Category Archives: Motorcycles

Vintage Motorcycle Pics 2

1925 Douglas


THE MONA LISA SMILE – by the late Bill Young

It is a great pity that I can’t find the newspaper cutting. It would be the only proof  that the following tale is true.

Not that the crumpled cutting itself was over elegant, its ragged outline betrayed the fact that it had been hacked from the page with a blunt screwdriver or similar object. Certain cynics upon hearing my story are apt to scoff and loudly express doubts of its authenticity but – hand on heart – I can only tell the tale as it happened and leave it to you, dear reader, to decide.

It was so long ago that the passing years can muddle memory but you don’t have to be a quiz whiz to pinpoint the period

The change over from garden gate to featherbed.

Dead easy for the faithful followers of the hallowed name of Norton, as for the rest of you infidels –serves you right. At the time I was employed by Norton Motors in a roving capacity and as I was one of the few interested in off road activities and as I suspect no one else wanted the job, found myself in the competition department. If the name conjures up visions of clinically clean benches occupied by gleaming machines being carefully prepared by the white coated specialists, conjure again, it wasn’t like that at all. Just a crowded corner of the Manx shop littered with tyres, wheels, a miscellaneous muddle of parts of all descriptions and me! As a matter of fact, it was known by some of the coarser members of the staff, as the mud and slush department – which on reflection was probably a true and apt description

Most of the machines which came my way were covered with a copious coating of sodden soil gathered from various venues of the U.K.and it was often necessary to excavate the excrement before one could confront the complaint. Naturally the floor, bench and close surrounds soon assumed the appearance of an over populated pig pen in a wet winter and had I been a keen gardener with all that prime earth available I’m sure I would have been well on the leader board at the next plant pageant. Not every ones cup of char but it suited me, I had played in the mud from early childhood and I could put in plenty of over time, quite a help in the financial field which usually bordered on insolvency.

Picture me there in the morning the factory gaffer bore down on me, his florid face bearing a semblance of cordiality, but then I couldn’t be sure, it was a bad light. Skidding to a stand still on the slimy surface, he commenced “Lud” said he, ( every one under half a hundred was a lad ) “ Lud, we have decided to give you a rise!” This was good news indeed, no more twelve days, or occasional week end work , up to Scotland for the grouse season or Majorca for sun, which incidentally was an almost forgotten memory. The cautiously “How much”? I queried. “Thruppence an hour” he replied in the condescending tone of the chief beefeater giving away the crown jewels. “It’s good money” Disappointment over came diplomacy “ But very little of it” I rejoined.

In previous encounters with him I had noticed that when he was upset it showed in his breathing. He was inclined to inhale and exhale with a noise closely resembling that of an ancient steam locomotive ascending a steep slope.  Now low wheezing noises were starting to be apparent while his hue deepened and a swelling in the vicinity of his collar stud suggested goitre. At moments like this it’s funny how self preservation and the vision of a dole queue can humble a man. I made a quick decision “ Thank you so much sir” I simpered, barely suppressing the inclination to curtsey, “ It will be a great help”, of course it wasn’t really, that’s why the following Saturday saw me slaving in the Manx shop with several other impoverished people.

Now if the rise had been in keeping with my considerable talents more likely I would be found at the local park burnishing a bench and breaking bread for the muscovies or some similar exciting exercise. .But then you wouldn’t have a story any way so maybe it all worked out for the best. So what’s all this drivel got to do with that enthralling anecdote you promised us? You may well ask. Settle on the settee Syd or Cynthia as the case may be, all will be revealed in good time.

As afore mentioned it was Saturday in the Manx shop and happened to be the day of the Ulster. Between breaking our backs we were listening to the commentary of the races on the radio borrowed from the gaffer’s office as he wasn’t there at the time. Compatriot Ken Kavanagh on his first real works ride was runner up in both Junior and Senior to , you know who, a certain G.E.Duke. There was great joy and jubilation in the camp, Norton’s 1 and 2 and it wasn’t hard to imagine the scenes in Ireland, happy riders posing for the post race pictures flanked by the Norton hierarchy all wearing the self satisfied smiles of people who knew the answers before the questions, running races had only been a formality. At the time Alan Wilson was competition manager and usually his face was prominent in the pictures, this time he had missed the trip and was here with us but determined to get into the act – and so he did.

