One More Thing

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Front Page -

Glenn Cur­tiss, easy rider

Glenn Cur­tiss earned the moniker “The fastest man on Earth” with his 136-mph run at the Florida Speed Car­ni­val in Jan­uary 1907. His ride was a mo­tor­cy­cle he’d or­dered built around the V-8 en­gine com­mis­sioned from him by early fliers, prior to his own leg­endary ca­reer in avi­a­tion.

Air-cooled, the en­gine gen­er­ated 30 to 40 horse­power at 1,800 rpm. The seat had to be po­si­tioned be­hind the pow­er­plant so the rider would not get burned.

Long han­dle­bars made turn­ing vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble. The bike was de­signed ex­pressly to win a land­speed record, trav­el­ing in a straight line.

The mo­tor­cy­cle had brakes barely more so­phis­ti­cated than those on a bi­cy­cle, and no sus­pen­sion sys­tem to speak of. It was built for piti­less speed—prac­ti­cal­ity and com­fort were ir­rel­e­vant.

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