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Harley-Davidson Two-Cycle Engine

When you think about Harley-Davidson motorcycles, it’s most often about the V-Twin engines, the retro-styling and the inescapable sound.

Many forget that the motor company manufactured a lightweight two-stroke engine and runabout motorcycle for 15-years.

In 1947 as a 1948 model, if you purchased an entry level runabout motorcycle it came with a two-stroke 125 cc single piston motor.  There were two motorcycles engines built — the Model 125 or S-125 (eventually called the ST-125).  The Model 165 or ST-165 replaced the ST-125 in 1953 when the engine size was increased to 165 cc. The ST models were the motor companies idea of how America motorcycle riding should be accomplished after WWII.

The Hummer

So how did Harley-Davidson develop or get the 2-stroke design?

The name “DKW” comes from a two-stroke engine built in 1919 by the Danish engineer Jørgen Skafte Rasmussen, in Saxony, Germany. It was a small engine, which Rasmussen called Das Kliene Wunder (the little marvel) that gave DWK its start in the motorcycle industry.

As WWII drew to a close in 1945, DKW’s factories had either been damaged or occupied by the Red Army. The Soviets took DKW plans, tools, and personnel back to Moscow where copies of the 125 were soon produced. The Soviet version of the 125 was first released in 1946 as the Moskva M1A and later as the K-125.

AMF Merger – 1969

As part of Germany’s war reparations, Harley-Davidson acquired the rights to the German DKW three-speed, two-stroke 125 cc Single.  Harley product shipments began in 1948 and thousands were manufactured in various incarnation until production ceased in 1966.

An updated model called the Hummer was added to Harley’s lineup in 1955, and subsequently all Harley single-cylinder two-strokes built between 1948 and 1966 incorrectly have come to be known as Hummers. The Hummer was named after Dean Hummer, a Harley-Davidson dealer in Omaha, Nebraska who led national Harley two-stroke sales.  The Hummer was very basic — it had magneto ignition and was sold without battery, electric horn, turn signals, or a brake light.

The Topper Scooter

In 1960, Harley-Davidson consolidated the Model 165 and Hummer lines into the Super-10, introduced the Topper scooter, and bought fifty percent of Aermacchi’s motorcycle division. Importation of Aermacchi’s 250 cc horizontal single began in 1961. The motorcycle had Harley-Davidson badges and was marketed as the Harley-Davidson Sprint. The engine of the Sprint was increased to 350 cc in 1969 and would remain that size until 1974, when the four-stroke Sprint was discontinued.

In 1962, Harley-Davidson built the Ranger, an off-road motorcycle without lights, made only for a year.  It had an extra-low final-drive ratio of 7.0:1 (12-tooth countershaft gear and 84-tooth rear sprocket) had neither a lighting system or front fender. Speculation was this motorcycle was built to consume the motor company supply of 165 cc engines, which would not be needed for any other models.

Aermacchi-built Harley-Davidson — The  Sprint

After the Pacer and Scat models were discontinued at the end of 1965, the Bobcat became the last of Harley-Davidson’s American-made two-stroke motorcycles. The Bobcat was the last of the 125-based Harley’s and manufactured only in the 1966 model year.  It was also the only 125-based Harley with a standard dual seat.

In 1969, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) bought Harley-Davidson, streamlined production, and slashed the workforce. The tactic resulted in a labor strike and lower-quality bikes.  Sales and quality declined, and the company nearly went bankrupt.

Harley-Davidson replaced their American-made lightweight two-stroke motorcycles with the Aermacchi-built two-stroke powered M-65, M-65S, and Rapido. The M-65 had a semi-step-through frame and tank. The M-65S was a M-65 with a larger tank that eliminated the step-through feature. The Rapido was a larger bike with a 125 cc engine. The Aermacchi-built Harley-Davidsons became entirely two-stroke powered when the 250 cc two-stroke SS-250 replaced the four-stroke 350 cc Sprint in 1974.

Harley-Davidson purchased full control of Aermacchi’s motorcycle production in 1974 and continued making two-stroke motorcycles there until 1978, when they sold the facility to Cagiva and ending it’s run of two-stroke engines.