We had just risked a double hernia by hoisting a garden gate Manx off the bench and Alan lost no time by leaping up on the vacant space as it was a stage at the local Tivoli. Being fresh out of evening dress, I was not a frequenter of the Old Vic but I am sure that no greater dramatic art could have been enacted there by Sir Lawrence Olivier himself that which we were about to see. He shook imaginary hands, bowed to invisible admirers, nodded to all and sundry but mainly that enigmatic smile was the climax of his performance. It was Joe Craig to the last wrinkle, not to much or to little, mystic, is the only way to describe it, if I’ve got my words right. This act was repeated several times to much applause, loud cheers and countless encores then it gradually dawned on him that perhaps he was unworthy of such enthusiastic adulation. Maybe his audience simply preferred sitting watching him to straining theirs sinews lifting over weighty bikes, so we all called it a day and went home for tea.

It was a few weeks later that the Eric Oliver episode occurred. He was a familiar figure around the factory, often his large van, proudly displaying the sign  “Campione del Mondo” was parked in Brace Bridge Street while he ran around his business in the works. He was the sort of person who never had enough time, he was always in a hurry which may have had some bearing on why he was so successful in the racing arena. I well remember the evening, there was a trial coming up and I needed entry fees and travelling expenses, so was doing a bit of over time to raise the ready. There I was, digging the dirt out of the rear of a chain case of a trials bike, when the silence of the deserted factory was broken by the clatter of the iron wheels rattling on the bare boards. Then Eric loomed into sight wheeling a Manx engine and balancing a box of various accessories on the cam box

It appeared that he had arrived from the continent the previous day with a tired engine under his arm, on the bus too, would you believe? Cajoled the boys on the engine bench to give it a  “ go faster “  transplant and was due to return for another meeting later in the week. There was a bit of finishing off to do on the engine and he was looking for a spare bench top to complete it, so he could get an early start in the morning. This was the time when the rules were changed to limit side cars to 500cc and before he had a joe motor, the engine was standard Manx and only went quicker because that was the way he rode them.

A lot of mystery had gone for me of what lay behind the muddy chain case and it was the work of a moment to sweep away the top soil on the bench and slip the motor into the waiting cradle  Then a funny thing happened, I had been hooking on various bits and he was fitting the carburettor when, out of the corner of my eye I saw him put the tapered throttle spring in the side down, from memory I think the carb was a G.P. – D.K.  Before you rush into print to tell me that they were not available at this time, certain selected people had got their hands on them and he was that sort of bloke. Anyway I knew from previous experience that if the spring was up side down it restricted the full opening of the slide – try it some time. I felt like a junior foot man at the Buckingham palace standing on the balcony over looking a sea of loyal subjects as Prince Charles strode out with an important part of the regal attire unzipped: What do you do in a case like this? me, a boy from the black stump, which is a popular Australian colloquialism, and he a world champion. But then I knew that the engine was being nobbled which was hardly fair to man or motor, so I discreetly pointed it out to him. He told me he always fitted them that way but was convinced by a glance down the throat, sure enough the slide wasn’t fully opening, reverse the spring and it disappeared completely. There was another meeting in a couple of days and he assured me that he would let me know how the engine performed then.

If you are inclined to raise a doubting eyebrow at my story I will test your incredibility even more and you wouldn’t be the first. With the engine completed Eric asked me to give him a lift as he was living near me, My transport was my trials bike, naturally with no passenger accommodation. He hunted around and discovered a sponge rubber pillion complete with steel base which caused me to protest at the thought of scratching my polished alloy mudguard. This did not deter him for long as a hacksaw blade soon removed the steel base, he placed the rubber on the guard, hopped on and I dropped him off at his place. When I returned to work the next morning, both he and the engine had gone and I gave it no further thought until the letter arrived later that week. Not that it was a letter really just a newspaper cutting which was totally lost on me except for a couple of words as it was in a foreign language, completely foreign in more ways than one. A quick trip to the drawing office soon offered a translation, a friend of mine laboured in that holy of holies and had a double advantage over me, clean hands and an education. Roughly translated it said that the English driver E..Oliver had convincingly won the three wheel contest as the circuit le Citroen, or some other unpronounceable name, on his British Norton which had been tuned by Joe Craig.

