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Historical Development of Motorcycles

Find profiles of classic motorcycles from famous manufacturers, and follow the history and design of classic motorcycles from the early days when they were used as everyday transport.

Suzuki RG500

Yamaha RD/RD500

Quiz, Identifying Classic Bikes and Parts

Suzuki TS Motorcycles

Honda CBX

Yamaha DT1
The Yamaha DT was not only a perfect fit into a gap in the motorcycle market, the timing of its release was also perfect.

Rotary Engined Motorcycles
On the face of it, rotary engines are ideal for motorcycle applications. Unfortunately they have a number of inherent problems. Included in these problems are apex sealing issues, overheating and the exhaust emissions.

Kawasaki Z1300

Motorcycle Development--Controls

Bultaco

Royal Enfield

Classic Motorcycle Exhaust Systems

Classic Motorcycle Frame Welding Types
The early bicycle frames used the lug construction method of frame assembly. Later motorcycle frames used various welding types including brazing, shielded metal arc, MIG and TIG to join the various tubes.

Classic Motorcycles with Bodywork

Husqvarna

Dresda
Dave Degens started producing frames under the Dresda name in the 60s. Returning to their roots, the company now makes Dresda Tritons for the booming café racer market.

Indian Motorcycles

The Ariel Leader and Arrow
In 1958, Ariel introduced their Leader model and its sporting version the Arrow. The machines were an immediate success, so much so that in 1959 the company decided to stop production of all their 4-stroke machines.

Classic Motorcycle Quiz
Think you know all about classic motorcycles? Take the quiz and see.

Classic Bike Ignition Systems
There are two common ignition types associated with classic bikes: contact points and fully electronic. One of the shortcomings of the contact point ignition system is the tendency for the heel on the points to wear, which has the effect of retarding the ignition.

Servi-Cycle
Servi-Cycles were manufactured by the Simplex Manufacturing Corporation in New Orleans. The little 2 strokes were produced from 1935 to 1960.

What Is a Cafe Racer
Most motorcyclists have heard of cafe racers. But what are they, and where did they name come from?

2 Stroke Engines – Operating Principles
The working principles of a 2 stroke are the simplest of all internal combustion engines. They have the least number of moving parts and are becoming popular amongst classic bike collectors.

4 Stroke Engines - Operating Principles
The working principles of a 4 stroke are relatively simple. Popular amongst classic bike collectors, 4 strokes have powered motorcycles from simple commuter bikes to Superbikes.

Triumph Motorcycles
Follow the history of Triumph motorcycles from its foundation in 1902. Famous for their sporting background, the company was the largest producer of motorcycles in the world during the 1960s.

Sidecar History and Development
Sidecar development throws up many interesting and unusual facts, not least of which is the many names they have been call including: chairs, combos, combinations, hacks, side-hacks, outfits, rigs, platforms, three wheelers. But whatever they are called, the net result of fitting a sidecar to a motorcycle is fun.

What Are Drum Brakes?
Internal expanding shoe braking systems have been around since motorcycles became popular. Better known as the drum brake, these brakes offer a simple, cost effective, easy to adjust, and relatively safe means of stopping a bike.

Shaft Drive or Chain Drive?
The chain system utilizes two sprockets, one on the gearbox and one on the rear wheel, connected by a chain. The shaft drive system uses a shaft to connect a gear inside the gearbox to another gear inside a hub on the rear wheel.

Historic Harley Davidson Photos
Harley Davidson is an American classic. The company has been in continuous production since 1901. Although Harley Davidsons are synonymous with cruisers, they have produced many different bikes and sidecars over the years.

Ducati 750 Super Sport
Ducati 750 Super Sport

MV Agusta
Follow the history of the famous Italian motorcycle manufacture, MV Agusta. Founded by Italian Count Giovanni Agusta, the original company was initially involved with the early days of the aeronautics industry before making motorcycles.

Motorcycle Exhausts - 2-Stroke Expansion Chambers
As motorcycle engineers gained more knowledge of the 2-stroke and its working principles,it became obvious that to increase power they needed to have a method of varying the exhaust port timing. The invention of the 2-Stroke Expansion Chamber was the result.