Photos courtesy of and taken at Harley-Davidson Museum

For additional Harley-Davidson V-Twin Engine History see this page.

Sources:
Craig Hammitt LinkedIN Article
Wikipedia
Cycle World Article (1993) Article

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UPDATED: April 24, 2017Added a tab “Engine History” on the blog home page with updated V-Twin engine history including the Milwaukee Eight.

I recently received a note from the good folks over at J&P Cycles (you know — the largest aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories cataloger and online retailer) about the history of the big-twin motors.

It seems they’ve created an interesting infographic which nicely recaps the history of the V-Twin over the years.

I’ve posted my own share of engine history as well HERE.  However, I wanted to pass along their info and provide a link where you can view a close up of the infographic from their blog post HERE.

Infographic used with permission of J&P Cycles.

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Happy New Years!

Now that the champagne toasts are made and the ball dropped, it’s time to start thinking ahead:  What’s your riding resolution for this year?  Will you ride your motorcycle more often to work?  Take that epic journey or stay close to home?  Will you buy a new ride or enhance the existing one?

Before going forward let’s take a quick look back.

Over the years I’ve posted the occasional summary of the more popular and least liked stories from the past 12 months.  It’s not my “helper-monkey”, but the good folks at WordPress.com state their rankings algorithm is based on how many people read a particular article.  The average is the sum of views divided by the number of days and its gets even more complex if you are the sort of person who likes to verify computations.  I don’t.

The final tallies can be a little mystifying, to be honest.

Are readers giving a “thumbs-up” because they liked the content of the article or just the topic itself?  I don’t find these summaries a really useful exercise because some of the better written articles (IMHO) will sometimes have the fewest views.  It’s the old adage that writing about or reposting the nip slips, exposed undies and ever-presence dysfunction from the celebrity train wrecks for the whole world to see will bring a whole lot more views if that’s your goal.  But, if nothing else, the summary does provide a snapshot of what struck in my readers’ collective fancy during the past year.

In 2011, I posted 88 new articles (about 7 per month).  That brought the total archive on this blog up to just over 800 posts.  I uploaded 165 pictures (or about 3 per week).  The busiest day was September 25th (during the Vagos and HAMC shooting in Reno) with 1,120 views on an article I posted in 2008 (HERE).  Clearly the social behavior and the attraction of the events in Reno was a big draw, but I’m mystified why the more current article (HERE) had fewer views?  Maybe it’s a SEO thing.  I also want to provide a shout-out to the large number of UK viewers who consistently visit the blog.

Here are the 2011 most viewed highlights:

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs Flying Colors in Oregon
OCC Family Feud Ends
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs Are New Media Darlings
Vagos MC Meeting In Grants Pass
Harley SAMCRO Limited Edition Motorcycle
Harley-Davidson’s SwitchBack
Vintage Motorcycles – Honda CB750
Harley Engine History
“Green Nation” Busts On Saint Patrick’s Day
No Angel
The Day Laughlin River Run Changed
Men Of Mayhem
A “Legend Bell” Full of Mystery
Harley Snubbed In Benjamin Button Movie
Operation Black Rain Nets Oregon Mongols

I enjoyed this past year—and I hope you have, too.  If I’ve done my “job” right as editor of this blog, then your visits will have helped make your motorcycle hobby a bit more meaningful.  Hopefully you’ve become closer to your motorcycle and grown your relationship with friends that you’ve met on the road.

Happy 2012!

Photo’s courtesy of WordPress.com and Northwest Harley Blog.

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The Culbertson Guidon -- Custer's Last Stand

Last Friday marked the 134th anniversary of the battle.

I’m talking about The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer’s Last Stand.  It claimed, 263 soldiers, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer and attached personnel of the U.S. Army, who died fighting several thousand Lakota, and Cheyenne warriors led by Sitting Bull.  They fought for their land near what’s now Crow Agency, MT when the government tried to drive the Indians off the land after white settlers discovered gold there. The Black Hills in southeastern Montana (present day South Dakota) were declared Indian land in the late 1860s.