I lost no time in taking the cutting up to the boys on the engine bench, who, to a man, smiled smug smiles and bowed in all directions. This pantomime was enacted for a week or more after first making sure that the boy from Ballymena was not observing their antics. Although I have no longer got the crumpled cutting, I still have my trials bike and I wonder had I let Eric put that steel based pillion on my guard, the resultant scratches, even now, would bear mute testimony to the truth of my story. When I think back all those years and recall that upside down throttle spring, I wonder if I could be permitted a little lopsided smirk myself.

Bill Young’s Norton 500T in 1988



Recently I related how Gerry Smith and I had ridden across the Nullarbor in April 1951. Gerry was on holidays and after some days in Adelaide he returned to Perth. As soon as I could I sold the AJS.  A close friend, Ron Bradbury, had shipped my 1950 350 BSA Goldstar to Adelaide. Prior to dispatch, Bill Anderson with my permission raced the bike at the Yanchep TT – 8th April 1951 where he crashed it and dented the tank.

Ken on 350cc BSA Gold Star – Woodside – South Australia

I joined the Atujara Motorcycle Club in Adelaide.  It was astounding the members who were either “big names” or went on to become big names. Dennis Minnett (ex England) – well known Brooklands/TT rider, Laurie Boulter – later killed in IOM, Rex Tilbrook – manufacturer of the Tilbrook sidecars/125 race bikes, Jim Silvey – top scrambles rider, and Les Diener – very well known successful rider/tuner 250 Velocette.  It was a great club, with great camaraderie, and I believe it still is.  The highlight of the year was the annual “Advertiser” newspaper 24-hour ReliabilityTrial.  Not for me this type of event as I had recent bad memories of the “Prince of Darkness”.

A story worth telling is riding the Goldie up the Great Northern Road (main road to Port Augusta) past Parafield Aerodrome about 30-miles from Adelaide.  This ride was for the purpose of tuning the bike in preparation for Woodside and later Gawler airstrip road races.  In company of a friend, Brian Floyd (Ariel), we had passed several riders and mechanics also doing tuning and high speed runs.  Some miles further on, having found a quieter section of road (less traffic), It was time to prepare the Goldstar.

I should say that the Goldstar was both my personal transport and race bike.  Change the silencer for a megaphone, other adjustments etc.  Now it was ready!  I did an almost top speed run to the north checking road conditions, then a full bore run back towards Adelaide, made a U-turn for another high speed run north and back to where Brian was waiting for me.

Imagine my surprise – shock – horror when slowing to stop, I looked around and there was a South Australian Motorcycle Police Patrolman on a 650cc Thunderbird Triumph right on my tail.  I felt sure he would ‘throw the book’ at me.  On stopping he came alongside me.

“How fast was it going?” he said. Utter despair gripped me and I thought there was no use in denying I was speeding. I thought he would probably do me for excess noise too, and maybe even dangerous riding. “About 85/90 mph.” I said in reply, since I was using a rev counter – no speedo.

“I thought so.” said he, “My Thunderbird was showing 95mph, and you were pulling away from me!” Speedos were optimistic then and still are now. Next thing he said  was “Have you seen Jack Pengelly anywhere, he is supposed to be out here too?”

I said that I had not. Then to my surprise he put the Triumph in gear while saying “he must be further up the road” and rode away. My mate, Brian, was incredulous at the turn of events , while I was dumb-struck too.  It turned out that the motorcycle patrolman was a close friend of Jack Pengelly’s, but he sure ‘shocked the hell’ out of me.  I duly raced at both Woodside and Gawler race meetings with moderate success.  Maurie Quincey was a star of these races, also Bert Flood on his 125cc Lambretta, and Alan Wallis (later long serving ACCA National Secretary) on the works Tilbrook, which he still has.


