Motorcycle: Singles - First Single, 1903 - 1911
Date: Sunday, October 31 @ 15:52:07 UTC
Topic: Motorcycle, Motorcycles, Motor Cycle
First Single, 1903 - 1911
Harley-Davidson's first motorcycle, though nominally a single-cylinder model, evolved with the company over a production span of eight years. During that time, annual production figures soared from fewer than a handful to over 4,000 as demand - and know-how — grew in leaps and bounds. One thing that changed relatively little was the price: $200 in 1904, yet only $25 more by the time production ceased in 1911.
The heart of the engine was a bolted-up crankshaft running car-type, plain, big-end bearings in cast aluminium crankcases. Above this sat a one-piece iron cylinder head and cylinder barrel housing an iron piston. To allow for differential expansion — its top generated far more heat than its bottom — each piston was tapered, a considerable machining achievement for the time. Valve layout was inlet-over-exhaust, the "automatic" or "vacuum" inlet valve controlled — crudely — via pressure created by the rise and fall of the piston. Removable housing permitted the extrication of both valves for servicing: no method of valve-lash adjustment was available until 1908.
The initial cylinder dimensions of 3 x 3 1/2 in (76.2 x 88.9mm) gave a displacement of 24.74cu in (405cc).In 1905, the bore increased to 3 1/8 (79.4mm), giving 26.84cu in (440cc).At the same time, the single loop frame was redesigned, as all previous examples showed a tendency to crack at the headstock. Capacity was further increased to 30.16cu in (495cc) in 1909 by a 1/16 in (1.6mm) increase in bore, by which time the exhaust port had also migrated from the side towards the front of the cylinder. Until 1910, all the motors had used horizontal "beehive" finning for both barrel and head; in 1911 this changed to distinctive vertical cylinder head finning.
Lubrication, like almost all engines of the time, was "total-loss" - a gravity feed dripping oil into the engine from a half-gallon (1.9 litre) tank, good for around 750 miles (1,200km). Transmission was of the simplest possible type with a 1 1/4 in-wide (32mm), two-ply leather belt driving the rear wheel directly. There was no gearbox or clutch, although belt tension could be adjusted on the move by 1911.
The starting technique was straightforward, if energetic - run alongside then jump on board and pedal like mad until the motor fired. A hand-crank starter became available in 1906 for an additional cost, and was standardized the following year, although neither method of starting was notably elegant.
Like modern motorcycles, power was governed by a twist-grip on the right-hand handlebar and a simple "coaster" brake in the rear hub slowed tilings down. Lighting of any kind was only made available with the introduction of acetylene lights in the final year of production. Initially, suspension consisted entirely of springs under the leather saddle - and whatever the rider could suffer - but, in 1907, a crude but remarkably effective Sager front fork was added to ease the pain.
As well as standard, conservative "piano" black, by 1906 the single was also available - at an extra cost - in "Renault" pale grey with red pin-striping. This model thus became known from then on as "The Silent Gray Fellow", partly in tribute to its unusually effective silencing. Unpainted metal parts were nickel-plated and the aluminium engine covers were brightly polished to a high shine.
Engine: single cylinder ioe with automatic inlet valve
Capacity: 30.16cu in (495cc)
Transmission: single speed, leather
Power: around 3.5bhp
Weight: 185 lb (84kg)
Wheelbase: 51 in
Top speed: around 45mph (72 kph)
HIDDEN TREASURE The very first production Harley-Davidson may currently enjoy pride of place behind a bullet-proof glass screen in the Juneau Avenue lobby, but it hasn't always been quite so treasured.
The bike was originally retained by the company and sent to the Pan American
Exposition in California in 1915 (since which time Harley has kept at least one example from each year of production).
Upon its return, however, the company somehow "forgot" this bike was Number
One. During the 1970s, it was damaged in transit to the Rodney C. Gott Museum in York, but its true identity remained unrealized, even while it was being repaired.
It was only when it underwent a recent comprehensive restoration at the hands of Harley Archives craftsman. Ray Schlee, that the machine's true pedigree was disclosed - by internal parts bearing the legend "Number 1." It is believed to have been raced in 1904 but is now housed in a 1905 frame, as all the earlier examples broke at the headstock. This unique machine has now been insured for $2 million.
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