A single swallowtail flag – or Guidon – is one of the few artifacts found from the battle.  Guidons served as battlefield beacons marking company positions.  The victorious Indians stripped the corpses of trophies, but missed the bloodstained flag, which was hidden under the body of a soldier.  The Culbertson Guidon as it’s called was recovered by Sergeant Ferdinand Culbertson, a member of a burial party.  It was sold for $54 in 1895 to the Detroit Institute of Arts who has now decided to sell it and use the proceeds to build its collection. The flag has been valued at $2 million to $5 million and will be auctioned sometime in October by Sotheby’s.

If you’re headed to the Sturgis Rally then the battlefield is a must see stop.  It’s at the junction of I-90 and Hwy 212 and today the Little Bighorn National Monument offers up a wide range of activities and interpretive opportunities. I was there about 3 years ago and blogged about HERE.  The Forest Rangers provide talks about the battle and there are a number of related items presented in the Visitor Center.  I remember most an obelisk which commemorates the U.S. Army dead, and marks the spot of the mass grave where all U.S. soldiers were re-buried.

Tribal Sites: Crow TribeArikara TribeSioux TribesCheyenne Tribehttp://www.c-a-tribes.org/

Photo of flag courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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Pearl Harbor

It was 68 years ago today – December 7, 1941 – that bombs fell on Pearl Harbor.  It was a stealthy attack that took the lives of more than 2,400 Americans, threaten internment of 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii and was a tipping point for the nation which jumped headlong into its 2nd major war of the century.  It was a day filled with sacrifices and heroism – one that should not be forgotten.

Just six years earlier Harley-Davidson founded the Japanese motorcycle industry.  In fact, from the H-D history page it states:

“1935 — The Japanese motorcycle industry is founded as a result of Harley-Davidson licensing blueprints, tools, dies and machinery to the Sankyo Company of Japan. The result is the Rikuo motorcycle.”

Rikuo Motorcycle

Very little is known about the specifics and mindful of the results Harley-Davidson isn’t doing much talking.  It bears a similarity to the clandestine support the U.S. provided Muslim fighters during the 10-years the U.S.S.R. fought in Afghanistan.  Maybe that’s an overreach?   At any rate, the highly ironic consequence of Milwaukee’s quest for export markets in the 1920s resulted in helping Japan ready for World War II.   It was during the “economic slump” of the 1930s that the creation of a Japanese big twin occurred. It’s known that during the 1920s, Arthur Davidson had aggressively pursued new sales openings, including the establishment of the Harley-Davidson Sales Company of Japan.  It had a comprehensive network of dealers, agencies and spares. In fact, the Milwaukee motorcycle stood so high that Harley’s soon became Japan’s official police motorcycle.

Harley-Davidson exports to Japan all but ceased in the wake of the 1929 Wall Street crash and Great Depression as the global economic crisis crippled the yen. The story might have stopped there but for Alfred Childs, head of Harley’s Japanese operation, who asked: “Why not build Harleys there?”

The motor company was skeptical, but Childs’ persistence finally convince management and the first overseas factory began production at Shinagawa, near Tokyo.  Motorcycles built with tooling, plans, blueprints and expertise directly from Milwaukee — Harley-Davidson built a factory that was considered the most modern in the world. By 1935 Shinagawa was manufacturing complete motorcycles, mainly 74-inch V-series flathead twins.  In 1930, these had become the official motorcycle of the Japanese Imperial Army. Later, when the army became the effective civil power, it declined the chance to convert production to the new OHV Knucklehead, preferring the proven durability of the H-D side-valve twin. It was at this point that the Sankyo corporation forcibly took over control of the “H-D” factory and began selling Japanese Harleys under the Rikuo name. The “74” twin became the Rikuo Model 97.

As it became clear that Japan readied for World War II, Harley cut its losses and got out.  As military demand increased (especially after the Japanese invasion of China in 1937), Rikuo sub-licensed the product to Nihon Jidosha (“Japan Combustion Equipment Co.”). Its “Harleys” were variants of the model 97s, entitled Kuro Hagane (“Black Iron”).

