What’s A Whizzer?

what is a “Whizzer” ??

I’m so glad
you asked me that…..

The average Whizzer
you might come
across at a vintage
motorcycle show actually
started life as a men’s full
size bicycle.

Starting back before
World War II, (1939)
a Los Angeles based
aviation parts company
called Breene-Taylor
Engineering developed
a conversion kit that would
turn a consumer bike into
a motorized vehicle.

It was called the
and used a one-cylinder
motor that made about
1 3/8 horsepower.

The kit would fit a variety of
men’s bicycle frames and sizes,
(but no ladies bikes) including:
Higgins, Schwinn,
and Clevelands.

During the war, sales flagged,
probably due to serious quality
issues, like a crankshaft made
out of pot-metal, and a split

Only about 6,000 of
these were sold –
running through the

They were reputed to
be only good for about
a 1000 miles before they

Interestingly enough,
though – “Whizzers” and
similarly made “Cushman”
scooters were the only
new domestic made
‘vehicles’ that could be
purchased by civilians
after 1941, until the
end of the war.

The company survived
the war (barely) and moved
their production facilities to
Pontiac, Michigan .

The kits “Model-H” were
re-engineered with an
improved crank design,
better seals, bearings,
tappets, and generally
better performance.

And by 1948, the company,
now called “Whizzer Motors”,
were in a position to offer
consumer-ready Whizzers –
with no assembly required.

Their first pre-assembled
model was the ” Pacemaker “,
followed by the “Sportsman ”
and the Schwinn “Special ”
and “WZ” .

There was also a
‘top of the line’
model called the

But the majority
of “Whizzers”
started life as kits.

Horsepower was upped
to 3 HP on their motors
in 1952:

And the company then
switched over to a numeric
model-naming system —
i.e: the 300 series,
up through the 700 series,
which was the last one –
made in 1965.

All told, there were probably
250,000 “Whizzers” produced
in either kit form or
pre-assembled models,
and there were a staggering
variety of bike styles that
bore the name.

All that was left of the company
after 1965 was a back-stock of
parts and about 175 kits,
which were sold for about
$5000 in the early 1970’s.

!! HOY !!

The 1964 Ducati Apollo


You might consider
yourself an expert vintage motorcycle aficionado,
and still,
you may not
recognize this sled….

………….. if not,
I quite understand.

You see, this Ducati, developed
to directly compete with Harley Davidson,
especially in the United States market,
never made it into mass production.

And you’ll probably just
love the reason why.

This bike– the
full name of Image result for 1964 ducati apollo berliner
which was the
“1964 Ducati Berliner
1260 Apollo
– packed a 76 cubic inch (1250cc)
90 degree V-4 punch—

and it would actually accelerate
faster than it’s tires would tolerate…..

to over 120 mph

…… at a time when motorcycle
tires weren’t sturdy enough to
take speeds over 90.

It would literally go
until the wheels fell off.

Two prototypes were manufactured –
– one still survives.

So, if you wanna ride one,
well, you might think
that you’re outta luck.

But I’m told the 2011 Honda
VFR1200 used much of the same
technology, including a powerful
V-4 configuration.

And you can probably find one
of those bikes for about 7 G’s
on Craigslist, sitting under 2
inches of dust in some
yuppie’s garage.

Or, you can go to the Ducati
museum in Kyushu, Japan
where the surviving Apollo is
and beg.

A lot .


In The Beginning


I’m not one of those guys
who think you can learn
anything and everything
just from the Internet.

There’s some stuff that
simply can’t be taught
that way.

I’m sure you can come up
with a coupla examples…

………… I know I can.

( however, I did find the alphabet
technique very helpful — I must admit. )

So I’m here to tell you that you
cannot learn to ride a motorcycle from a post.

If it was all function,
and no form, maybe.

But motorcycling ain’t a science, it’s an art.

Everything about motorcycling is —indian

…. from the design of a motorcycle, to the
many finesses of riding.

Still, since I already started writing on this topic,
I might as well tell you a little about the early history of em…..

First of all….
you might be saying
it’s more of a sport than an art.

I dunno….
….. it seems to me
that if it was simply a sport,blindfold
I’d getting a big salary for hitting pedestrians or riding like a
maniac or something.

And I haven’t been getting
any money for it, at all.

I hope you appreciate that
cleaning pedestrians off
of chrome is hard work.


Before there were cars,
there were motorcycles.

And before there were gas powered motorcycles,
there were steam powered ones.


The first gizmo that could rightly be called a motorcycle was invented in 1867-
by a couple French guys named Michaux and Perreaux—

…………………………….. the ‘Michaux-Perreaux Velocipede’ .

It was basically a converted bone shaker bicycle with a steam engine attached.

It had no brakes,
had a hand control for the boiler,
and burned alcohol to make the steam.

You couldn’t really call this thing
practical or comfortable, I guess….
…………………. more like wonky and dangerous.


Still, first is first.

In the United States,
a guy named Sylvester Roper was working on a steam velocipede, too.