Clarke and Webster – Sydney to Perth Record Run 1924

FROM SYDNEY TO PERTH WITH MOTOR CYCLE & SIDECAR, Perth Western Australia 8 March 1924
E. C. Clarke, with his head bandaged and Bert Webster, passenger, arrived to-day in a motor cycle and sidecar from Sydney, doing the journey in 9 days 17 hours and 49 minutes. By travelling from Melbourne to Perth in 3 days 17 hours and 54 minutes they beat Armstrong and Schiller’s recent time of 5 hours and 18 minutes. Unfortunately. Messrs. Clark and Webster encountered trouble between Melbourne and Adelaide. The motor cyclist who was piloting them at night crashed into a spoon drain at Cressy and before their machine could be stopped Clarke and Webster struck him. the accident rendering the driver. Mr. Clarke, unconcious and necessitating a delay of approximately 24 hours. But for this unfortunate occurrence it is probable that the existing record would have been lowered by a far greater length of time.

Brief History of Motorcycles

The history of the motorcycle begins in the second half of the 19th century. Motorcycles are descended from the “safety bicycle,” a bicycle with front and rear wheels of the same size and a pedal crank mechanism to drive the rear wheel.[1] Despite some early landmarks in its development, the motorcycle lacks a rigid pedigree that can be traced back to a single idea or machine. Instead, the idea seems to have occurred to numerous engineers and inventors around Europe at around the same time.

Early steam-powered cycles

Lucius Copeland 1894

In the 1860s Pierre Michaux, a blacksmith in Paris, founded ‘Michaux et Cie’ (“Michaux and company”), the first company to construct bicycles with pedals called a velocipede at the time, or “Michauline”.[2] The first steam powered motorcycle, the Michaux-Perreaux steam velocipede, can be traced to 1867, when Pierre’s son Ernest Michaux fitted a small steam engine to one of the ‘velocipedes’.[3]

The design went to America when Pierre Lallement, a Michaux employee who also claimed to have developed the prototype in 1863, filed for the first bicycle patent with the US patent office in 1866.[4] In 1868 an American, Sylvester H. Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts developed a twin-cylinder steam velocipede, with a coal-fired boiler between the wheels. Roper’s contribution to motorcycle development ended suddenly when he died demonstrating one of his machines in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 1, 1896.[3]

Also in 1868, a French engineer Louis-Guillaume Perreaux patented a similar steam powered single cylinder machine, the Michaux-Perreaux steam velocipede, with an alcohol burner and twin belt drives, which was possibly invented independently of Roper’s. Although the patent is dated 1868, nothing indicates the invention had been operable before 1871.[3]

In 1881, Lucius Copeland of Phoenix, Arizona designed a much smaller steam boiler which could drive the large rear wheel of an American Star high-wheeler at 12 mph. In 1887 Copeland formed the Northrop Manufacturing Co. to produce the first successful ‘Moto-Cycle’ (actually a three-wheeler).[3]

Experimentation and invention

Butler’s Patent Velocycle

The very first commercial design for a self-propelled bicycle was a three-wheel design called the Butler Petrol Cycle, conceived of and built by Edward Butler in England in 1884.[5] He exhibited his plans for the vehicle at the Stanley Cycle Show in London in 1884, two years earlier than Karl Benz invented his first automobile who is generally recognized as the inventor of the modern automobile. Butler’s vehicle was also the first design to be shown at the 1885 International Inventions Exhibition in London.

The vehicle was built by the Merryweather Fire Engine company in Greenwich, in 1888.[6] the Butler Petrol Cycle (first recorded use of the term)[6] It was a three-wheeled vehicle, with the rear wheel directly driven by a 5/8hp (466W) 600 cc (40 in3; 2¼×5-inch {57×127-mm})[6] flat twin four stroke engine (with magneto ignition replaced by coil and battery),[6] equipped with rotary valves and a float-fed carburettor (five years before Maybach),[6] and Ackermann steering,[7] all of which were state of the art at the time. Starting was by compressed air.[6] The engine was liquid-cooled, with a radiator over the rear driving wheel. Speed was controlled by means of a throttle valve lever. No braking system was fitted; the vehicle was stopped by raising and lowering the rear driving wheel using a foot-operated lever; the weight of the machine was then borne by two small castor wheels. The driver was seated between the front wheels.[6] It wasn’t, however, a commercial success, as Butler failed to find sufficient financial backing.

