”American motorcycle manufacturers went through some tough times, much like the American auto industry did during the 1970s,” Andrew Beckman, archivist for the Studebaker National Museum, in South Bend, Ind., told Design News. “But they’ve been able to weather that and rejuvenate themselves.”
In a new exhibit, the Studebaker Museum is allowing visitors to glimpse some of America’s most notable bikes, from the crudely motorized Yale Single of 1910 to the 2013 Harley-Davidson FLST Heritage Softail. The new exhibit includes 24 motorcycles from manufacturers such as Yale, Indian, Excelsior, Harley-Davidson, Cushman, and Victory. The exhibit includes scooters, simple motorized bikes, luxury motorcycles, and military products.
”Some of the early ones were very primitive -- basically bicycles with motors strapped onto them,” Beckman told us. “But collectors still think nothing of jumping on and riding them.”
Studebaker’s exhibit will run through May 10. Check it out by clicking on the photo below.
The 1910 Yale, which looked a like a bicycle with a motor strapped to it, employed a 3.5-HP, single-cylinder engine. The Yale was originally a product of the California Motor Co. of San Francisco, which later became the Consolidated Manufacturing Co. of Toledo, Ohio. A 1910 Yale cost $200 new.
That $200 translates to just under $5,000 in today's money. Living my entire life in Milwaukee, motor cycles (H-D) have always been a big deal. It's amazing how far they've progressed over the years. We're all anxious to see how well their new electric model does in the marketplace since their image has always been big, tough, rugged, and loud. - John
Indeed, motorcycles have come a long way. I'm a fan of the old ones myself. Where I live in Portugal there are a lot of old Zundapps around, usually helmed by old Portuguese men dressed like the Red Baron. Those are pretty cool, and if well-maintained can last for years.
I used to ride years ago, but that affection ended rather suddenly.
I'm sure everybody has their favorite bike they'd like to add, so I'll nominate the Curtiss V8. This bike, with uncle Glenn in the sadlle, set the land speed record in 1907 at 136MPH. The record sood until 1911, and was not beat by a motorcycle until 1930. The bike had a 4400cc, Curtiss V8 aircraft engine that produced 40HP.
jhankwitz--Before I retired I supported a company in Watertown, WI, i.e. Watertown Metals. The manufacturing manager was able to schedule a plant tour of the Harley Davidson facility in Milwaukee through a relative of his that worked there. It's a mechanical engineers dream. I was absolutely blown away with the entire process. We were also very fortunate to be given the tour by the VP of manufacturing. That visit remains one of the most fascinating plant tours in my career.
Excellent slide-show Charles. I'm embarrassed to tell you I did not know where the Studebaker Museum is. (I do now.) They have a very well done web site with plenty of information, (Including a map.) This exhibit will certainly be fascinating. I definitely will check this one out. I have a client about an hour away so it should be a good "road trip". Thank you for the post and the heads up.
What, no love for Buell? There are actually motorcycles besides modern antiques. Motorcycles don't have to look, and perform, like those made 60 years ago. Eric Buell has produced some of the most interesting, innovative and technologically advanced motorcycles ever produced (anywhere, not just in the US). His works have garnered praise, and awards, and won races. Recent races. Excluding him from this slideshow is an inexcusable oversight.
Hear, hear !! I love my Ulysses. The first motorcycle I've owned in 35 years where I didn't feel the need to run out and 'fix' the suspension. This thing handles like it's on rails, has nice satisfying rumble without being obnoxious and rolls over crappy broken up roads like a magic carpet. Grab too much throttle in any of the first three gears and the front wheel likes to point to the sky. Just too much fun. Never mind that you can stuff it so deep into corners without dragging a bit that carrying a clean set of skivvies is highly recommended. This thing was so not-Harley, that the stodgy vision-less wonks in Milwaukee decided that they would no longer produce them. I sincerely hope Buell is able to keep it going on his own.
The Buell is indeed a wonderful machine, but way beyond my budget. But possibly if they keep making them long enough there will be some used ones selling for less. Although it is not clear why somebody would choose to sell one. But even that wonderful machine is not immune to idiots that turn in front of them illegally. It is really hard to avoid a car that pulls right in front of you making that illegal turn.