Excelsior Motorcycles - USA
Excelsior USA motorcycle production started at Randolph Street in Chicago in 1905. The company (later to become Excelsior-Henderson) produced motorcycles from 1905 to 1931.

The 10 Worst Handling Motorcycles of All Time
There are a lot of factors that affect the handling of a motorcycle. In addition to design faults by the manufacturer, poor maintenance can turn a reasonable handling bike into a white knuckle ride! And a bad set of tires can transform any bike into a crash without a date yet! Compiling a list of ten bad handling bikes is easy, but putting them...

Harley Davidson Knucklehead 1939
One of the defining models to come from Harley Davidson was definitely the OHV (overhead valve) engined bikes in 1936. This design was to become known as the Knucklehead, as the engine shape resembled a person's knuckles.

The Ten Best Handling Bikes of all Time
To come up with a list of the ten best handling classics of all time, it is necessary to select one considered the best. Most riders who have experienced a Norton feather bed’s handling will use this chassis to judge all others.

Before Making Motorcycles
Most motorcycle aficionados know that the blue and white emblem on BMWs represents a spinning aircraft propeller. But do they know what the other companies did before they started to produce motorcycles?

UK Sports Mopeds
A smaller capacity limit was considered the only way to keep speeds down, and so a 50-cc moped (motorcycles with pedals) rule was introduced. But it wasn't long before even mopeds were capable of over 60 mph. Two mopeds in particular became popular with the sports moped-buying public: the AP50 Suzuki and the FS1E Yamaha.

Triumph TWN
Triumph motorcycles were manufactured on two different continents. The German TWN (Triumph Werke Nurnberg) manufactured motorcycles from 1903 to 1957.

Suzuki GT750
Combined with direct oil injection, the Suzuki GT750 was a sophisticated motorcycle in its day. It was produced from 1971 (GT750J) to 1977 (GT750B) after being shown to the public for the first time at the Tokyo motor show in 1970.

Norton Commando
The Norton Commando first saw the light of day in 1967 at the Earls Court Motorcycle Show.

Vintage Motorcycles
Some of the early classic and vintage motorcycles required special skills to ride and, in some cases, to start.

The Yamaha RD
First introduced in 1972, the RD range of 2-stroke twins were developed for street use from the Grand prix racers of the 50s and 60s, firstly in air-cooled form, then later with water cooling (known as the RD LC range).

Motorcycle Safety Recalls
For classic motorcycle buyers, the issue of recalls and advisories should be a consideration when conducting any research into a specific make/model.

Development of Motorcycle Front Suspension
Motorcycle designers have tried many different ideas for the front suspension on a motorcycle. From girder forks to race car style links, the steering and braking assembly on the front of a motorcycle followed many different design concepts.

Kawasaki Z Series
The Kawasaki Z900 was the first of the Japanese large capacity Superbikes. Long considered leaders in street bike performance with their triple cylinder 2-strokes, Kawasaki came to the market with the new 4 cylinder DOHC 4-stroke in 1972.

The Kawasaki Triples
The Kawasaki three cylinder 2-strokes were unique motorcycles. For street bike performance, the H1 was unrivaled; at least as far as acceleration was concerned.

Norton
Norton, the iconic English motorcycle manufacturer, was founded by James Lansdowne Norton. The Manufacturing Company was established by Norton in 1898 in Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham, England.

Motorcycle Shocks
To better control the wheel's movement, manufacturers needed a system of slowing or controlling the oscillation of a sprung mass; if not to fully control it, then at least to dampening the effects.

Motorcycle Frames, History and Development
The first motorcycles consisted of an engine bolted or clipped to an existing cycle frame. However, development was rapid. Within a short time there were single and double loops, monocoques, backbone, frontbone, and many variations of these designs, being used for frames.

How to Build a Café Racer
Building a café racer today is even easier than it was in the 60s. With such a well known style, specialist suppliers can be found for almost every item.

Cafés and Motorcycles in the 1960s
During the 60s in England, the youth of the time fell into one of two subcultures: mods or rockers. Home base for many of the rockers was their local café. What had once been a small café supplying transport drivers and local factory workers, blossomed during the 60s into a meeting point for hundreds of motorcycle riders.