Replica of the 1885 Daimler-Maybach Reitwagen

Another early internal combustion, petroleum fueled motorcycle was the Petroleum Reitwagen. It was designed and built by the German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt, Germany in 1885.[8] This vehicle was unlike either the safety bicycles or the boneshaker bicycles of the era in that it had zero degrees of steering axis angle and no fork offset, and thus did not use the principles of bicycle and motorcycle dynamics developed nearly 70 years earlier. Instead, it relied on two outrigger wheels to remain upright while turning.[9] The inventors called their invention the Reitwagen (“riding car”). It was designed as an expedient testbed for their new engine, rather than a true prototype vehicle.[10][11]

First commercial products
In the decade from the late 1880s, dozens of designs and machines emerged, particularly in Germany and in England, and soon spread to America.[12] During this early period of motorcycle history there were many manufacturers, since bicycle makers were adapting their designs for the new internal combustion engine.

Diagram of 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller.

In 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller became the first series production motorcycle, and the first to be called a “motorcycle” (German: Motorrad).[10][11][13][14] However, only a few hundred examples of this motorcycle were ever built. The first instance of the term “motor cycle” also appears in English the same year in materials promoting machines developed by E.J. Pennington,[15] although Pennington’s motorcycles never progressed past the prototype stage.[16]

Excelsior Motor Company, originally a bicycle-manufacturing company based in Coventry in Warwickshire (England), began production of their first motorcycle model in 1896, available for purchase by the public. The first production motorcycle in the US was the Orient-Aster, built by Charles Metz in 1898 at his factory in Waltham, Massachusetts.

In 1898, Peugeot Motocycles presents at the Paris Motorshow the first motorcycle equipped with a Dion-Bouton motor. Peugeot Motocycles remains the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.

In the early period of motorcycle history, many producers of bicycles adapted their designs to accommodate the new internal-combustion engine. As the engines became more powerful and designs outgrew the bicycle origins, the number of motorcycle producers increased. Many of the nineteenth-century inventors who worked on early motorcycles often moved on to other inventions. Daimler and Roper, for example, both went on to develop automobiles.

At the turn of the 20th century the first major mass-production firms emerged.

A 1913 FN (Fabrique National), Belgium, 4 cylinders and shaft drive

In 1901 English quadricycle- and bicycle-maker Royal Enfield introduced its first motorcycle, with a 239 cc engine mounted in the front and driving the rear wheel through a belt. In 1898 English bicycle-maker Triumph decided to extend its focus to include motorcycles, and by 1902 the company had produced its first motorcycle—a bicycle fitted with a Belgian-built engine. A year later it was the largest motorcycle-manufacturer, with an annual production of over 500 units. Other British firms included Norton and Birmingham Small Arms Company who began motorbike production in 1902 and 1910, respectively.[17]

In 1901 the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company, which had been founded by two former bicycle-racers, designed the so-called “diamond framed” Indian Single, whose engine was built by the Aurora Firm in Illinois per Indian’s specifications. The Single was made available in the deep blue. Indian’s production was up to over 500 bikes by 1902, and would rise to 32,000, its best ever, in 1913.[18][19] Indian produced over 20,000 bikes per year.[20] The oldest surviving Russian-manufactured motorcycle, the Rossiya, dates from 1902.[21] The American company Harley-Davidson started producing motorcycles in 1903.

During this period, experimentation and innovation were driven by the popular new sport of motorcycle racing, with its powerful incentive to produce tough, fast, reliable machines. These enhancements quickly found their way to the public’s machines.[12]

Chief August Vollmer of the Berkeley, California Police Department is credited[by whom?] with organizing the first official police motorcycle-patrol in the United States in 1911.[22] By 1914, motorcycles were no longer just bicycles with engines; they had their own technologies, although many still maintained bicycle elements, like the seats and suspension.

