The earliest version of a two-wheeled human-powered vehicle was the draisine of 1817. Lacking pedals, this predecessor of the bicycle was powered by the rider pushing along the ground with their feet.

A French carriage maker, Pierre Lallement, is credited with placing cranks on a draisine’s front wheel in 1863, thus creating the first bicycle. This bicycle was known as a velocipede, Latin for speedy feet, or a boneshaker, due to the effect the rough roads and unforgiving frame had on the rider.

The Steam Velocipede was the inspiration of New England inventor Sylvester Roper, who in 1865 created what is considered the first motorcycle. Roper created his motorcycle from the ground up rather than using an existing velocipede. The Steam Velocipede was fired with charcoal fed into the bottom of the copper boiler. The seat doubles as the water tank, and a hand-operated water pump is located on the left side of the boiler. Roper incorporated a twist grip throttle and brake. The driver opened the throttle by twisting the handlebar away and braked by twisting toward himself. The oscillating steam cylinders provided power.

Funded in part by the 1772 Foundation

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