Eerily, the factory had only a few more years to run. Nihon Jidosha was located in Hiroshima.

Research Sources:
Yokohama Kanagawa Prefecture photos of Japanese Harley History HERE.
Classic Bike article (1998) by Hugo Vanneck HERE.
Rikuo (Riku’O) Motor Web Site HERE.
H-D Museum Photos HERE.
FBI History 1930 – 1945 HERE.

Photo courtesy of Nippon News and National Archives.

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UPDATED: April 24, 2017Added a tab “Engine History” on the blog home page with updated V-Twin engine history including the Milwaukee Eight.

Have you ever wondered about the history of Harley-Davidson engines?

Compared to other motorcycle manufactures or custom shops, Harley works on a complete different time clock with new engine designs.

They seem to launch every 15 years or so. Between 1936 and 2003, engine designs released by Harley represented a constant tweaking of the same V-twin, 45-degree, air-cooled engine design. In 2001, Harley released its first new design in a commercial motorcycle, but it was still based on a V-twin. There have been only seven major engine revisions during the company’s 105 year existence:

Revolution engines – Manufactured starting in 2001. The Revolution engine is currently used on only one Harley model — the “V-Rod” or VSRC. While all of the engines mentioned are largely the same and represent incremental improvements, the Revolution engine is different. This engine is water-cooled rather than air-cooled and its V angle is 60 degrees rather than 45. It has four overhead cams rather than two cams in the crankcase and is fuel injected. This engine is smaller — only 69 cubic inches (1,130 cc). It has a much shorter stroke, allowing it to rev to 9,000 RPM and it produces 115 horsepower.

UPDATED: August 11, 2011 – With the 10th anniversary of the V-Rod (2012 Model’s) the motorcycles receive an engine upgrade to 1,250 cc.  H-D reports it at 125 horsepower at 8,250 RPM and 85 ft.-lbs. of torque at 7,000 RPM.

Twin Cam 96 engines – The Twin Cam 96 launched in August 2006 and was manufactured from 2007 through the current model year.  At 96 cubic inches (1584 cc) it claims an 8% increase in torque from the TC88 now at 93 ft.lbs.  All Twin Cam 96 engines are fuel injected. The bore is 3.75in (95.25mm) x storke is 4.38in (111.25mm).  Harley left the bore the same, but lengthened the stroke from 101.6 mm on the TC 88.  The TC 96/96B motor also adopted a pair of computer-controlled valves, one each in the exhaust and intake systems to help meet the EU noise and emission standards.  The TC 96/96B crankcases have a new crankshaft assembly versus the TC 88, with lighter, shorter connecting rods and redesigned, less heavy pistons delivering a raised 9.2:1 compression. New camshafts deliver revised valve timing in the re-ported cylinder heads, with an up-rated oil pump to enhance lubrication by 8% for the dry-sump motor. Harley also completely remapped the Delphi ECU controlling the sequential port fuel-injection (ESPFI).  The TC has cam chain tensioners with nylon composite shoes.  Harley changed from spring loaded to hydraulically loaded tension on the shoes in the Dyna line for the 2006 model year and for all Twin Cams with the introduction of the TC 96. The variability of cam timing introduced by inconsistent tension on the cam chain continue to be an issue best resolved by after market gear drive cam sets (S&S and others).  The 96B version contains gear-driven counterbalancer to reduce engine vibration.

UPDATED: May 8, 2009 – The motor company released Screamin’ Eagle models named TC103, a 103-cubic-inch (1,690cc) which is used in the 2009 Tri-Glide Ultra Classic (Trike) and the TC110, a 110-cubic-inch (1,803cc) in the 2009 CVO models (Fat Bob; Softail Springer; Road Glide; Ultra Classic Electra Glide).  The TC110 comes in an upgrade kit for the TC96.

