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The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, designed by William Harley, patterned by Arthur Davidson, and built by Walter Davidson. The company lettering, along with the double pinstripes, was done by Aunt Janet Davidson.
The bike came about as a result of William Harley’s attempts to mate an engine to a bicycle frame. It was intended to be a racer, having a bore of 3-1/8” and a stroke of 3-1/2”. As it was to be used in competition, it was built without fenders, probably to illustrate the power and reliability of the motor.
That motor was a 24.74 cubic inch, single cylinder weighing in at 28lbs. William Harley had originally created an engine that measured just over 7 cubic inches in size, but quickly discovered it wasn’t much faster than a brisk walk and needed help when climbing hills. With the bigger motor installed in the looped-frame chassis, it graduated from the motor-driven bicycle category into a quickly emerging new classification; the motorcycle.
The motorcycle found at Harley-Davidson’s Milwaukee headquarters is labeled Serial Number One. It’s widely known, however, that while labeled as such, in all likelihood, it is not the first motorcycle developed by Harley-Davidson, but the first motorcycle that was considered ready for production. It is certainly the oldest Harley-Davidson motorcycle in existence today.
Three years after the success of the 1903 Single, Harley-Davidson released the Model 2, another single engine bike, with the displacement bumped up from 24.74ci (405.41cc) to 26.8ci(439.9cc). There was an option to go with the smaller wheels (26in vs. the 28in), as well as a hand crank designed into the engine. According to Conner, this was the year the nickname "Silent Gray Fellow" first appeared, though many attribute that to the 1911 Model 7D. Regardless, it's amusing to think that nowadays, one of the first things Harley riders tend to swap out is the quiet stock mufflers for something with a bit more rumble.