Sep 19, 2014

Motorbikes Back in the Day

When we were in our early teens we began to build motorbikes. We added a small Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine to our bikes. The engine was mounted on the right center side of the bike with a belt going straight back to a large pulley on the back wheel.

The bikes typically had no clutch - straight drive - you simply lifted up the back wheel, ran down the street, and slammed the wheel down. This would turn the engine and hopefully start it. We would then jump on board, being careful not to let our legs contact the sparkplug.  Usually the brakes did not work and you worked the throttle by reaching down to the engine. You stopped the bike by stopping the engine.

They were unsafe at any speed but we loved them.  When the police caught us they would order us to take them home and take them apart. This we never did.

None of us thought to ever take a photo of our fine machines. If anyone has a photo send them to me and I will post them on this blog.

The photo above is a fancier version of the ones we built. Most of ours did not have the chrome gas tank. 

Factory made Motorbikes at MPHS

Whizzer Motorbike - Classic Mt Greenwood Chopper - Photo from Bob Glines. 

Many of us owned motorbikes back in the Hood. Bob Glines, Pete Terry, Don Martensen, Tom Schildhouse, Craig Hullinger and many others terrorized the neighborhood with these awsome machines.

We started off our motorbike careers by adding lawn mower engines to our bikes when we were 12 or 13.  The old Briggs and Stratton Engines were bolted to the bikes, with a pully belt that ran straight back to the rear wheel.  

These motorbikes were unsafe at any speed.  The engine was off balance on the right side of the bike. They were straight drive with no clutch, so you had to lift up the rear wheel, run down the street, then set the wheel down. This caused the engine to turn and hopefully to start. Then you leaped on the bike, being careful to keep your right leg high so that you would not get a shock from the spark plug.

In most cases the brakes no longer worked, so you stopped the bike by stopping the engine. Most of us received some minor injuries from these awesome machines. Tom Schildhouse managed to fly through a car windshield.

Unfortunately I do not have a photo of these homemade motorbikes. If anyone has one please send and I will post it on the blog.

As we got older we managed to trade up to Whizzer and Supertwin factory made motorbikes. These machines had clutches and brakes and were a big improvement from our homemade bikes. They were old by the time we got them, however.
This is a photo of a Monarch Supertwin. It was not quite as fast or prestigious as a Whizzer. It had a two cylinder two cycle engine. Don Martenson, Pete Terry, and Craig Hullinger owned Supertwins.

I mounted my Supertwin Engine on a English Racer and put a very small pulley on the rear wheel. I also mounted a front wheel drive engine on the bike, so I had a very light bike with two engines. I calculated it would go 90 miles per hour. Fortunately I could never get both engines running at once or it might have been an early end for me.


The beauty of the lawn mower engine bikes was that filling-up the gas tank cost about $0.07 back then. Very affordable.

But mine was much more sophisticated. I actually had a centrifiugal clutch. Started it by pulling the starter rope.

I didn't get into the hair-raising adventures Craig described until I bought a used SuperTwin from Craig, which was, sadly, lacking a twist grip throttle, and a handle bar lever to disengage the clutch.
I tied a string to a carburator lever to adjust the speed and had to start it by having someone push me. It all worked swell until a hot cylinder head burnt through the string and I was stuck on that monster running wide open with no clutch, until it the gas ran out.  That was a wild ride!

Sorry. I have  no photos of any of those bikes.

Don Martensen

The photo at the top of this post is a duplicate of one the one I had along time ago...Dont have any of the original. I also had a mini-bike with a chainsaw engine that I put on it. It was 8 horsepower and went too fast for the brakes I had on it. 

I do have a photo below of me on my Norton. Of course this was a big motorcycle, not a motorbike.

My Norton Commando Interstate approx 1975 ish, with dunstall pipes,very fast for1975

Bob Glines

Margaret Glines advised us that she and Bob have purchased E-Moto Bikes

I am so excited after much debate Bob and 
I bought E-moto electric bikes .

What a joy to ride. You can ride with full power; 
power assisted; or the good old fashioned way-pedal.


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