1918 Harley-Davidson Model 318




Harley-Davidson’s advertising campaign was built around the psychology of envy. So, for over a century, Americans have grown up with Harley envy hard-wired into their neo-cortex. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, Bertrand Russell said. But Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed. If envy is a tax levied by civilization, it is one that everyone must pay. NeverthelessI paid the tax, sold a few other treasures to fund it, and subscribed at last to the ultimate American marque, Harley-Davidson.

Although cycle production in the 1890s was initially extremely profitable, increased competition and market saturation forced down prices by the turn of the century. The American manufacturers owned the wheel and tyre companies too: wheels were wooden and tyres were tubeless. The manufacturers had a powerful lobby in the government, so the government levied unrealistic taxes on imported bicycles, metal wheels and replaceable pneumatic tyres. Thus they ‘solved’ the profitability problem by selling bicycles at a loss and making their money on wheels and tyres: as they broke, a rider would either have to buy expensive replacements or a new bicycle. (Compare the modern automotive industry).

Unfortunately, this strategy had the effect of destroying the American cycle industry, and the cycle companies subsequently aimed most of their products at children and teenagers.

The Harley Davidson bicycle was only manufactured between 1917 and 1922, built for Harley-Davidson by the Davis Sewing Machine Co, and using the same paint scheme as Harley Davidson motorcycles. As well as several Men’s models, there was the Girl’s you see here, and also Juvenile models. All the top manufacturers realized the importance of starting their customers young; as Andre Citroen was reputed to have remarked: ‘The first three words a child should learn are Mama, Papa and Citroen.’ So, even if sales of Harley Davidson cycles were poor, the company benefited greatly from advertising them. Davis Sewing Machine Co ceased trading in 1922, at which time Harley Davidson stopped selling bicycles.



 1918 Harley-Davidson Model 318

20″ Frame

28″ Wheels

New Departure coaster brake

Frame No 312024

(Now sold)

Few Girl’s Harley Davidson bicycles were made – there was less demand for them – and not many survive. This example is in original unrestored condition. Most Harley Davidson bicycles (ie boys’ models) that you can find now are either restored or replicas, so it’s refreshing to see one with original paintwork.

I bought it in 2013 and sold it to a friend. Unfortunately he didn’t appreciate how delicate American wooden wheels can be unless stored in a constant warm environment, and the rims have warped (front) and cracked (rear). It’s a very common problem with all vintage wooden bicycle wheels. I have now bought the bicycle back from him. To put this historic bicycle back on the road, the rims can be replaced with new Italian ones from Ghisallo, who are world leaders in that field and make them to order. The saddle has also deteriorated. It needs cleaning and a new leather top to be supplied by the world’s saddle-master, Paul Watson in Melbourne. I have temporarily fitted a ‘Wheeler’ saddle supplied by Paul Watson.























































PAUL WATSON – paul.watson.bicycle@gmail.com


GHISALLO WHEELS – https://www.cerchioghisallo.com/en/