Las Vegas Star Lot: 1914 HD Twin Chain Drive

For Harley-Davidson, its first “modern” motorcycles appeared in 1914. It first introduced a multi-speed big twin, which was “only” a two-speeder, using an epicyclic rear hub common in bicycles, but the ability to “change gears” was a huge advance in motorcycles’ rideability.

The 2-speed gear was offered with both single and twin-cylinder models for 1914 only, as it was dropped the next year for the big twins. The gear proved tricky to keep in good adjustment, and its tight tolerances combined with riders’ unfamiliarity with the mechanism meant two-speeders were often only one-speeders with a neutral. Most buyers opted for the option they could understand: the twin-cylinder machine with all-chain drive, and a clutch. Another “first” for the Model 10 was Harley-Davidson’s first “step-starter,” by which a standing rider could spin and start the motor whilst stationary, or even astride the machine, without pedaling madly with a decompressor activated. With the first proper kickstarter, the 1914 models evolved further away from their bicycle origins, and were no longer mopeds.

The kicker meant no pedal-crank, and thus no natural place to keep one’s feet, so Harley-Davidson introduced footboards to its models, which were hinged for starting, as was the pedal of the new foot-clutch assembly, which interfered with the footboard when starting. Finally, a drum brake was added to the rear wheel for all-chain twin-cylinder models, as an expanding band of friction material rubbed against the inside of the 7-inch diameter brake drum: Harley’s first drum brake. This 1914 Model 10 was purchased in Caldwell, Kansas, in 1963, and was restored the next year. It’s an exceedingly rare model, and it remains in terrific shape more than 50 years later.

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