Michaux-Perreaux steam motor bicycle, 1868.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Scale model representing the world's first motorcycle. By 1869 Michaux of Paris were already established as the largest bicycle manufacturer in Europe. By the mid 19th century the small industrial steam engine had become commercially available in France and Pierre Michaux decided to install a complete steam power plant, which he obtained from Perreaux, within the framework of one of his 'boneshaker' bicycles. The rider started the cycle by foot pedals on the front wheel, and once forward motion was established presurised steam was admitted to the cylinder. Transmision was by two leather belts direct from an engine pulley to each side of the rear wheel. The machine had no brakes, iron tyres, and was reputedly capable of 10 mph.