Transition-metal-containing rotaxanes can behave as linear motors at the molecular level. The molecules are set into motion either by an electrochemical reaction or using a chemical signal. In a first example, a simple rotaxane is described that consists of a ring threaded by a two-coordination-site axle. The ring contains a bidentate ligand, coordinated to a copper center. The axle incorporates both a bidentate and a terdentate ligand. By oxidizing or reducing the copper center to Cu(II) or Cu(I) respectively, the ring glides from a given position on the axle to another position and vice versa. By generalizing the concept to a rotaxane dimer, whose synthesis involves a quantitative double-threading reaction triggered by copper(I) complexation, a molecular assembly reminiscent of a muscle is constructed. By exchanging the two metal centers of the complex (copper(I)/zinc(II)), a large-amplitude movement is generated, which corresponds to a contraction/stretching process. The copper(I)-containing rotaxane dimer is in a stretched situation (overall length approximately 8 nm), whereas the zinc(II) complexed compound is contracted (length approximately 6.5 nm). The stretching/contraction process is reversible and it is hoped that, in the future, other types of signals can be used (electrochemical or light pulse) to trigger the motion.