Information On American Antique Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson have been making motorcycles for more than a century.

The first known motorcycle in the United States was brought from overseas in 1895. In the same year American inventor Edward Pennington demonstrated a motorcycle he had designed. He was also credited with inventing the term “motorcycle.” In the early 1900s motorcycles started being manufactured for public sale.


America’s oldest motorcycle brand, the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, was founded in 1901. Their famous diamond framed “Indian Single” was launched in 1904. It was available in the deep red color that became synonymous with the Indian brand. At its peak in 1913, the company sold 32,000 bikes. In the 1920s the company launched its “Scout”‘ and “Chief” models.


In 1901, William Harley created the blueprint for an engine to fit a conventional bicycle. In 1903, he and his friend Arthur Davidson developed a one-cylinder engine. The resulting motorized-bicycle was incapable of climbing through the Milwaukee hills without pedal assistance, and Harley and Davidson developed a bigger engine that became the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle.


Prior to buying an antique American motorbike, you should research the history of specific bike you are interested in, by reading books, visiting specialty vintage motorcycle shows and consulting with experts. Find collectors clubs for Indians and Harleys. This will help you determine how many were made, how many are still in existence, the rarity and demand for the model and the price.

The most valuable antique motorcycles are those that have survived with their original finishes and original parts. The paint work and finishes may well have deteriorated, but this is preferable to non-original replacements by experts and serious collectors.

The next most valuable category of antique bikes are those that have been restored. These will look as new, will have been freshly painted, and will have the correct parts for that make, year and model, although they are usually not original to the bikes they are on.