The First World War

Triumph Motorcycles Model H, was mass-produced for the war effort and notable for its reliability.

During the First World War, motorbike production was greatly ramped up for the war effort to supply effective communications with front line troops. Messengers on horses were replaced with dispatch riders on motorcycles carrying messages, performing reconnaissance personnel and acting as a military police. American company Harley-Davidson was devoting over 50% of its factory output toward military contract by the end of the war. The British company Triumph Motorcycles sold more than 30,000 of its Triumph Type H model to allied forces during the war. With the rear wheel driven by a belt, the Model H was fitted with a 499 cc air-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder engine. It was also the first Triumph not to be fitted with pedals, so was a true motorcycle.[23]

The Model H in particular, is regarded by many as having been the first “modern motorcycle”.[24] Introduced in 1915 it had a 550cc side-valve four-stroke engine with a three-speed gearbox and belt transmission. It was so popular with its users that it was nicknamed the “Trusty Triumph.”[25]


A pre-war Polish Sokół 1000

An historic V-twin American motorcycle — a 1941 Crocker

By 1920, Harley-Davidson became the largest manufacturer,[26] with their motorcycles being sold by dealers in 67 countries.[27][28] By the late 1920s or early 1930s, DKW in Germany took over as the largest manufacturer.[29][30][31] BMW motorcycles came on the scene in 1923 with a shaft drive and an opposed-twin or “boxer” engine enclosed with the transmission in a single aluminum housing.

By 1931, Indian and Harley-Davidson were the only two American manufacturers producing commercial motorcycles.[32] This two-company rivalry in the United States remained until 1953, when the Indian Motorcycle factory in Springfield, Massachusetts closed and Royal Enfield took over the Indian name.[33]

There were over 80 different makes of motorcycle available in Britain in the 1930s, from the familiar marques like Norton, Triumph and AJS to the obscure, with names like New Gerrard, NUT, SOS, Chell and Whitwood,[34] about twice as many motorcycle makes competing in the world market during the early 21st century.

In 1937, Joe Petrali set a new land speed record of 136.183 mph (219.165 km/h) on a modified Harley-Davidson 61 cubic inch (1,000 cc) overhead valve-driven motorcycle.[32] The same day, Petrali also broke the speed record for 45 cubic inch (737 cc) engine motorcycles.

In Europe, production demands, driven by the buildup to World War II, included motorcycles for military use, and BSA supplied 126,000 BSA M20 motorcycles to the British armed forces, starting in 1937 and continuing until 1950. Royal Enfield also produced motorcycles for the military, including a 125 cc lightweight motorcycle that could be dropped (in a parachute-fitted tube cage) from an aircraft.

After World War II

An original Vespa with sidecar

After the World War II, some American veterans found a replacement for the camaraderie, excitement, danger and speed of life at war in motorcycles. Grouped into loosely organized clubs, motorcycle riders in the US created a new social institution—the motorcyclists or “bikers”—which was later skewed by the “outlaw” persona Marlon Brando portrayed in the 1953 film The Wild One.[35]

In Europe, on the other hand, post-war motorcycle producers were more concerned with designing practical, economical transportation than the social aspects, or “biker” image.[35] Italian designer Piaggio introduced the Vespa in 1946, which experienced immediate and widespread popularity. Imports from the UK, Italy and Germany, thus found a niche in US markets that American bikes did not fill.

The BSA Group purchased Triumph Motorcycles in 1951 to become the largest producer of motorcycles in the world claiming “one in four”.[citation needed] The German NSU was the largest manufacturer from 1955[citation needed] until 1959 when Honda became the largest manufacturer.[36][37]

A 1962 Triumph Bonneville represents the popularity of British motorcycles at that time

British manufacturers Triumph, BSA, and Norton retained a dominant position in some markets until the rise of the Japanese manufacturers, led by Honda, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The role of the motorcycle shifted in the 1960s, from the tool of a life to a toy of a lifestyle. It became part of an image, of status, a cultural icon for individualism, a prop in Hollywood B-movies.[12]

The motorcycle also became a recreational machine for sport and leisure, a vehicle for carefree youth, not essential transportation for the mature family man or woman, and the Japanese were able to produce modern designs more quickly, more cheaply, and of better quality than their competitors. Their motorbikes were more stylish and more reliable, so the British manufacturers fell behind as mass-market producers.

