1912 Harley-Davidson X8A
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The 1912 Harley-Davidson X8A addressed the riding public's increasing thirst for more power in its motorcycles. See more motorcycle pictures.

1912 Harley-Davidson X8A

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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1912 Harley-Davidson X8A

Though the Harley-Davison X9A's 4.3 horsepower doesn't sound like much, it represented a lot of muscle for 1912.

1912 Harley-Davidson X8A Pictures

While many companies had gone to a mechanical intake valve by this time, the 1912 Harley-Davidson X8A motorcycle stuck with an atmospheric intake valve.

1912 Harley-Davidson X8A

A tall lever on the left side of the tank activated the "Free Wheel Control," Harley's early clutch system.

1912 Harley-Davidson X8A

The atmospheric intake valve was located beneath the small dome at the top of the engine's right side.

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