By 1868, he had a working model of the Roper ‘Velocipede’ ready…

It was built on a purpose built frame,
and had both a throttle and brake
built into the one piece handlebar assembly.

Again, comfort wasn’t exactly job one.

But you can definitely say that
Roper was committed to his creation.

He died in the saddle of his 1896 model .

Man, when I say I want to die in the saddle,
I don’t mean THAT way.

Ahem. 3

soon folks were working on other kinds of motorcycles,
………………….. a little less …. well, sketchy.


A lotta times you’ll hear people say that the Germans actually invented the first motorcycle.

And I guess it depends on your definitions….
one thing’s for sure, though.

Although it was internal combustion,
had a two speed transmission and was gasoline fueled —-

–the Daimler-Maybach ‘Reitwagen of 1885 bore little more resemblance to modern motorcycles than did the previous steam powered ones.

With no steering axis angle and no fork offset,
steering depending on a lotta luck
and a couple outrigger training wheels.

The bike’s seat burned up on its first 7 mile test,
due to the engine’s hot tube ignition built too close to it.

Actually the term “Reitwagen” means “riding wagon”,
so I’m not sure even Gottlieb Daimler would take the ‘first motorcycle’ distinction that seriously.


If I had to make a choice between the several competing claims on this whole first motorcycle thing…

I guess I would point out the world’s first PRODUCTION purpose-built motorcycle…..

That distinction belongs to the– 1894 Hildebrand and Wolfmuller ‘Motorrad ,
built in Munich.

Yeah, I know…
………………………. the Germans again.

Say what you will, that well documented
German penchant for detail makes
them wonderful engineers.

Maybe that explains
all the German helmets
and Iron Crosses ya used to
see on some bikers, I dunno.

This thingee had a water-cooled four stroke two cylinder carburated 1500 cc engine — that would make 2 1/2 horsepower and about 25 miles an hour.

It used pneumatic tires, had brakes, and a relatively comfy seat.

It also required the rider to start it using the old ‘run alongside and jump on’ method, since it had no clutch or pedals.

Not that I haven’t used that method with some modern bikes in my time…


It might be interesting to note that the first use of the term “Motorcycle” was around that time….

An American inventor from Indiana, EJ Pennington, used it in 1893, and he went on to patent a motorcycle design of his own in 1896.

This was also about the time
when American and British
manufacturers started to take
over the leadership in motorcycle development.

In Britain, Triumph produced it’s first mass produced purpose-built ( not a converted bicycle ) model in 1905, with a Triumph 3-horsepower engine.

BSA released it’s 3 1/2 model in 1910.

(BSA would grow to become the
best selling motorcycle made between 1951-1965.)rich

Norton would produce their first bike with a Norton made engine in 1908.

In 1913, Royal Enfield introduced its famous V-Twin powered Model 180 with sidecar.

In the United States,
Indian produced its first “Indian Single” in 1901, and by 1902 were being sold with
chain drives and a diamond frame.

In 1904, their trademark red color was introduced, and it was soon the world’s best selling brand — where it remained until World War I. ( see my post on Indian )

Harley Davidson released their first production bike “Model 1” in 1904 — it had a 405 cc (25 ci) 3 horsepower intake-over-exhaust engine, designed in part by Ollie Evinrude.

There were at one time or another
there were over 100 American
motorcycle manufacturers,
but by the start of World War II,
there were only two left—7
Indian and Harley Davidson.

German manufacturing of motorcycles was also booming, and makers during this period included Hercules, Mars, NSU, Opel, and Wanderer, with Triumph also maintaining a plant in Nuremberg.

There were also large numbers of
manufacturers in France, and Italy.

The rest,
as somebody inevitably will say,
is history.

Now, party time.

who brought the beer?

Cheers !!!!!


Take The Magic Carpet Ride

a3I got a very nice
little letter
from a new reader
who asked
me some questions
about motorcycling —

Does one get too old
to learn how to ride one?

How hard is it?

What are the things
to look out for when riding?

How does one know
what they need
on a motorcycle?

Despite the fact that
the issues she asked
about are a bit more
than can usually be
answered on a single
blog post,

I think I have showna8
in the past an
absolute talent
for completely
even the most
complicated of subjects….

So I guess I’m the
man for the job.


I started riding
motorcycles when
I was 13 —
(my parents knew NOTHING
about it, and lucky thing, too)

I was doing handyman type
chores and babysitting
(yes, I was babysitting —
hey, I needed gas money)
for a couple that lived
in my neighborhood,
and the lady of the house
took a liking to me,
and let me take
their early 70’s era
Suzuki 500 motorcycle
out on occasion.
(It was red, of course)

She figured it wasn’t
hard (to ride),
and what harm
could I do in the end?

I figured that I’d
just learn on the go.

And both of us turned out
to have had the completely
wrong idea.

(Although one or two
of her other ideas
I totally enjoyed)

But, I didn’t wreck
the bike or anything.

And it wasn’t powerful enough
for me to go really ape with it.