Honda, which was officially founded in Japan on September 24, 1948, introduced their SOHC inline-four engine CB750 in 1969, which was inexpensive and immediately successful.[citation needed] It established the across-the-frame-four engine configuration as a design with huge potential for power and performance. Shortly after the introduction of the SOHC, Kawasaki demonstrated the potential of the four-stroke four-cylinder engine with the introduction of the KZ900.

Suzuki, Kawasaki and the Yamaha each started producing motorcycles in the 1950s. Meanwhile, the sun was setting on British dominion over the big-displacement motorbike market.

Japanese dominance

The Honda CB750 revolutionized motorcycle marketing and was emblematic of Japanese dominance

The excellence of Japanese motorcycles caused similar effects in all Western markets: many Italian bike firms either went bust or only just managed to survive. As a result, BMW’s worldwide sales sagged in the 1960s, but came back strongly with the introduction of a completely redesigned “slash-5” series for model year 1970.

From the 1960s through the 1990s, small two-stroke motorcycles were popular worldwide, partly as a result of the pioneering work of the East German Daniel Zimmermann (rotary disc valve) and MZ’s Walter Kaaden who developed the two-stroke expansion chamber in the 1950s. These ideas were taken up by Suzuki when Ernst Degner, the MZ engineer and rider, defected to the West on 13 September 1961 after retiring from the 125cc Swedish Grand Prix at Kristianstad. Degner, an excellent engineer, immediately joined Suzuki and his knowledge became their technology springboard.

Harley-Davidson in the US at the time suffered from the same problems as the European firms, but its unique product range, American tariff laws and nationalism-driven customer loyalty allowed it to survive. One alleged flaw, however, was retaining the characteristic Harley-Davidson 45° engine vee-angle, which causes excess vibration as well as the loping Harley-Davidson sound.

A factory full fairing was introduced by BMW motorcycle in the R100RS of 1977, the first factory fairing produced in quantity.[38] In 1980, BMW stimulated the “adventure touring” category of motorcycling with its dual-sport model, the R80G/S. In 1988, BMW was the first motorcycle manufacturer to introduce anti-lock-brakes (ABS) on its sporting K100RS-SE and K1 models.[citation needed]

The Present

Today the Japanese manufacturers, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha dominate the large motorcycle industry, although Harley-Davidson still maintains a high degree of popularity, particularly in the United States.

Recent years have seen a resurgence in the popularity around the world of many other motorcycle brands, including BMW, Triumph and Ducati, and the emergence of Victory as a second successful mass-builder of big-twin American cruisers.

In November 2006, the Dutch company E.V.A. Products BV Holland announced that the first commercially available diesel-powered motorcycle, its Track T-800CDI, achieved production status.[39] The Track T-800CDI uses an 800 cc three-cylinder Daimler Chrysler diesel engine. However, other manufacturers, including Royal Enfield, had been producing diesel-powered bikes since at least 1965.[40]

In the developing world

There is a large demand for small, cheap motorcycles in the developing world, and many of the firms meeting that demand now also compete in mature markets, such as China’s Hongdou which makes a version of Honda’s venerable CG125.[41]

Motorcycle taxis are commonplace in the developing world. Scooters, mopeds and motorcycles offer a fast, cheap and risky way around snarled traffic and scarce mass transit, as they can easily squeeze through jams.[42]

