THE BIRTH OF DIRT BIKES
By AHIRINE AHIRUDIN
One out of ten bikes sold is a dirt bike or trail bike.
Dirt bikes are known as motorcycles which can be ridden off-road or, non-tarmac, such as soft sand, gravels and uneven surfaces.
There was a record of people racing dirt bikes as early as 1920s but the off-road motorcycling ‘craze’ all started when Honda, one of the current largest dirt bike manufacturers today, had a small bike shop opened in Los Angeles, California operated by Soichio Honda in 1946.
Soichio Honda was a Japanese engineer and industrialist who founded Honda Motor Company. But nobody seemed interested in his inventory of small bikes and his small bike shop in California was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Back in those days, everyone was on street bikes. Trail bikes or dirt bikes was not at all popular since riders back then do not go off-road riding.
But by 1959, thanks to the power of advertisement, dirt bikes had caught the imagination of young Americans.
By 1963, Honda’s United States sales went up and trail riding was booming among riders in the country. That was when off-road riding became a sport and many other manufacturers followed suit.
The first dirt bike was born 74 years after two German engineers, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, invented the first motorcycle which was not that much bigger than today’s typical dirt bike.
In 1885, Daimler and Maybach successfully built the ‘reitwagen’, or riding car. It was built with an engine powered by 0.5 horsepower (HP) with a top speed of only 11 kilometers per hour (km/h).
However in year 1903, the original Daimler-Maybach’s motorcycle was involved in the Cannstatt Fire where the Seelberg-Cannstatt plant was destroyed.
The off-road riding scene became more popular and many off-road motorcycle racing were being held worldwide including in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, off-road races were held as early as early as in the 1960s. Some who took part was from the Royal Australian Air Force Motorsports Club based in Butterworth, Penang.
Back then, the off-road motorcycles was heavier, the seat was taller and the modifications were low-key such as magnesium hubs.
Many of the off-road motorcycles or dirt bikes today have more sophisticated features, lighter chassis, and many more advanced features.
It shows that today’s dirt bikes are tunable to cater to rider’s comfortability for better performance not just for racing but also for casual riding.
In year 2017, Honda alone sold 8, 955 off-road motorcycles. Imagine other motorcycle manufacturers!