The Names & Faces Of The Performance Motorcycle World – Sons Of Speed
Originally Published In Volume 1 Issue 1 Of Torque Performance Magazine Fall 2021
Article BY: Jason Hallman Photos By: Michael Lichter
he purpose-built race prepared bikes from this period set the stage for what was to come, not only in how we race, modify, tune and repeat with performance bikes, but with custom bike building as well, as these truly were the first custom bikes.” – Michael Lichter
Ok…before I get scathing emails about why in the hell, we are running a feature on a 100-year-old motorcycle…Hit your asthma puffer, take a deep breath, relax and think about where our community actually fits into the culture of motorcycling as a whole. Can we all agree that our community is one of outliers, misfits and Ne’er do wells? Not that we aren’t good people or smart people. I would argue that our scene is made up of some of the most brilliant and ingenious riders today. Twenty plus years ago it was the guys like Aaron Greene, Billy Lane and Jesse James (to name just a few) that created mind blowing customs and rode them all over the place pissing off Karens’ before being a Karen was even a thing. Why should our scene be any different? I was a small part of the culture back in the chopper days and through sheer determination, a little hard work and some quality friendships, I’ve ended up here today writing this article. This article is a call to arms for all of those of you doing this in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and hell even those in their 50’s to get off your ass and do something life enrichening.
Everything has a genesis…a jumping off point, if you will, and more importantly, a purpose. Today’s performance rider sets their bike up for the type of riding they want to engage in. If you are a wheelie fan, then you likely have 13 or 14-inch shocks. If you fancy a stop light to stop light drag race, then maybe your front end has a travel limiter, and your rear tire pressure is ten pounds under the recommended PSI so make the tire side wall flex a little. When you put it in to context in this way, it was really no different then, than it is now.
100 years ago, motorcycle board track racing was the rage. Motorcycle races consistently drew larger crowds than the automobile races did. In fact, back in 1915 in Chicago, a motorcycle board track race was attended by 80,000 spectators compared to the Indianapolis 500 which was attended by a far fewer 60,000 spectators only three weeks earlier. n 1910, in Tacoma Washington 35,000 fans attended a motorcycle race. The population of Tacoma was only 83,000 residents at that time.
This motorcycle is an original 1912 “Flying Merkel” purpose built by Billy Lane.
In his own words Billy Lane explains:
“I installed the original rear wheel hub & switched the rear chain drive back over to the left side, like it should be. The center shaft is now machined to accept the original pedal crank, which I’d previously eliminated for racing. She’s cold-blooded & warms up slowly after I replaced the Linkert carburetor with the original Schebler. I never wanted a loud, orange Flying Merkel, but I’ll hand start this f#@ker in front of a loud orange shipping container any time”.
This Flying Merkel sounds as “purpose built” as any performance twin I’ve ever seen! We will continue to feature the origins of performance in every issue of TORQUE Magazine to pay homage to the enduring pioneer spirit and the evolution of performance!