The first ethanol flex fuel motorcycle in the world was launched to the Brazilian market by Honda in March 2009, the CG 150 Titan Mix.[43][44][45] During the first eight months after its market launch the CG 150 Titan Mix had captured a 10.6% market share, and ranking second in sales of new motorcycles in the Brazilian market in 2009.[46] In September 2009, Honda launched a second flexible-fuel motorcycle,[47] and by December 2010 both Honda flexible-fuel motorcycles had reached cumulative production of 515,726 units, representing an 18.1% market share of the Brazilian new motorcycle sales in that year.[48][49] As of January 2011 there were four flex-fuel motorcycle models available in the market,[50] and production reached the one million milestone in June 2011.[48][49][51]

Further reading

Early history and use in the United Kingdom

Early history and use in the United States


  1.  “The Past – 1800s: First motorcycle”The History and Future of Motorcycles and motorcycling – From 1885 to the Future, Total Motorcycle Website. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  2.  Michauline
  3. Jump up to:a b c d Burgess Wise, David. Historic Motor Cycles. Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. ISBN 0-600-34407-X.
  4. Fiedler, David. “The Boneshaker – Invented by Michaux and Lallement” Retrieved 23 September 2010.
  5.  “motorcycle (vehicle)”. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6.  G.N. Georgano (2002). Early and Vintage Years, 1885-1930: The Golden Era of Coachbuilding. Mason Crest Publishers. p. 22.
  7.  G.N. Georgano, p.20 cap.
  8. “The Past – 1800s: First motorcycle”The History and Future of Motorcycles and motorcycling – From 1885 to the Future, Total Motorcycle Website. Retrieved 28 June 2007.
  9. Lienhard, John H. (2005). Inventing Modern: Growing Up with X-Rays, Skyscrapers, and TailfinsOxford University Press US. pp. 120–121. ISBN 0-19-518951-5.
  10. Setright, L.J.K. (1979). The Guinness book of motorcycling facts and feats. Guinness Superlatives. pp. 8–18. ISBN 978-0-85112-200-7.
  11. Falco, Charles M.; Guggenheim Museum Staff (1998). “Issues in the Evolution of the Motorcycle”. In Krens, Thomas; Drutt, MatthewThe Art of the Motorcycle. Harry N. Abrams. pp. 24–31. ISBN 0-89207-207-5.
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Suzuki GT185

Suzuki T305 Raider

Suzuki T125

Suzuki T500-III



History of Suzuki

Suzuki TR750 report

Suzuki T500II road test

GT500 Suzuki test

A whole lot of salt shaking going on!

Joe Petrali


On March 13, 1937, Joe Petrali set the land speed record for two-wheeled vehicles on a 4-valve 61 OHV with a speed of 136.183 miles per hour on the beach at Daytona, Florida. He rode a blue 1936 EL equipped with a 61 cubic inch Knucklehead engine that was specially designed for the attempt. It featured low-slung handlebars, and a fairing made from a cut and reshaped gas tank, also a rear tail fin assembly was fitted for aerodynamics. The tail fin had to be removed for the official attempt, though, because it produced excessive vibration. Petrali won his 49th and final AMA national on August 29, 1937 at the national hillclimb in Muskegon, Michigan. In 1937, the AMA introduced a new class called Class C which featured street-legal motorcycles in an effort to make motorcycle racing less expensive for ordinary motorcyclists. Petrali saw the change as rank amateurs taking to the track on heavy street bikes rather than a track full of seasoned pros like Class A racing. But manufacturers were cutting back on racing budgets during the Great Depression, spelling the end of Class A competition and, the Class C championship became the most important championship. Petrali’s final race was at the Oakland 200 in November of 1938. It was his one and only Class C race. It was on an oiled-down one mile dirt track. Bikes were sliding everywhere and Petrali was almost hit several times. Smok’n Joe pulled off the track and hung up his leathers for good. The last great Class A champion walked away from racing.

James Mellor – Bathurst

Monday, June 28, 1914 saw the 2nd running of the Australian Grand Prix at Sunny Corner, near Bathurst. It was held over 100 miles and the start was delayed to allow snow to clear from the racing line. James Meller on a Matchless was the winner.


James E. Meller with his Matchless on which he won the, June 28, 1915 Australian Grand Prix, held in the Bathurst District



James Mellor 19171978812_947256998628775_8545245149908296936_n