Decent used ones can be had for a song these day. I have an '06. Mine with full bags retailed for about 13K, but these days you can get a low mileage Ulysses for about 4K. Part of the reason for that is when Harley stopped making the Buells in '09 they were selling leftovers for dirt to clear them out and people are often reluctant to buy a 'dead' brand because of concerns about replacement parts and service (if you don't twist your own wrenches). I won mine as the grand prize for the 2006 AMA membership sweepstakes that year. So for $3,500 in income taxes, I got a fully loaded Ulysses. I can't complain. I was very close to buying a Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom (similar style bike) about that time when I learned I won.
I'm not sure if EBR (Erik Buell Racing) is planning on supporting the legacy models when Harley stops supporting parts and service past the 7 year point. My friend at my work who owns both a Ulysses and one of the CR1125's says there is a very healthy aftermarket for Buell parts especially in Europe. Other than oil filters (and tires :-), I haven't needed anything for my Buell.
Keep in mind that the legacy Buells (with the exception of the CR1125) used a Harley derived engine and it shakes like a paint mixer at idle. Once you get some revs on it, Buell did a very nice job of isolating engine vibration through links and dampers. It has a nice rumble to it too without being obnoxious.
Sorry we didn't include Buell, Oppenheimer, but the slideshow was about the Stuebaker Museum display. To get in the display, and therefore in the slideshow, someone would have to temporarily contribute a Buell bike.
Ah, I see. Thank you. I recall now that the musuem was mentioned, but somehow missed that although the slideshow title generically refers to American Motorcycles, the content is based on the musuems collection. I blame reading DN at work and being distracted.
I grew up with motorcycles, but haven't had one of my own since getting married 24 years ago. I'll never forget my first ride on my grandpa's Cushman scooter when I was about 5.
Having had a Jetta Sportwagen TDI for about 6 months now, I'm really curious why more effort hasn't been put into making a lightweight clean diesel engine that would be well-suited for motorcycle production. It may not be the fastest off the line, but the low end and wide range of high torque output could be super satisfying on a motorcycle, IMO.
Not that I'm against seatbelt use, but one of the things I appreciate about motorcycles is that they aren't encumbered (yet) by big brother seatbelt laws.
As much as I don't like laws that tell me what to do, anyone that does not wear their seatbelt lacks a fundamental understanding of physics, or does not place much value on their life (or both). Its a shame we even need seatbelt laws, but it seems there are enough ignorant people (either ill informed or lacking intelligence, or both) that otherwise would not wear one, that such laws are necessary (not to protect them from themsleves, but to protect us from the burden of their healthcare costs due to preventable injury).
Unlike other calculated risks, like skydiving or even riding a MC, with seatbelt non-use there is no visceral thrill to be enjoyed, nor skill to overcome the danger (for the passenger - for the driver, no seatbelt to hold you in place to properly utilize those skills).
What is even the point of not wearing one? If its uncomfortable, or wrinkles your clothes, you don't have it adjusted correctly. If its just not wanting someone to telling you what to do, then don't wear it becuase the man tells you to, wear it because it would be stupid not to.
...and one reason they don't have many diesel MC's is because of the required pollution controls to make diesel clean enough. They would be too heavy, too bulky. Plus, at least in the US, the culture is that MC's are for fun, not for transportation. At least in the US, Diesel and Fun don't often go in the same sentence.
I'm not "whining", as you so kindly put it. I'm just pointing out the hypocrisy of our laws.
Hey, I get it. Even though this great nation was founded on libertarian priciples, the vast majority have been retrained into believing more government is good for us. It's a cyclical thing that just hasn't yet come around full circle to bite us in the backside again - but it's about to History repeats itself because we're too arrogant to learn from it.
