Motorcycles Break Out After 25 Years Behind The Bars

By Hap Jameson

From the January 1935 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

“LET’S go over and see the new 1935 models.” How many thousands of young fellows have said that and will say it within the next few weeks? And, boys, listen to a few words from an old-timer who thrilled over a 1903 model “lunger.” It’s just human nature to thrill over a new model and the supreme thrill comes when the job becomes your own.

Twist the grip back to 1910, the fourth slice of a century and uncrate the contraption your dad thought a super cycle.

We choose 1910 because that is about the time when motorcycles began to really break away from the siamese tie between motorcycles and bicycles.

There were many machines made then-some of them fairly good. Ideas were plentiful, but the execution was plenty bad.

Any one of those “marvels” would look quite sorry alongside today’s real, modern motorcycles, but we thought they were pretty swell. We didn’t know any better.

To better illustrate just what some of the older motorcycles were like, let us take the best features of all 1910 motorcycles and make a composite machine. If we do that, here is what we would have.

The first motorcycle to stretch over 53 inches in wheel base. A very crude attempt to lower saddle position. Saddle position at that time averaged from 27 to 28 inches. In order to lower this position, we simply chopped off the rear end of the tank and made the machine look like it was bob-tailed. Such lines! We might install one of those “free engine” devices-but there would be nothing free about it. The best mechanical oil pump that we could obtain would still be more mechanical than pump. For our drive we can choose between a belt or chain-the latter not so good, nor the former so reliable (especially when wet). If we adopt the chain drive, we can expect a noisy outfit and one which will be very expensive, because both chain and sprocket will wear out quickly besides requiring constant adjustment. If we take the belt drive, we will have slippage to contend with and a lot of stretch. Ever see a belt idler pulley? So there is not much choice in transmission.

We find that two or three models are presented with two speed gears. Some of them in the back wheels and some in the gear box, but in any case, we must start our night engineering classes now, else we’ll never get along with these makeshifts.

The “big” 28x2 ½ inch tires sure do dress up our 1910 special. And the spokes-they look like harp strings. Yeah! I know, today’s bicycles have 2 1/8 inch tires. How this world do travel.

Some comfort must be put into this machine we are making, so we will pay a little extra money and get some sort of a spring fork. O yes, back in those days we paid extra for most everything we got to make a better motorcycle.

A brake! Sure, don’t you see that big coaster brake hub? Boy, that stops ‘em! And the pedals will come in handy, too. You’ll find that out later on.

Lights! Well, if you insist, you can have your choice-acetylene gas, oil or Presto-lite. We’ll admit our lighting system is not like a dime store front, but we are used to “tinkering” to make anything work on this job that “wowed” ‘em way back yonder.

By Hap Jameson
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