Speculation is the Motor Co. moved to the Twin Cam not because the Evo had reached its power limits as a design, but because HD could not prevent other manufacturers from making clones of the design. With the Twin Cam, HD was able to preempt cloning via the U.S. Patent Office, thereby making it a lot more difficult and expensive for the aftermarket vendors to compete with the Motor Co. in the development and sale of upgrades or complete motors.

In order to comply with the increasingly-stricter EPA standards, all TC96 equipped Harleys come from the factory tuned very lean, which in turn creates a great deal of heat.  All ‘07 and later Big Twins are equipped with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) and 02 sensors for closed-loop operation, allowing an extremely lean tune to be safely, and consistently achieved. This has been a topic of much discussion in the Harley world, as many have commented that the excessive heat makes the TC96 too uncomfortable to ride in stop and go traffic, or in the heat of the summer. There are also concerns about heat’s impact on the longevity of the engine. To help combat this many owners re-tune their engines, run synthetic oil or add an oil cooler; and HD developed a “Parade” mode in which one cylinder shuts down on the Twin Cam to prevent damage to the engine.

UPDATE: August 11, 2011 – Bigger is better.  On all 2012 H-D motorcycle models with the exception of the V-Rod, CVO and Sportster models they now come with a Twin Cam 103.  H-D reports it’s about a 6% increase in torque.  Previously the 2011 line up of touring models had the TC103 available as part of a ‘Power Pak’ option.  The increased displacement from the standard TC96’s (1584 cc) to the TC103 (1690 cc) is the result of an increase in cylinder bore from 3.750-inches to 3.875 inches.  The stroke is unchanged at 4.375 inches.  In addition, the 2012 models with the TC103 receive an automatic compression release for improved engine starting.  Depending on 2012 model the increase in peak torque ranges from 92 to 94 ft.-lbs. at 3000 to 3500 RPM on the TC96 to a 97 to 100 ft.-lbs. at the same RPM on the TC103.

Twin Cam 88 engines – (aka “Fathead) was manufactured from 1999 – 2006. The Twin Cam gets its name from the fact that it has two cams in the crankcase to activate the valves. At 88 cubic inches (1,450 cc) of displacement, it was the largest Harley motorcycle engine at the time, and it produced 80 horsepower. The engine was air-cooled, and used overhead valves activated by pushrods. The 88B version (2000-2006) of the engine, which came out in 2000, contains counterbalancing shafts to reduce engine vibration.

Evolution engines – Manufactured between 1984 and 1999. Displacement is 81.8 cubic inches (1,340 cc), and the engine produces 70 horsepower. Although the Evolution 1340cc is no longer in production, the Sportster model line of motorcycles receives Evolution engines with 883 cc and 1200 cc displacements (manufactured 1986 to present).

Shovelhead engines – Manufactured between 1966 and 1985. Shovelheads displaced 74 cubic inches (1,200 cc) and produced 60 horsepower from years 1966 to 1977.  From 1978 to 1985 they were 80 cubic inches.

Panhead engines – Manufactured between 1948 and 1965. The panhead also came in 60 cubic inch (990 cc) and 74 cubic inch (1,200 cc) variations and produced 50 and 55 horsepower respectively. Big differences between the knucklehead and the panhead included aluminum heads on the panhead and internal oil lines, as opposed to external lines on the knucklehead.

Knucklehead engines – Manufactured between 1936 and 1947. The knucklehead came in 60 cubic inch (990 cc) and 74 cubic inch (1,200 cc) variations able to produce 40 and 45 horsepower respectively.

Flathead engines – Manufactured between 1929 and 1974. Flatheads did not have overhead valves. Instead, the valves ran alongside the engine and opened upwards into a chamber beside the combustion chamber. The advantage of a flathead was simplicity — no pushrods or rocker arms, and the head was a simple casting with a hole in it for the sparkplug. A typical Flathead engine had a displacement of 45 cubic inches (742 cc) and produced about 22 horsepower.

Sources: Various shop manuals, Chopper and HotrodsAmerican-VWikipedia, MSL MagazineJay Leno Garage, HOG Magazine (#011, 2011)

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