Motorcycles are a fast, fun and inexpensive form of transportation in many countries. They require less maintenance and upkeep than cars and take up a fraction of the space in storage. Motorcycles provide a sense of freedom and excitement that few other vehicles can match. They can also be a great way to save on gas.
Motorcycle fuel economy benefits from their small mass, compared to the size of the rider and other motor vehicles, as well as a smaller engine displacement. However, poor aerodynamics and engines designed for goals other than fuel efficiency can work against it.
The first motorcycles were developed in the 19th century by converting bicycles with small, centrally mounted spark ignition engines. These early machines were often subject to reliability trials and competitions such as the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy races. The advent of streamlined fairings, beginning in the 1950s, led to significant improvements in motorcycle speed and performance.
By the end of the 1950s, motorcycle manufacturers such as NSU and Moto Guzzi were producing a range of racing bikes that were competitive with Grand Prix bikes of the time. However, a number of riders were killed in crashes that involved full enclosure fairings, and by 1958 these designs were banned from racing.
Today, the most popular types of motorcycles are street and cruiser bikes. They share some similarities with standard motorcycles, but typically have a more relaxed rider position and a lower seat height. These make good commuters, but can be used for touring and long-distance riding as well. In developing countries, motorcycles can be found in nearly every household, providing cheap transportation for workers and family members who cannot afford a car. They are also widely used for sport and recreation, such as racing and MotoGP, which have pushed mechanics, designers and riders to new levels of achievement.