The Flying Merkel

Flying Merkel Rider

“The Merkel” brand first appeared in Milwaukee Wisconsin in 1902 when Joseph Merkel set-up shop producing single cylinder motorcycles. Merkel was among the most innovative of the pioneer motorcycle companies. By 1905 Merkel had decided to engage in competition, and produced several racing machines. Merkel’s motorcycles were to set many performance standards during the emerging American racing scene. These machines and their riders enabled Merkel to develop a patented spring front fork that was to become the forerunner of the modern telescopic front fork. This fork became the instrument of choice on racing machines of other builders. Also developed was the monoshock rear suspension, a system used today on modern motorcycles. Merkel’s slogan became: “All roads are smooth to The Flying Merkel”. Merkel also used ball bearings as opposed to bronze bushings in the engine. In contrast to primitive atmospheric pressure intake valves, Merkel designed a cam-actuated mechanism. Merkel also pioneered a throttle-controlled engine oiler that long preceded Harley’s and Indian’s use of such a device.

The company was purchased in 1909 by the Light Manufacturing Company, and was moved in its entirety to Pottstown Pennsylvania, producing machines with the “Merkel Light” and subsequently “The Flying Merkel” names. Joseph Merkel began immediately experimenting with frame and suspension improvements, and new engine designs. A young test rider by the name of Maldwyn Jones rode one of Merkel’s creations. An inventive mechanic and racer, Jones set up the bike and defeated the reigning champion Erwin G (Cannonball) Baker in a ten mile race. The following season, Jones turned professional and won three of four races on a machine bearing “The Flying Merkel” logo on the tank. Jones went on to become a national champion racer and helped Merkel achieve recognition among performance enthusiasts.

In 1911 the Miami Cycle Manufacturing Company purchased Merkel, and production was moved to Middletown Ohio. The Miami Company, organized in 1895, was building bicycles and Motorcycles using names best known as Raycycle, and Miami. The Merkel acquisition gave Miami the high-end product that it needed to be regarded as a premiere manufacturer. The factory racing team by then expanded to include such names as LS Taylor, FE French, CF Pinneau, and W Wikel. In 1914 The flying Merkel won the National endurance run from Chicago to St Louis. Maldwyn Jones then broke a world’s record on the Vanderbilt Course. When he returned to Middletown he was given a hero’s welcome.

Engineering innovation, high quality, and racing successes were not enough to sustain this progressive endeavor. The onset of war and, a contracting market, and increased competition caused production of The Flying Merkel to falter. The final Merkel machines were produced in 1917.

Hit the read more link below for a ton of vintage Merkel pics

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Credits: www.theflyingmerkel.comwing nuts

3 Responses to “The Flying Merkel”

  1. dr.hypercube says:

    Killer post - I esp. like the rightmost pic, 2nd row. Badass? Yes. I now know what I’m going to have painted on the tank of the bike I’m planning on forcing my son to build for me eventually - Flying Merkel.

    Also - in case you weren’t aware - Merkel is also the name of a famous German gun manufacturer. I wouldn’t mind a 12×12x.30/06 drilling - it’d look nice in a scabbard on the side of the Flying M.

  2. altered beast says:

    i’m interested in the symbol on the shirt in the initial pick. it looks like a locust or some similar insect. can you tell me more about this?


  3. Diary of a Mad Natural Historian » Got a Match? says:

    […] I’ve had this little set of arguments (”bike and shotgun, why do I like thee so much? let me count the ways.”) floating around in my head for years. It’s getting attention now because of a recent post on Knucklebuster. Seems there was an American motorcycle manufacturer named Merkel. […]

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