Interesting Facts About Motorcycle History

Norton® Motorcycles

Norton® Motorcycles are a British invention founded in Birmingham in 1889, with their start in cycle chains. The company started out making parts and fittings for “the two wheel trade.” The company was established by James Landsdowne Norton and the first motorcycle productions offered by the company included Swiss and French engines. It was not until 1902 that the company actually began to manufacture motorcycles, and those first models were created with bough-in engines. It was 1908 when a Norton® built engine was first added to the companies designs. This company owes its history to James Norton, who many knew as Pa and founded the original company. These motorcycles gained massive popularity in the 1950’s. The Norton® Company still exists today, and the company is headquartered in Donington Park in the United Kingdom.

The Norton® Company's most popular design remains the Commando (pictured on the left), which is the model that gained most renown for this motorcycle company. The Commando features a body design by Rolls Royce engineer Dr. Stefan Bauer, and was first developed in the late 1960’s. Plans for a new Commando design are slated but $10 million is the estimated production run tally.

Harley-Davidson® and Military Motorcycles

Did you know that for many years most Harley-Davidson® motorcycles were green? Harley-Davidson® has been around since the early 1900s and a look at their history reveals that the company has produced some of the most famous motorcycle models in history. The company was founded by William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson, Walter Davidson, and William A. Davidson. Today the company is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Did you know that all Harley-Davidson® models were once painted olive green? This was a result of World War 1, also known as the Great War, which started on July 28, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918. During the time of the war, all Harley-Davidson® products were painted olive green, including the motorcycles. Some were even used during the war, but it was not until the late 1930's that the motorcycles were able to change their colors, so to speak, and have the lovely finishes we know today as motorcycle owners. However, Harley-Davidson® motorcycles have continued to be used in times of war up until the present global conflict. In fact, these popular motorcycles have been used in all conflicts between November 1918 to the present making Harley-Davidson® one of the longest used military vehicles in the history of motorcycles.

Yamaha® Motorcycles

Did you know that the Yamaha® 200 Electric, primarily the RD200, had 50cc less than alternative Yamaha® models, but the RD200 still proved to be a powerful and coveted Yamaha® model in motorcycle history? One of the main reasons these bikes were so coveted is that they still served up a considerable amount of power, but they were a lot less expensive when it came time to insure them.

The RD200 was originally manufactured in 1970 as a CS3 with an electric starting unit. The motorcycle can be compared to the GT185 by Suzuki® which hosted an alternator as the starter, only with the RD200 the cycle was started by a 12V DC generator. With the click of the button the user could reverse polarity and force the engine into action. The history of motorcycles reveals that bikes tend to undergo rapid evolution in terms of design. Within two years time, the C3 went through a dramatic evolution with the addition of style changes, a seven port induction, and a reed valve induction, before finally becoming the coveted RD200 electric Yamaha® model of the times. The cycle had the same curvy body style as the Yamaha® RD250A. It was continued until the mid 1970s before it was revamped and changed into a bike hosting squared off body styling and a blue or orange painted body.

Did you know that the original manufacturer of Triumph motorcycles was a British based company that entered into bankruptcy? Yet, the history of motorcycles reveals that bankruptcy filing doesn't necessarily cause a company's name to fade away into oblivion. Formerly based in Coventry, the company was later replaced by the Hinckley based Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. Today the company is the biggest company in the United Kingdom that manufactures motorcycles. The new company was established by John Bloor, who bought the name and rights to manufacture under the company name from the Official Receiver.

In 1990, the company began selling new models like the 750cc and the 900cc 3 cylinder cycles as well as 1000cc and 1200cc 4 cylinder cycles; the bikes, called T300s, were first revealed at the Cologne Motorcycle Show in 1990. The same bikes became available to the public a year later, and this company is still going strong. In July of 2008, Triumph Motorcycles Ltd released a parallel 2 cylinder motorcycle identified as the Thunderbird; the bike was revealed at a Global Dealer Conference and sold as a 2009 model. The company even expanded and began selling cycle accessories and clothing; the line is called the Triple Connection, and the company featured their older Triumph affiliation with celebrities like James Dean, Bob Dylan, and Marlon Brando to get people interested in the clothing line.

BSA Bantam

The number of units a company produces isn't always clear, and so it is the case with motorcycles manufactured and sold by BSA Bantam. This company, otherwise identified as the Birmingham Small Arms Company was established in 1948 and stopped producing cycles by 1971. They made unit construction, two stroke motorcycles; during the companies earliest beginnings the cycles were 125cc and when they stopped production they were making 175cc bikes. Nevertheless, how many units the company actually made and sold over the course of time remains unclear, with some guessing that about 250,000 units were made and others assuming nearly 500,000 units were crafted.

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