Just enough to scare
the living beee-jeeezus
out of me several hundred times.

And I guess what
I’m getting at herea31
is that,
no matter how you learn:

whether it be in a riding class,

or you just decide to wing it
in the off hours of the
Wally World parking lot,
you’re facing a steep
learning curve as it is,
so bring plenty
of cojonic audacity,
and start to learn on
something small and light.
(it’ll be cheaper to replace)

I don’t really see age
as a limitation,

although I do know chef
Alton Brown, who was
famous for riding his m/c’s
back and forth to his Atlanta
area studios recently decided
to quit riding saying that he
didn’t feel comfortable
with the age-related loss
of reaction time and
situational awareness.

But, anyone familiar with Alton
also knows how anal
the guy can seem about things —apol
all things
and motorcycles
aren’t really going
to keep one in any
kind of comfort
zone most of the time,

I don’t blame him,
but as for me,
I’d rather be the guy with the pickle
riding off the mountain
when it’s time to me to GO .

And if you don’t
get that reference,
you’re obviously not a biker.


I think most motorcycle
dealers these days
will give you a referral
to a local training class —
those classes are usually 4-6 Saturdays leading up to
getting a m/c license or such.

They do them at
the Police Academy here,s
on a specially designed course,
and I will often spin by
and watch the fun
on my way home
from the gym.

Some people have no business on a
— ever —grannie

But you
(and everyone else)
will know who
they are
right away
in a class like that.

They usually either flunk out
or no-show on the second class,
so, no worries.

Is it difficult to ride?
Naaaaaaah. Eazy Peeezy.a

Is it difficult to ride well ?
Oh man, damn sure, it is.

You got no idea how difficult.

So what’s to be done?

Which means
and Ride.

You must learn
to be totally bug
comfortable with:
the throttle,
and all the safety equipment.

(not to mention, bugs in your teeth, pebbles smacking you in the leg, sand in your eyes, birds flying into you, and so many assorted goodies like that …… )

Do me a favor, though —a35

Forget where
the horn switch is —
— if you’re in a situation
where you’re tempted to
use it, you should instead
be totally focused on
slowing, stopping, evasion,
and balance —
beeping your horn
takes a measure of biker
valuable time and
attention away from
you at the
exact time you need
all of it.

You really need to
be able to operate
every piece of your
bike blindfolded.

(just don’t try it)


In an emergency,
there is absolutely
NO TIME to look
for your kill switch,
choke, high beams,
or your gas toggle.

You must learn where
your sled’s center of
gravity is, and how to
use it to control your bike.

And you need to be able
to stop and turn on a dime.

Otherwise, you might as
well change your name
to Parto D. Pavement.

Cause people in cars have
4 solid walls around
them when they’re driving,
and, though either ignorance,
or maybe they just
don’t give a fuck —
they usually drive like it.

What’s a little dent on
a fender to them, after all?

But a collision —
— any collision —
to a motorcycle rider
is potentially life threatening.

No four walls.
Just hard concrete.

So YOU must learn
to read their little minds —
to drive defensively,
and to always assume
the ‘cage driver’
is about to do
something stupid.

I like to make eye contact
with people coming
out of side streets,
I will throttle back
until I’m sure they’ve not
only seen me,
but also have decided
not to pull out anyway.

And sometimes they fool you anyway.

I know plenty of riders
who have ruineda4
a perfectly good
Mercedes-Benz paint job
with their essential bodily fluids
because they assumed that
driver was competent.

(Blood and guts are acidic
and absolutely ruin
a car’s finish, ya know)

Assume they’re all
morons, and you’ll
be much safer.

As for what type of
motorcycle you’d want….thr

Well, as I said,
lighter and smaller
would be my recommendation
when you’re learning.

You can get a nice used bike to learn on
for under a G
just about anywhere.

Once you’ve built some skills —
that’s the time to talk
about something with
power, style, class,
and a long term financing contract.

Don’t buy into the whole
‘ Real Bikers only ride
Harleys ‘ bullshit, either.a1a1

Real Bikers ride whatever
(and whomever) they like ,
and they don’t give a fuck
about who says otherwise.

Buy what you enjoy
and are comfortable on.

I’m here if you got questions —
as long as you don’t ask me
‘the elephant in the room’ one.

Well —

I’m thinking it took me
40-plus years
to feel like I could ride
my way out of a paperbag….

Your mileage may vary.


PS: I think I mighta forgot
the part in her letter when
she asked about turning and leaning —

It’s tricky to explain,
but briefly:

You lean the bike – not you.
If you’re banking to the right,
then your head and shoulders
should still be perpendicular
to the ground,
while your weight,
since the bike is leaning right,
will have to shift slightly left
to keep your center of balance.
But you can drive your foot
down into the right pedal
to ride the bike harder
into a steeper right turn.
This one takes practice,
but just remember,
the bike turns, you don’t.
And passengers should always
mimic the driver’s position.

Zoom, Zoom.

HOY !!!!!