The Motorcycle as we know it is derived from the two-wheeled bicycle. Comparatively, its history begins from the middle of the nineteenth century. But within a short span of time, the motorcycle soon caught the imagination of the public. But as with all inventions, the motorcycle was also adapted for military use.
Patrolling and Carrying Military
The First World War (1914-18) saw the entry of the Motorcycle as an accouterment to the Military. It was initially put into use as a dispatch rider. Earlier the Army was using horses and the motorcycle was a replacement. The war in Europe launched the motorcycle as part of the military in a big way. The US Army started by using motorcycles for provost duties by the Military Police, both for patrolling and carrying Military Police personnel .In addition the motorbike was also used for escort duties and couriers duties as telecommunication was in its infancy at that time. However the the motorcycle did not find favor with the Allies as a combat vehicle. Their use was confined to behind the battle lines. But the use of the motorcycle with its ability to negotiate difficult terrain as well as movement of Military personnel has made it indispensable for over a hundred years. The motorcycle could also be airdropped along with Para troops to add mobility to the paratroopers.
The use of the Motorcycle by the German Army needs special mention. The German Army used the motorcycle extensively. They also attached a side car to the motorcycle with a machine gun mounted on it. These machines terrorized the populations in the villages of occupied Europe during world war II.They also perfected the use of motorcycles extensively for liaison and reconnaissance purposes. The Bikes they used were BMW, NSU, DKW, and Zundapp. The BMWR/75 motorcycle with a capacity of 746 cc and a horse power of 26 is the best and most versatile of the lot. The German war machine had motorcycle infantry units attached to all their panzer divisions.
Harley Davidson produced motor cycles
The magnitude of motorcycle usage can be seen from the fact that the average infantry division on the Eastern Front against Russia was equipped with 452 motorcycles including those with a sidecar. However the number of motorcycle got reduced to 168 when the infantry divisions began to use the Kubelwagens (This vehicle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and built by Volkswagen) and Kettenkrads (Motorcycle half trucks). Most early models of German military motorcycles proved unreliable after the invasion of Russia in June 1942, due to the peculiar conditions there and the difficult terrain. Only the BMW R/75 was a success. The Russian Army were so impressed with this bike, that after the war they cannibalized this bike and produced their own bike called the K-M72.
The American Army had also a checkered history as far as use of motorcycles is concerned starting from 1913. The standard machine in use was the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Harley Davidson produced motorcycles en masse for the United States Armed force. If numbers have meaning than nearly 90000 bikes were manufactured by the company for the military. A large number were also produced for the Russians.That’s a colossal number. Two other motorcycles via ‘Scout’ and ‘Chief’ were also patented by The Indian Motorcycle Company, but they could not match the products of Harley Davidson.
US Army Introduced the Motorcycle
The US Army introduced the motorcycle in the Vietnam War. In fact the ‘special forces’ a specialized group to fight the Viet Cong made extensive use of the motorcycle for their operations. This was followed by the invasion of Iraq and the motorcycle was integral to Army operations during that campaign. More recently, the maneuverability of two-wheeled transport has proved invaluable in Afghanistan where the rugged terrain gives ample scope for operations with a motorcycle. The use of a motorcycle can best be illustrated with the adage that when the going is tough and no road is available the motor cycle can press forward and when there is a smooth road, it can be unchallenged as far as speed is concerned. Motor cycles are also in use by the Armies of China and India. In India the 1955 model Royal Enfield 348cc is still in production and extensively used by the Army Military Police and also for ceremonial duties like out riding for VIP’s. Today the Japanese manufacturers, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha dominate the large machine market