The motorcycle plays a very important role on the islands that make up Indonesia. With a high import tax on cars, and roads suited more towards the two wheeled vehicles, the motorcycle has become the staple mode of transport for the majority of the country’s population.
After seeing an interesting graphic on an IndoSole t-shirt, and learning that it was a diagram of the first motorcycle in Indonesia, I had to do a little research into the subject.
The first motorcycle to arrive on Indonesia’s shores, the motorcycle from the graphic, was a German made Hildebrand & Wolfmüller. In 1893, John C. Potter took delivery of said motorcycle, and in doing so, became Indonesia’s first motorized vehicle operator…the first car arrived over a year later. Potter was an engineer at a large sugar factory in Probolingo, East Java, and used the bike to get him around and about the large industrial estate. With a top speed of 45kph, the motorcycle offered quite the welcome alternitive to his bicycle.Considered to be the first production motorcycle in the world, the bike featured a 1488cc, twin cylinder, 4-stroke engine…similar to but smaller than that of an airplane. The most interesting feature however was its method of harnessing the power of the engine and transfering it to the rear wheel. It does not use a chain, belt or even shaft but rather a direct connection to the moving piston. By using a direct drive system, Hildebrand & Wolfmüller killed 3 birds with one stone so to speak. The connecting rod setup eliminated the need for a drive shaft, transmission and crankshaft…and made the bike very much a ‘jump on and ride’ vehicle.
Although the production numbered into the several hundreds, there are not many left in running condition. With a few restored examples residing in museums across the world, one of which is in Surabaya, Indonesia… proudly displaying its country’s first motorized vehicle.