Wow - I'm glad I gave you a chance to rant on seatbelts. Honestly, I don't recall ever NOT wearing one whenever I was in a car - law notwithstanding. However, you and I have differing viewpoints when it comes to assuming healthcare costs for someone eles's responsibility. I prefer not to draw a line when it comes to personal responsibility for risky behavior, because I don't believe there's a way to assess what and how much constitutes acceptable risk in a manner that satisfies everyone. I'm just not sure that protecting fools from themselves is really doing them and everyone else a favor in the long run. Survival of the fittest has individual motivation and responsibility built right into it in a manner that is consistent with the rest of nature.
As to the nature of diesel engines, you really ought to take a Jetta TDI for a spin on hilly terrain before claiming they can't be fun. My Jetta Sportwagen TDI is a real kick in the pants to drive, and I've had some sporty vehicles in my day.
I'm not convinced that such a motive force couldn't be scaled down for a motorcycle, but I agree that a lot of preconception inertia would have to be overcome. However, I believe getting that much thrust at 100 mpg could be very convincing,
We do have differing viewpoints. I favor seatblet laws to protect people from their poor decisions for financial healthcare savings for the rest of us. You are against seatbelt laws to allow peoples poor decisions to cost them their lives, presumably to protect the rest of us from their equally dificient subsequent offspring, or simply to protect the rest of us from having to coexist with them.
A side benefit of my position is more people survive. The main benefit of yours is they don't.
Favoring free will over coercive behavior does NOT define one as being against life. To assume so is reckless reasoning and it disappoints me to see that kind of characterization made by people on this site.
Governments don't just inherently know and do what's in an individual's best interests better than the individual does. Stalin maintained that he did and it resulted in anywhere from 20 million to as many as 60 million individuals dying of unnatural causes under his rule. That is magnitudes worse a track record than the number of people who have died of their own poor choices because they weren't restrained by the laws of some all-wise government.
There's no doubt that many lives are saved by wearing helmets and seatbelts, but it can't be assumed that people who don't favor it as a law wouldn't practice those measures of safety and protection otherwise. The greatest instinct of any organism - whether it be a person or a government - is to preserve itself. That priority often results in unholy alliances and unimagined (to most) adversaries. Limiting the power and authority of government was one of the chief objectives of the contract between the people of the states known as the U.S. Constitution, and doing so highlighted the naturally conflicted relationship between a people and their government.
Almost every time a government has overstepped the bounds of their authority, they have done so under the guise of it being for our good. That's why I'm resistant to your premise that law was "necessary" to save lives.
"Favoring free will over coercive behavior does NOT define one as being against life. To assume so is reckless reasoning and it disappoints me to see that kind of characterization made by people on this site."
"I'm just not sure that protecting fools from themselves is really doing them and everyone else a favor in the long run. Survival of the fittest has individual motivation and responsibility built right into it in a manner that is consistent with the rest of nature."
"...I'm resistant to your premise that law was "necessary" to save lives."
But you also said:
"There's no doubt that many lives are saved by wearing helmets and seatbelts..."
I do agree with you that new laws aren't the solution. I would prefer an education campaign to enlighten people to understand why seatbelts work, and that even of they feel safe without one, they aren't.
Here in CT, the State Police have a device called 'The Convincer" which is a little cart on a short inclined track, just a few feet long. The cart has a seat with a seat belt. They release the cart, and at the bottom of the track it abrubtly stops. It seems to make an impression on people how such a slow speed has so much energey, and how much a belt is needed. This tells us how many people don't understand the energy invovled, or even that dissipating energy in a controlled way is what prevents injury (ever see a movie where the character is 'saved' from a fall at great height by being stopped inches from the ground? That people don't realise that would be just as damaging is the problem. Education is the solution. A law is just a bandaid (but I'd rather have a law than nothing).
The sad thing is that the bulk of this diversion on a motorcycle topic would've been completely unnecessary if it had been noticed that I never said anything against seatbelt USE.
My comment that apparently ignited the whole diversion was simply alluding to the irony in using LAW to mandate their use by automobile occupants while having no similar requirement for motorcycles or bicycles, each of which arguably put their riders in a much more vulnerable position. If I didn't believe that to be the case, I most likely would have continued riding throughout my kids' childhoods. As it was, I gave up riding so their odds would be better of having a Daddy around as they grew up.