Japanese Motorcycles, Four History Changers
From the 1960s onwards, Japanese motorcycles dominated the world’s markets. Of all the motorcycles designed and produced in Japan, the following four were highly significant for differing reasons when offered to the motorcycle market.

Triumph Trident
The Trident finally hit the show room floors in 1969; the company producing more than 19,000 units before production ceased in 1975.

Classic Motorcycle Carbs

Norton Commando 750

Modern Classics

Villiers Motorcycles
Thanks to the recommendations of Frank Farrer, Villiers 2-stroke engines have powered many different classic motorcycle manufacturers’ products, and everything from lawn mowers to milking machines.

Small Italian Classic Motorcycles
For legions of Grand Prix supporters, the small racers were special. To get good horse power from such small engines was a challenge for the best engineers. Making a street machine to resemble the racers resulted in some incredible looking machines.

Indian Chief Motorcycles 1901-2003
The original Indian motorycle company was founded in 1901 in Springfield Massachusetts. An early Harley Davidson rival, this brand was founded by bicycle racer George Hendee and Swedish immigrant Oscar Hedstrom.

Tehuelche Motorcycles

Velocette Motorcycles

Kawasaki 250 Ninja
The most successful design of the 250 Ninja was the model F which was released in 1988 and saw few changes for the next twenty years (mainly cosmetic). An evolution of this machine is still available from Kawasaki and is a popular first bike for many.

Kawasaki

Honda Gold Wing
When rumors began to spread of a unique touring motorcycle being developed by Honda, many speculated that it would be a failure. They couldn’t have been more wrong!

Honda, The Early Years

Mike Hailwood Replica Ducati

Motorcycle Fairings
Regardless of the type or style of fairing being fitted to a motorcycle, the same basic rules apply.

Five Classics for Less than $5,000
With a budget of $5,000 a potential classic bike buyer can find a lot of machines. Within this price range are machines that are relatively recent, generally from the mid to late 80s.

Moto Guzzi

Right or Left Side Gear Change Levers

Early Japanese MX Bikes

The Cotton Motorcycle Company

Yamaha XS650

Benelli Sei

Brough Superior

J.A.P. Engines

BMW and the RS255 Kompressor

NSU Motorcycles

BSA, the Early Years

Norton, the Later Years

Motorcycle Handlebars

Classic Motorcycling in India

BMW Motorcycles, the Early Years

BMW, the Later Years

Two Stroke V Four Stroke

Classic Motorcycle Specifications

Top Ten Ugliest Bikes of all Time

Classic TT 2013

Multi-cylinder Classic and Vintage Motorcycles

Classic Motorcycle Wiring
To completely rewire a motorcycle, the owner or mechanic must have considerable previous experience, or at the very least, the ability to read a schematic wiring diagram. That being said, it is a relatively easy task.

Mysterious Italian Motorcycle
Motorcycles produced in their thousands by the major manufacturers are easy to identify.

Classic 250 2-Strokes
For many riders, a 250-cc 2-stroke was their first experience of a performance street motorcycle. In particular, three Japanese machines had a large following when new, and are being collected now as classics. The three in question are the Kawasaki KH, the Suzuki X7, and the Yamaha RD.

Early Days
Classic motorcycles are often categorized by their year, but during their lifetime their cubic capacity often determined who would, or could, buy them.

Aprilia Motorcycles
Aprilia Motorcycles have come a long way in a relatively short time. Beginning in 1968 to being the number four in the world of motorcycle production by the 2013 is an incredible achievement.

Which British Classic to Buy?

Triumph 'C' Series Oiling Systems

Rickman Motorcycles

Classic Motorcycles and Gasoline

Riding a Classic Motorcycle

Classic Motorcycle Brake Upgrades

Notable Classic Hondas

Five Classics from Yamaha

Three Classics from Kawasaki
Kawasaki has produced some great bikes over the years. Many of these bikes are classics today and are highly sought after. Some of these classics are valued around $2,000, while others are nearer to $20,000! We take a look at three examples.

