The History of the Motorcycle – Part 4

Part 4 – The Golden Age of Motorcycles


A “Golden Age” of a particular field, can be described as a time when there were many attempts to accomplish great tasks within that field. This is also a time that is seen to be more “pure”.

You often hear that term “pure” when you are out at classic bike events. That is because motorcycles that are from the period, between 1940 to 1970, are of the opinion that they give a pure experience of riding.

This, of course, is not only related the motorcycle itself but to the period in which they were ridden. The period of 1940 to 1970, was a time when riding a motorcycle was all about the social detachment, or in other words; “to be free”. This, of course, is the pure sense of riding for many, and it was at this time when it was emphasized.

It was also a time when “getting stuck in” to the mechanics of your motorcycle was all part of the experience. Motorcyclists were not scared to get their hands dirty, and it was common for people to work on their own machines.

The riding experience itself was an indication of a golden age. Speed limits were not as heavily enforced as traffic was not as much of an issue – if at all – as it is in nowadays.
The manufacturers did not have to worry about the loudness of the machine, as noise regulations were also not heavily enforced.

All in all, it must have been a great time of experimentation. That can be seen in the motorcycles themselves. From the 1940’s – when motorcycles were rather less comfortable,
not as easy to ride, and the designs lacking creativity and refinement – to the 1950’s, where aspects such as the colour of the motorcycle was taken more in to account and suspensions were far better (In most cases, now there were actually suspensions).

1950's Triumph Thunderbird
1950’s Triumph Thunderbird.

Increased competition in the motorcycle industry at that time, lead to all these advancements and more. The motorcycle was truly turning in to a refined, beautiful and agile machine.

The range of motorcycles to choose from expanded in a big way. Japanese firms were now beginning to enter the main market. Firms such as; Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha.

Honda CB450 1965
1965 Honda CB450.

It was not long before the Japanese motorcycles took over the market, leaving the British and American firms without many answers.

In part 4 we see the focus shift toward the Japanese firms and their innovations.


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