1912 Flying Merkel
Flying Merkel motorcycles from ca.1912 until ca.1916.
In 1902, Joseph Merkel, a self-taught engineer, established a workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to produce single-cylinder, belt-driven motorcycles with a sturdy cradle frame and ‘The Merkel’ logo on the tank. By 1905, he was entering competition events with racing versions of his products. In 1906, he patented a sprung front fork that was to become the forerunner of the modern telescopic fork and which became the favoured design on other manufacturers’ racing machines. In 1907, he developed a rear suspension with a mono-shock and promoted his bikes with the slogan, “All roads are smooth to The Flying Merkel”. His many other early innovations included the use of ball bearings instead of bronze bushes, a lubrication system that delivered oil in proportion to the throttle setting, and the use of the frame tubes for the exhaust system. Other manufacturers were quick to adopt his some of his concepts.
Merkel’s company was merged with The Light Manufacturing Company to form The Merkel Light Motor Company in 1909 and was moved to Pottstown, Pennsylvania, producing motorcycles branded ‘Merkel Light’. Merkel continued to experiment with new suspension ideas and new engine designs and produced a 61ci (1,000cc) V-twin in 1910.
In 1911, The Miami Cycle Manufacturing Company purchased the Merkel Company and production was moved to Middletown, Ohio. From 1905, Merkel’s bikes were ridden to many competition successes including one Maldwyn Jones beating the champion, Cannonball Baker, over a ten-mile race in 1910 and breaking a world record on the Vanderbilt Course in 1911 by covering a measured mile in 41.4 seconds – just under 87mph (140kph).
After the Miami Cycle Manufacturing Co. purchased Merkel, the entire range of motorcycles was redesigned. For the year of 1913, the inlet valves were cam driven. A two-speed hub was available in the top model and the rear suspension had been modified. A two directional spring in a single tube with damping from friction elements around the main stay axle improved the riders comfort: “All roads are even for The Flying Merkel”
Other slogans to attract buyers were: “The Most Powerful Motorcycle in the World” and “If it passes you, it’s a Flying Merkel”.
For the year of 1914, a self-starter mechanism was introduced, that turned out to be rather unreliable. The high purchase price of a Merkel slowed down sales, as mass produced cars became cheaper every year. A 1914 Flying Merkel V-Twin was listed in the catalog for $305 against Ford’s Model-T with a price tag of $650. Within 3 years the Ford’s price dropped to only $345 against the Merkel’s $260.