Five Classics from Yamaha

The Honda RC 161 Replica
Making a replica of any engineering piece is challenging. Making a replica of a factory racing motorcycle is especially challenging, but this is what the employees at the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Museum did when they built a replica Honda RC161.

The Honda 305
There are many popular classic Hondas around, but the early 250 and 305 models (C70, C75, CA76, CB and CL etc.) are particularly popular due to their reasonable prices and part’s availability.


One of the most popular British classics is the BSA Bantam. Produced in large numbers over its 23-year production run, the Bantam is now collected by enthusiasts all over the world.

Christmas 2013 Quiz
Think you know all about classic motorcycles? Take our 2013 quiz to test your knowledge.

Minerva Motorcycles
Putting a Swiss engine onto a bicycle frame was just the start for Minerva. From 1900 to 1909 the company manufactured some 35,000 motorcycles.

Book Review, Continental Circus, by Jan and Hetty Burgers and Frank Weeink.
Continental Circus - The Races and the Places, the People and the Faces, is a new book by photo journalists Jan and Hetty Burgers and journalist Frank Weeink. The book covers the early 70s of Grand Prix racing, F-750 and other international races with an in depth look at the riders, machines and circuits.

Duct Motorcycle Manufacturers
Eysink, Simplex, Sparta, Van Veen and Jamathi may not be the first names to come to mind when thinking about classic motorcycles, but to Dutch classic enthusiasts they are well known.

Book Review, Along for the Ride by Jim Scaysbrook

Sachs and Hercules Motorcycles

Zundapp
The industrial area of Nuremberg in Germany has been the home of many motorcycle companies, including Triumph (TWN), Sachs and Zundapp. The latter producing motorcycles from 1921 to 1984.

Building a Board Track Racer
Britney and Matt Olsen's 1923 Harley Davidson board track racer in detail.

Interview with Brittney Olsen

Two Classic Suzukis

Honda CB750 Sand Cast Builder
After a prototype sand cast CB750 Honda sold on eBay for more than $148,000, the internet has been abuzz. We interviewed builder Vic World for the low-down on this bike.

Brough Superior Today
Brough Superior motorcycles were renowned for their quality. Today, some 90 years after the first SS100s became available, a modern version is being produced. And just like its predecessor, the new bike is full of technical innovations. We take a closer look.

Motorcycle Development through Competition
Motorcycle competition in the early years was the R & D (research and development) of the motorcycle industry. Much of the technology seen today can be traced back to the board track racers in the US, or the reliability trials found in many countries.

Motorcycle Development through Competition
Many of the technological advances in the motorcycle engines can be traced back to the manufacturer's involvement in racing. Without the demands for increased performance to be competitive in racing, today's engines would be much less efficient.

Jawa Motorcycles
Czechoslovakian company Jawa, has been producing motorcycles since 1929. They have produced machines for everything from commuting to speedway racing.

Indian World Record
In the annals of motorcycle record setting, one man stands out for his sheer determination: Burt Monro. Monro managed to set world land speed records on a machine that started out with a top speed of 55 mph when new!

Burt Monro's Indian
How did Burt Monro get 190 mph out of a 55 mph street bike? We take a look at the engineering behind Burt Monro's incredible Indian Scout.

Classic 2-Stroke Racers
Chris Barton is a well-known British motorcycle racer. Since starting racing in 1977, Chris has ridden most of the popular 2-strokes on both road courses and many European race tracks.

Suzuki GT500 (Titan)
Mention large capacity 2-strokes and most people think of the GT750 Suzuki, but its little brother the GT500 or Titan, made a reputation for itself for having a good all round performance with an excellent reliability record.

Replacing Motorcycle Disc Brake Pads

Power Jet Carbs
One of the simplest, and most effective, updates to stock competition motorcycle carburetors were the fitting of a power jet. Mikuni introduced this design primarily for their TZ350 in 1979.

Aermacchi
Most enthusiasts in the US are familiar with Aermacchi Harley Davidsons, but before joining Harley, Aermacchi produced many classic motorcycles in their own right.

Low Cost Classic Harley Davidsons?
Many motorcycle enthusiasts dream of owning a classic Harley Davidson, We look at three for less than $7,000.

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