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September 7th, 2015

As the 19th century just turned around and industrialization was getting more and more standardized motorcycles (in form of war machines) began to evolve as the normal man’s commuting vehicles. Before many companies could hold their ground and establish themselves, the world witnessed the catastrophe of the first World War. Motorcycles and their makers were forced to partake in this bloody battle as motorcycles were the quickest, fastest and easiest things to get from one place to the other. Their relatively simple design meant that they would not have as many technical problems as automobiles. Motorcycles started getting commissioned for everything from patrol, scouts, dispatch and courier duties. These are some of the most popular war machines used by the military during the first World War.

Douglas Motorcycles:

Till the first World War, Indian Motorcycles were the dominant market players, supplying more than 20,000 motorcycles a year. After the British military made a deal with Edward Douglas of Douglas Motorcycles, the company soon dethroned Indian as the leading motorcycle maker, producing more than 70,000 motorcycles for military use.

Triumph Motorcycles:

The Model H was called the "Trusty Triumph" due to its amazing reliability.

The Model H was called the “Trusty Triumph” due to its amazing reliability.

Triumph Motorcycles of UK bagged one of the biggest contracts from the British military by providing machines that could be used by the queen’s forces as well as allied forces. The Triumph Model H was supplied to more than 30,000 Allies and more than 20,000 UK troops. The motorcycle featured side-valve, four stroke 550 cc engine. Despite the company having two factories out of which one was in Germany, the Triumph Model H was one of the most favourable motorcycles to be used during the war due to their rugged nature and reliability.


Motorcycles were used as mobile artillery with machine guns mounted on them.

Motorcycles were used as mobile artillery with machine guns mounted on them.

Harley-Davidson provided more than 15,000 motorcycles during the first World War. The initial war machines supplied by the company were the J Series, which used a 61 cubic inch F-head motor producing 15 horsepower. Later on Harley-Davidson started supplying the FUS and LUS models with trademark high, flat fenders to cope up with the muddy conditions during the war.

Indian Motorcycles:

Indian Motorcycle with sidecar used by the Red Cross during WWI

Indian Motorcycles, being a smaller company as compared to Harley-Davidson had trouble during the war in providing motorcycles for both war and civilian use. In order to provide motorcycles for the war, Indian lost many dealers and suffered huge losses. The most popular Indian war motorcycle was based on their PowerPlus Big Twin, featuring a 61 cubic inch side valve engine that produced 18 horsepower.

Henderson Motorcycles:

Hendersons were used as courier bikes during WWI

The small Chicago based company, Excelsior made about 2,600 motorcycles for the US military, which were used domestically for courier use. Unfortunately, the company could not surpass the damages of the war and went bankrupt in 1931.

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