able to supply the necessary fuel, was often a problem, and a simple trip of 50 km often required careful planning.
In general, people were intrigued and scared at the same time by this noisy mechanical means, which boasted plenty of admirers, but only very few practitioners, a small group of riders who were brave, true pioneers with time and resources available.
Even the motorcycles, rigid and cumbersome, mastodons of 1000 cc that still utilised components of wood, leather or wicker, required outstanding athletic ability to be governed on the bumpy roads of the times, and were not at all comparable to modern bikes.
Among the devotees of the sport, new and difficult enough to be considered, in effect, ‘extreme,’ there were mainly army officers, wealthy noblemen and young scions of the wealthy middle class emerging.
However the bike represented, from the beginning a common cultural element that crossed the social divide and enthusiastically involved everyone in the wake of the revolutionary movement that it presaged - futuristic, noisy, moving to a new technological era, highly innovative.
1901 If the characteristic features of the century were the steam engine and the industrial revolution that sprang from it, the motorcycle will be forever the icon of the following the 1900’s. The essence of the motorcycle is speed, and the extreme synthesis of this which must be its competitive use.
The bike immediately found its natural outlet in competition and the "modern" world of racing became a mass phenomenon, which made all protagonists at the event, confusing riders and the public in a unique and enthusiastic mad crowd.
The public imagination was captivated by the unbridled competitiveness comparisons started to be made between the different makes and riders, fuelling the passions of the fans who flocked from everywhere to watch the new and fascinating show.
1902 Legend has it that the first to try this new sport from the competitive point of view were the British, immediately followed by the French, or, perhaps, the opposite is true.
1903 In the year of the foundation of the British Federation, Carlisle's first true Six Days' Reliability Trial was held, a manifestation of true national character - only British riders took part.
The fact is that the races were born spontaneously wherever there were at least two bikes, with no categories or classes but without rules and the attribution of victory flowed, increasingly, into heated disputes.