From four hooves to two wheels

Motorcyclist - - Shift - —Ari Hen­ning

MILLENNIA BE­FORE EURO­PEAN BUILDERS bolted their steam- and petrol-pow­ered en­gines to crude twowheeled car­riages and cre­ated the first “mo­tor-cy­cles,” no­mads on the steppes of an­cient Eura­sia were rip­ping around on horse­back. For 5,000 years horses reigned supreme as man’s most ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient means of trans­porta­tion. The mo­bil­ity horses pro­vided changed the course of hu­man his­tory, help­ing to spread peo­ple, goods, and ideas around the world.

In­ter­nal com­bus­tion dis­placed di­ges­tion as our pri­mary means of en­ergy con­ver­sion for trans­porta­tion, but the legacy of the horse lives on in mo­tor­cy­cling. Eques­trian vo­cab­u­lary is sprin­kled through­out the lan­guage we use, and we ref­er­ence horses ev­ery time en­gine out­put is dis­cussed. From the tall leather boots of mo­tor of­fi­cers to the diminu­tive stature of the world’s fastest road­rac­ers, there are ves­tiges and re­minders of the ul­ti­mate analog rid­ing con­veyance all around us.

And when it comes down to it, horses still out­per­form mo­tor­cy­cles in a num­ber of ways. They’re self­bal­anc­ing, for starters, a tech­nol­ogy en­gi­neers have yet to mas­ter on mo­tor­cy­cles. Their fuel is read­ily avail­able, grow­ing on the ground. And rivers, lakes, and other bod­ies of wa­ter are of­ten un­sur­pass­able ob­sta­cles on a mo­tor­cy­cle—but not on horse­back.

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