HD's 1906 Single

Harley-Davidson had some pretty humble beginnings. William Harley and brothers Arthur, Walter and William Davidson began producing motorcycles in a crappy 10-by-15-foot back-yard shed in Milwaukee, 1903.

Only one prototype and two production bikes were built in that first year. And only a total of 11 motorcycles were produced from 1903 to 1905. But by the end of 1905 however, the company's one model, a single-cylinder 24.74 cubic-inch (405cc) machine had earned HD a reputation for building excellent quality machines at a reasonable price.

As a result, in 1906 they built a 2,400-square-foot factory on Juneau Avenue where the company's headquarters remain to this day. HD also produced a catalog, launched an ad campaign and received orders for 50 motorcycles before they were even built! The motor company was well and truly on its way to success.

Those improvements in the business were accompanied by some significant changes in the motorcycle as well. For 1906 the engine was enlarged to 26.8 cubic inches (440cc) and pumped out a massive 4 horsepower instead of 3 (don't forget this was a 30% power hike back then). Also, the front end got a simple spring suspension system (woo-hoo!) and the company offered a new color option in addition to the standard black: A sophisticated Renault Gray with red pinstriping.

Other specs of the day included direct belt drive (no gearbox and a leather belt), a pedal start system where you pedalled the bike (like a bicycle) up to starting speed and engaged the primitive clutch to clutch start the motor and no brakes whatsoever. Real men don't need brakes anyway hey fellas?

This new color spawned the nickname "the Silent Gray Fellow" which stuck with the Harley brand for many years and became a part of its advertising and racing campaigns.

Check out the 1906 Carby!

That pivotal year set the tone for an incredible brand that would become one of the most successful and most enduring in the worldwide history of motorcycling.

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