United We Roll Bike Night- Unveiling of Harley-Davidson Bicycle

Harley-Davidson Museum partners with Wisconsin Bike Fed to debut reproduction bike!

The bicycle collection at the museum is not currently open to the public

Bike Night at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee will take an interesting turn June 7 when the Museum joins with the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin for the United We Roll Bike Night to debut a new Harley bike – one powered not by a rumbling V-Twin engine but by pedals.

The olive-green cruiser is a tribute to a bicycle sold by the Motor Company in 1917, the first of 10 hand-built examples that will be offered for sale by the Harley Museum Shop later this summer.

This Bike Night will offer bicycle history, a cool new bike, and discount for entry and merchandise for those who arrive by bicycle, just stop by the Bike Fed Tent or ride in with us at 5:30 from the Wisconsin Bike Fed office or Red Arrow Park Bublr Station. Great bands and food and drink at the Museum will make for a festive night.  The event is free with music and food for purchase.

Only the most-avid antique bicycle collectors and Harley history buffs may even be aware that Harley-Davidson was in the bicycle business from 1917 until 1921, offering a line of five to six models each year. The bicycles were intended to introduce young riders to the Harley-Davidson brand and were styled to look like the company’s motorcycles.

As Harley ramps up for a big celebration of its 115th anniversary in Milwaukee over Labor Day weekend, the Museum staff began considering a special project that would call attention to an interesting piece of company history. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archives has a half-dozen examples of original H-D bicycles in its collection, and a plan was hatched to create a bike that, while not an exact replica of the 1917 Model 7-17 Standard, would represent the style and character of the original with some concession to manufacturing practicality and cost.

Heritage Bicycles of Chicago was given the assignment to create the bikes.

“Harley asked us replicate the original as closely as possible,” said Heritage owner Mike Salvatore. “This was quite a challenge because it took us out of our element. We were not going to just pull a frame out of the basement and paint it green.”

The process started by taking precise measurements of the original frame, which has a quirky bend in the top tube, unusually curved chain and seat stays, and geometry that Joel Van Twisk, director of bike operations at Heritage, calls “rather odd.”

“…the frame is compact and low,” said Van Twisk. “We wanted the adults we assume will be buying the new bike to be able to ride it comfortably, so we altered the geometry. I’d call it a 52cm frame in modern terms.”

A distinctive feature of the original Harley bicycles was the “H-D” logo stamped into the front sprocket, which was re-created by laser cutting stainless steel.

The bike is finished with hand-applied pinstripes by St. Francis-based artist Jeff Williams. The final touch is the Harley-Davidson badge for the head tube.

“The bike in the museum does not have its original badge,” said Van Twisk, “but we found one on eBay to use as a pattern and had exact replicas cast in brass, which was given an antique finish.”

The end result is a fitting tribute to a small piece of Harley-Davidson history, and the history of bicycling in Milwaukee.

The Harley-Davidson Museum archivist talks about the 1895 bicycle to the right from the factory where Bill Harley worked before he teamed up with Bill and Walter Davidson in this video. SUPER RARE, wooden rims and handlebar, horsehair and leather saddle.

For even more Bike Week fun, check out the website or facebook.

About Jessica Wineberg, Deputy Director

The second staff member hired for the Milwaukee office 13 years ago, Jessica started our Safe Routes to School and adult bicyclist and motorist education and is now focusing on passing and implementing an equitable Complete Streets Policy in Milwaukee. Jessica lives in the Riverwest neighborhood with her son Everett.

2 thoughts on “United We Roll Bike Night- Unveiling of Harley-Davidson Bicycle

  1. The Wisconsin Bike Fed will bring Wisconsin Bike Week to Milwaukee this week to help connect people who pedal with art, camping, beer and baking.

    The festivities kick off on Friday, June 1 and run through Saturday, June 9, with myriad events aiming to encourage participants to traverse the city on two wheels – a highly beneficial activity in terms of personal health, public health, convenient parking and, just generally speaking, a lot of fun. Visit here

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