The 1912 Harley-Davidson X8A motorcycle was a far more advanced model than Harley-Davidson's first motorcycle, built in 1903. That one was little more than a bicycle with a single-cylinder three-horsepower engine mounted within the frame tubes.
Though the V-twins that would make the company famous appeared six years later, single-cylinder machines continued to represent the bulk of Harley's sales. By 1912, public demand for more power was answered with the X8A, which was powered by a 30-cubic-inch single producing 4.3 horsepower.
A hand-operated oil pump was added to augment the existing gravity-feed system, and a magneto ignition was used for easier starting. Also new this year was the "Free Wheel Control," one of the industry's first clutch systems. With it, smooth takeoffs from a standing start were possible for the first time.
The issue of comfort was also addressed. Joining Harley's traditional leading-link front fork was the new "Full Floating" saddle, in which a coil spring mounted inside the vertical frame tube cushioned the seatpost, while the rear of the seat was supported by two more coils.
Though this was hardly a substitute for a real rear suspension, it was as good as Harley riders would get for another 45 years.
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