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The Oldest Motorcycle Names Live On

Dec 6, 2007
Royal Enfield and Harley Davidson have survived the test of time and have maintained loyal legions of fans.

Harley Davidson

This classic series of motorcycles has a long and storied history with a legion of fans that includes owners, motorcycle enthusiasts, old and young alike. Distinguished by its style, unique engine sound and fan loyalty, Harley Davidson motorcycles are unlike any bikes ever produced.

From modest beginnings in 1901, Harley Davidson Incorporated was the brainchild of William Harley who had developed a small, powerful engine. Like many engine manufacturers of the era, these engines were intended for use with existing bicycle designs, combining motorized power with pedal power. From a small shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Harley and his partner, Arthur Davidson embarked on a journey that would revolutionize the world of motorized transportation.

1903 saw the introduction of its first production motorcycle. The early Harley-Davidson bikes were popular as race machines. By the end of the decade, Harley Davidson was selling a version if its bikes for use as police vehicles. Shortly thereafter, The Company introduced a 45 degree V-twin engine design that would represent a style synonymous with Harley-Davidson for years to come.

The post-war years saw a rapid expansion in production, along with some ownership bumps in the road. The mid 1980s saw ownership shift from AMF to a group comprised of Harley Davidson management. The Company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1987. The rest, as they say, is history.

The big V twin engine configurations were reflected in many subsequent designs including the F Head, Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead, all exceeding 1000 cubic centimeters in displacement. The smaller V-twin designs reflected a smaller displacement under 1000 cubic centimeters until the introduction of the Evolution and Ironhead series of engines and are found on the Sportster X series bikes.

The V Rod, introduced in 2002, incorporates a liquid cooled 1130 cubic centimeter super bike engine. The VRSC models are unique in both style and performance from all of its predecessors. The 60 degree V twin engine features fuel injection and was developed with the help of Porsche.

Even the Harley Davidson logo has created incredible marketing potential with after market merchandise and accessory sales accounting for up to 5 percent of the Companys revenue. The distinctive HD eagle reflects the respect Harley Davidson enjoys from competitors and motorcycle fans.

Royal Enfield

The pride of British manufacturing companies, Royal Enfield has established a reputation that dates back to the mid 1800s. Like many early manufacturers of personal transportation, founder George Townsend focus on producing parts for existing bicycle designs, and by 1893 was producing and selling complete bicycles under the Enfield name. It was not long before Townsend turned the name Enfield and its slogan built like a gun into household words across Great Britain.

The most endearing product introduction by Royal Enfield has to be the Bullet. With a single cylinder, four stroke engine, the 1933 Bullet sported a dramatic front to rear rake making for truly classic line. World War II brought a one of a kind bike from Enfield, the Flying Flea. Complete with its own parachute and packing cage, the Flying Flea could be dropped from an aircraft along with the troops provided a means of motorized battlefield transport not previously available.

The Royal Enfield line even included a version of the famous red painted Indian motorcycles, after the company acquired the brand name rights. The RE Indians were discontinued in the 1960s. Intense competition from Japanese motorcycle producers during the 1960s and 1970s meant the Royal Enfield needed bikes that could match the speed and performance of the Asian bikes.

The answer was the Interceptor line of extremely fast motorcycles, with a top speed of over 105 miles per hour and able to cover the quarter mile in les than 14 seconds. Sadly, production could not keep up with demand, and the Interceptor became the last of the Enfield line to be produced in England.

Royal Enfield motorcycles are still produced in India and exported worldwide, including to the United Kingdom and to the United States. The famous Bullet bikes still anchor this legendary line of motorcycles with versions which includes the 500 cubic centimeter Elektra X.
About the Author
Mitch Endick is a short article writer for the popular motocycle web site: http://www.motorcyclesalesandservice.com. He
provides informative advice on motorcycles and motorcycle accessories.
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