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Motorcycles and Choppers

The Motorcycles and Choppers Channel explores how these machines are built and customized. Learn all about motorcycles and choppers at HowStuffWorks.

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1915 Emblem Twin

The 1915 Emblem Twin motorcycle's 76.6-cubic-inch engine was unusually large for its day. It was a bold offering from a company struggling to remain afloat amongst fierce competition and the ravages of an economic recession. Learn more about the 1915 Emblem Twin.

1911 Excelsior

The 1911 Excelsior motorcycle was a product of Schwinn better known for bicycles. As was common for the era, the single was driven by a wide leather belt with progress slowed by a rear coaster brake. Learn about the 1911 Excelsior motorcycle.

1913 Excelsior 7-C

The 1913 Excelsior 7-C motorcycle was designed by the Schwinn Bicycle Company, which built motorcycles until 1931. Despite the added speed potential, the Excelsior still relied on a simple rear coaster brake. Check out pictures and a profile.

1911 Flying Merkel

The 1911 Flying Merkel was considered one of the premier motorcycles of its day. But despite innovative models such as this one, the Merkel company would be out of business by 1916. Learn about the 1911 Flying Merkel.

1912 Harley-Davidson X8A

The 1912 Harley-Davidson X8A featured a 30-cubic-inch single-cylinder, a powerful engine for its time. By 1912, public demand for more power was answered with the X8A, which produced 4.3 horsepower. See pictures and learn about the Harley X8A.

1915 Harley-Davidson 11F

The 1915 Harley-Davidson 11F motorcycle had an advanced-for-its day 11-horse F-head V-twin engine. A proper three-speed transmission was offered along with a magneto and electric lighting system incorporating a taillight. Read about this historic Harley.

1916 Harley-Davidson J

The 1916 Harley-Davidson J motorcycle was a leap forward in style with a longer lower appearance. Other than the kickstarter, however, there were few mechanical changes of note for this year. See pictures and learn about the 1916 Harley J.

1925 Harley-Davidson JD

The 1925 Harley-Davidson JD motorcycle introduced Harley's familiar tear-drop-shaped fuel tank. Sidecars were popular accessories of the day as these vehicles often served as a family's primary form of motorized transportation. Read about the Harley JD.

1927 Harley-Davidson BA

The 1927 Harley-Davidson BA was a single-cylinder motorcycle that was economical but sold poorly. Two versions of the single were offered: a flat-head with eight horsepower and an overhead-valve variant producing twelve horsepower. Read about the Harley BA.

1934 Harley-Davidson VLD

The 1934 Harley-Davidson VLD motorcycle helped Harley survive the Great Depression. The Great Depression killed off all the major U.S. motorcycle manufacturers except for Harley-Davidson and Indian. Learn about the classic 1934 Harley-Davidson VLD.

1936 Harley-Davidson EL

The 1936 Harley-Davidson EL motorcycle introduced the famous Knucklehead engine to the Harley line. It became one of the most popular Harley-Davidson models of all time. See pictures and learn more about the Harley EL.

1938 Harley-Davidson UL

The 1938 Harley-Davidson UL motorcycle featured a Flathead V-twin instead of the newer Knucklehead. It was a Sport Solo model with new colors and striping available. See pictures and learn about the Harley UL.

1942 Harley-Davidson WLA and XA

The 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA motorcycle and Harley-Davidson XA motorcycle were weapons of World War II. Wearing the requisite Olive Drab paint, these were 45-cubic-inch V-twins fitted with special wartime equipment. Learn about these Harleys.

1948 Harley-Davidson FL

The 1948 Harley-Davidson FL motorcycle introduced Harley's overhead-valve Panhead engine. More chrome trim pieces gave the bikes a fancier look and a steering-head lock was added. See pictures and learn about the Harley FL motorcycle.

1948 Harley-Davidson S-125

The Harley-Davidson S-125 motorcycle was a popular civilian bike in the wake of World War II. Producing only three horsepower, the S-125 had a tough time reaching 55 miles per hour. See pictures and learn more about the Harley S-125.

1948 Harley-Davidson WL

The 1948 Harley-Davidson WL motorcycle was one of the last Harleys with a small V-twin. It proved to be a versatile engine that remained in production for more than four decades. See pictures and learn more about the 1948 Harley-Davidson WL.

1920 Ace

The 1920 Ace motorcycle had a short life, but it was a powerful and durable bike. Production ceased in 1922 due to financial setbacks and the death of its creator in a motorcycle accident. Learn about the 1920 Ace.

The Beast: A Chopper Profile

The Beast is a custom motorcycle with a four-cylinder engine and classic Invader wheels. While it's a modern creation this Honda-powered Beast chopper accurately follows the trail blazed by its ancestors.

1954 AJS

The 1954 AJS motorcycle was a near-duplicate of a bike sold under the Matchless brand. Its mechanical roots dated back to the models of 1935, though improvements had been implemented in the intervening years. Learn about the British-built 1954 AJS motorcycle.

1970 BSA Lightning

The 1970 BSA Lightning motorcycle battled faster less-expensive Japanese bikes. BSA didn't survive long afterward as the competition from Japan proved too much. See pictures and learn how the BSA Lightning dealt with its rivals.

How Vespas Work

The Vespa is a two-wheeled scooter used for easy transportation and loved for high-fashion style. Learn how they're made, the history behind it and the style that has made it so popular.

How the Hyanide Works

Wouldn't it be great if one vehicle could handle snow, mud, and regular road conditions without having to even change tires? Enter the Hyanide a vehicle designed by students for the 2006 Michelin Challenge.

How Motorcycles Work

Motorcycles, which can achieve fuel economies as high as 85 miles per gallon, provide an attractive alternative to gas-guzzling cars. Learn how motorcycle design has evolved over the years.

How Harley-Davidson Works

It could be the distinctive body styling, or maybe it's that tellatale sound. There's just something about Harley-Davidson motorcycles that hundreds of thousands of folks can't resist. Find out all about this motorcycle icon.

What gives a Harley-Davidson motorcycle its distinctive sound?

There is no denying that a Harley-Davidson motorcycle has a unique sound. So makes a Harley sound different from other motorcycles?

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