Now nobody else may consider that law discrepancy to be the least bit interesting or at all ironic and that's perfectly okay with me. I don't think I'll ever understand why several commenters had to construe my comment into any kind of position against wearing seatbelts. That was fabricated out of thin air because I've never advocated for their non-use - ever. Entire libraries could be filled by books advocating the pros and cons of free will, so I apologize for opening up THAT can of worms.
I like "The Convincer" for it's ability to make a lasting impression about how much potential energy is stored by mass in motion. Even though it may not exactly replicate the experience of a typical accident, I believe it's a very valuable tool for those who have lived much of their lives in a virtual world (TV, movies, video games) and don't fully understand how much energy has to be absorbed in those circumstances.
I understood from the start you have nothing against seatblet USE. I only meant to comment on seatbelt laws, which I prefer not to need, but due to population ignornace, I feel we do (so the better long term fix is address the ignorance).
I think users of The Convincer recognize what they feel is no where near a real accident, which is probably a big part of why its so convincing. If something that slow has that much impact, they realize how much more a real accident would be.
What a dumb argument against seatbelts. Completely aside from reducing injuries in collisions, the most valuable thing is keeping the driver in a position to control the vehicle. Hard turns and big bumps can jerk the driver away from the optimum position and lead to por control, while the belt holds one in just the right spot, if the belt is correctly positioned.
Besides that, we can thank the idiots who didn't wear seatbelts for our deadly airbags that we are forced to buy. I really would choose to not have a big explosive charge a few inches from my chest, especially now that it is found that Takata made all of those units incorrectly, allowing steel fragments to blast the driver. THAT is a hazard that I would choose to avoid, since it has been shown that thoractic perforation by high velocity metal fragments is hazardous to one's health. Yes, we can blame all of the fools who would not wear seatbelts for this airbag mandate.
Where is this "dumb argument" about not wearing seatbelts? Why are we pontificating for or against using seatbelts on a Motorcycle post in the first place? Are you advocating for the use of seatbelts on Motorcycles? Or did someone make an argument against seatbelt use that I missed?
When you talk about American Motorcycles you have to mention the Thor Motorcycle Co from Aurora, IL. They actually manufactured all of the engines for Indian in the early years and made engines or parts for almost all of the early motorcycles. Even though they did not make Harley parts their race director went to Harley and made that a winning team. The other item, though not strictly American, is the old Guggenheim Art of the Motorcycle show. I was lucky enough to see it and smart enough to buy one of the rare books. That show was amazing.
In looking at how some of the early motorcycles looked much like heavy duty bicycles with engines and fuel tanks strapped on, I find it interesting that there seem to be an increasing number of present-day bicycles with motorized kits added on to them.
A friend at work is currently looking at adding an 80cc gasoline engine kit to a sturdy mountain bike to make going up the big hills in our area a little more inviting when out on those pleasure rides. I concurr - it could make otherwise challenging exercise on a bike a bit more recreational and encourage venturing into those more hilly neighborhoods.
The hard times for American motorcycles, starting in the mid-fifties, were caused by the vast technical superiority of first English, then European, then Japanese motorcycles. Only in the 90s, when the biking generation got old, did Harley and the Harley look-alikes regain their former dominance in the American market. Now, with a couple of notable exceptions, the English are dead, the Europeans are making bikes too expensive and too fast for all but the richest and most skilled riders, and the flagship Japanese 1000cc sportbikes have been describerd by better riders than I as "stupid fast". I have been riding for over 60 years, and working professionally in the motorcycle industry for 50 years, and though I feel some patriotic pride in what the Amereican industry has done, my two bikes are still Japanese and Italian. One more comment--it is a shame that the exhibit did not include the iconic Harley Model K flat track racer. It was dominant in 1/4 and 1/2 mile racing, very popular in the 60as and 70s, for over a decade, and represented the higest development of the flathead engine. I wish I could have afforded one those many years ago, when I was a young and not-too-promising racer.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.