Here are 10 motorcycle facts you (probably) don’t have …


The bike is full of quirky anecdotes, like how Barry Sheene was instrumental in inventing the back protector in the late 1970s, passing his ideas on to Dainese. Or that the legendary Harleys custom Captain America and Billy Bike used in Easy Rider started out as old police bikes, bought at auction. We all love good motorcycle facts.

The ones you may have known before – others, less. Did you know, for example, that famous razor blade maker Wilkinson Sword tried to branch out into pre-WWI motorcycles with the Wilkinson TMC? Or that TV talk show host and famous petroleum star Jay Leno has the world’s largest individual collection of Brough Superiors? Or even that the late Honor Blackman (Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore) was a true bicycle freak, serving as a dispatcher during WWII and riding well into his fifties?

Well, here are 10 more motorcycle trivia gems you (probably) didn’t know already …

BMW’s original K series was “based” on a Peugeot 104 car engine.

In the late 1970s, with its aging air-cooled boxers outmatched by new Japanese superbikes and falling sales, BMW Motorrad was desperate for a new, more powerful, but equally distinctive, multi-cylinder powertrain.

The transverse fours and triples were out, as was a flat boxer four, after Honda launched its Gold Wing. Instead, what young design engineer Josef Fritzenwenger came up with in 1977 was inspired by a Peugeot 104 car engine. The four, all-alloy, liquid-cooled, was normally positioned transversely with the block tilted. at 72 degrees.

Fritzenwenger experimented by tilting it completely flat and mounting it longitudinally with a shaft drive, which had never been done on a motorcycle before …

The inventor of the scooter hated motorcycles

We all know that scooter mods and bike rockers hated each other in the 50s and 60s, but did you know that antipathy had its roots right from the start?

Italian aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio had been commissioned by Innocenti at the end of the war to create a new, clean and practical commuter two-wheeler and, as he hated “bulky and dirty motorcycles”, he proposed a small – “scooter” wheel design. The two fell out when Innocenti stipulated the use of a steel tube spine frame because his company specializes in steel tubes.

D’Ascanio then went to Piaggio, who had also experimented with two-wheelers, the result being the first Vespa. Innocenti, meanwhile, quickly followed with the Lambretta.

Triumph cannot make a Triumph car… because of BMW

The relaunch of auto brands seems all the rage with Norton and BSA now owned by Indian companies and, in the automotive world, Bentleys, Mini and more at the time, so you might think it’s only natural that someday , the British Triumph begins to build TR7 or deer of the 21st century.

It will not arrive. Although the original Triumph automobile company was formed from Triumph motorcycles in the 1920s, the companies split up in 1936, the Triumph Motor Company was eventually taken over by British Leyland in the 1960s and then Rover in the 1980s and 1990s.

The last car to carry the Triumph badge was the 1981 Acclaim, essentially a rebadged Honda. BMW bought the Rover group in 1994, then dismantled it and sold it in 2000. BMW has however retained the rights to several of its brands, including Mini and Triumph…

The Z1 900 first appeared as … Honda CB750

It is well known that Kawasaki was on the verge of releasing its own 750cc four-cylinder superbike when it was beaten in the hand by Honda’s CB750 in 1968.

It is also well known that, enraged, Kawasaki returned to the drawing board determined to beat Honda and came up with the 900cc, DOHC Z1 from 1972 which not only greatly surpassed the Honda, but was voted Machine of the Year Six. years in a row.

Less well known is the fact that, during extensive road tests in America before launch, Kawasaki realized that they had to disguise its creation to keep it a secret. The disguise they chose was the CB750, featuring Honda tank badges and even a replica of the Honda red livery…

Lawrence of Arabia’s accident led to the invention of the protective helmet

TE Lawrence, better known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, was not only a true post-war celebrity, but also a committed, equally famous rider with eight Brough-Superiors, the fastest bike in the world. the day.

On May 13, 1935, however, he crashed into Dorset and, not wearing a helmet as was common at the time, suffered head injuries which turned out to be fatal.

One of the doctors who treated him, Hugh Cairns, was inspired to undertake a lengthy study into the death of motorcyclists from head trauma, research which directly led to the use of protective helmets.

BMW’s cockade logo has “nothing” to do with propellers

We all know BMW’s famous blue / white “cockade” logo, right? This is generally thought to be an interpretation of a spinning propeller due to BMW’s origins in making aircraft engines, right? Wrong.

The BMW logo as we know it today was actually an evolution of the logo of its previous company, BFW, but with its red elements exchanged for blue in a nod to the flag of Bavaria where BMW was based.

The myth of the “propeller” is believed to have arisen from a subsequent advertising campaign that superimposed the logo over the image of a propeller – but that’s not where the logo came from.

The Yamaha RD350LC was designed, styled and tested… by Brits

The liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder, two-stroke RD350LC (and its little brother RD250LC) is surely one of the most famous Japanese motorcycles of all. Less well known is the fundamental influence of a talented group of Britons.

As the LC was not intended for America due to tougher emissions regulations, Amsterdam-based Yamaha Europe played a key role in its development and was led at the time by Briton Paul Butler, future team manager Kenny Roberts GP. Butler involved British stylist Mike Ofield, who was fundamental to his distinctive look, while former Norton Villiers engineer Bob Trigg, who was also instrumental in Norton Commando, was involved in its development.

Much of the testing was done by Yamaha employee and British test rider Dave Bean, while the “Pro Am” fairing kits were designed by fellow Brit, John Mockett.

The Triumph “T-bird” was named after … a motel in South Carolina, United States

Triumph motorcycles often have more evocative names than most – Daytona, Bonneville, Speed ​​Triple – most suggesting historic racing success or romanticized overtones. But arguably the most mystical of all is anything but.

The 1950s Thunderbird 650 was Triumph’s biggest motorcycle so far, a huge hit in the US, was the machine used by Marlon Brando in the iconic “The Wild One” and directly led to the future Bonneville. .

His name, however, was chosen when Triumph chief Edward Turner was returning from the races in Daytona, Florida, and passing the Thunderbird Inn Motel in Florence, South Carolina. It is still there to this day …

Mixed Imperial / Metric tire sizes are largely the Americans’ fault

Have you ever wondered why motorcycle tire sizes bizarrely combine widths and profiles metric (mm) and imperial diameters (inches), for example 120/70 x 17? I blame the Americans. Imperial had long been the standard for tire sizes until in the 1970s and 1980s radial tires developed in Europe began to use metric measurements.

At that time, the fundamental measurement of diameter was not just convention, but was cemented in the legislature of the world’s largest tire market, the United States. The switch from width / profile measurement to metric measurement, however, was less controversial and quickly became the norm.

Incidentally, in the late 1970s and 1980s European automakers attempted to establish a new metric diameter convention, with the Austin Metro among them, although this ultimately failed …

Harley tried to mark the sound of her engine … and failed

Until the new liquid-cooled Sportsters and large air-cooled V-twin from Pan America Harley were distinguished by their ‘potato-potato’ soundtrack as well as their appearance.

But did you know that the American firm actually tried to file its sound? Well, in February 1994, that’s exactly what he tried. He applied for a sound mark in an attempt to “own” the distinctive sound of the single-crank V-twin.

Inevitably, rivals protested, claiming that their single-crank V-twin would inevitably sound the same and that Harley’s efforts were ultimately scrapped – six years later …


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