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Lot 321: 1913 Flying Merkel V-Twin

Sale of Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams & Butterfields (12 November 2005)

'The Merkel' brand first appeared in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1902 when Joseph Merkel set-up shop producing single cylinder motorcycles. Merkel was among the most innovative of the pioneer motorcycle companies. By 1905 Merkel had decided to engage in competition, and produced several racing machines. Merkelís motorcycles were to set many performance standards during the emerging American racing scene. These machines and their riders enabled Merkel to develop a patented spring front fork that was to become the forerunner of the modern telescopic front fork. This fork became the instrument of choice on racing machines of other builders. Also developed was the monoshock rear suspension, a system used today on modern motorcycles. Merkelís slogan became: ďAll roads are smooth to The Flying MerkelĒ. Merkel also used ball bearings as opposed to bronze bushings in the engine. In contrast to primitive atmospheric pressure intake valves, Merkel designed a cam-actuated mechanism. Merkel also pioneered a throttle-controlled engine oiler that long preceded Harley-Davidsonís and Indianís use of such a device.

The company was purchased in 1909 by the Light Manufacturing Company, and was moved in its entirety to Pottstown Ohio, producing machines with the 'Merkel Light' and subsequently 'The Flying Merkel' names. Joseph Merkel began immediately experimenting with frame and suspension improvements, and new engine designs. A young test rider by the name of Malwin Jones rode one of Merkelís creations. An inventive mechanic and racer, Jones set up the bike and defeated the reigning champion Erwin G (Cannonball) Baker in a ten mile race. The following season, Jones turned professional and won three of four races on a machine bearing 'The Flying Merkel' logo on the tank. Jones went on to become a national champion racer and helped Merkel achieve recognition among performance enthusiasts.

In 1911 the Miami Cycle Manufacturing Company purchased Merkel, and production was moved to Middletown, Ohio. The Miami Company, organized in 1895, was building bicycles and Motorcycles using names best known as Raycycle, and Miami. The Merkel acquisition gave Miami the high-end product that it needed to be regarded as a premiere manufacturer. The factory racing team by then expanded to include such names as LS Taylor, FE French, CF Pinneau, and W Wikel. In 1914 The flying Merkel won the National endurance run from Chicago to St Louis. Malwyn Jones then broke a worldís record on the Vanderbilt Course. When he returned to Middletown he was given a heroís welcome.

Engineering innovation, high quality, and racing successes were not enough to sustain this progressive endeavor. The onset of war and, a contracting market, and increased competition caused production of The Flying Merkel to falter. The final Merkel machines were produced in 1917.

Recently discovered after seventy years of storage, this 1913 Flying Merkel retains the vast majority of its original orange finish, and is as correct and detailed a machine as you are likely to find. Still visible is the period New York State registration number hand lettered on the rear fender. The only replaced parts are tires and tubes, spark plugs, magneto wires and chains.

There are few original survivors of this scarce marque. This is a rare opportunity to acquire an original finish, high quality v-twin motorcycle in running condition, and that is eligible for touring in the pre-sixteen class.

Lot Details
Auction Sale of Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams & Butterfields, Petersen Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Lot Number321
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine number8001
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors