100 Motorcycles 100 years - the First Century of the MotorcycleMotorcycle Library Retro Review

The argument can accurately be made that motorcycles actually began to appear prior to the 1900 start date of the collection of images featured in “100 Motorcycles 100 Years – The First Century of the Motorcycle.”

However, the authors did not intend for the book to be that kind of chronology; rather, they explain that with the eve of a new century at hand as they went to press in 1999, the goal was to look back at each year in the century just ending and consider those motorcycles that were “produced or sold in that year, or otherwise connected with a significant historical event or trend of that year.”

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That is no small feat, considering how much research would have to be put into not only the key historical events or trends of the past 100 years that may have some sort of relevance to any motorcycle that may have been produced in a given year, but also how much research would have gone into the makes and models of motorcycles out in each year.

On that account, the authors relate the size of the task in that they found more than 3,400 individual marques were on the market world-wide in the century—most of which have come and gone.

The 167-page hardcover book is textbook quality in presentation and technical content, though the authors caution that bikes (and trikes) featured may not necessarily be original or as-produced and that some have been extensively restored, while others have not.

The book is neatly segmented into ten bikes from each decade in the century starting at CY 1900 and ending in CY 2000. As such, the book takes the reader from the De Dion-Bouton tricycle of 1900 to the Buell S1 Lightning of 2000 — an interesting juxtaposition, indeed.

Interestingly, neither Triumph, which traces its roots to 1902 nor Harley-Davidson which launched in 1903 and remain iconic brands to this day appear among the bikes chosen for feature in the 1900-1909 decade.

However, that fact allows us to be shown some brands not often mentioned, let alone described; Thomas, Werner, Clement, Phoenix and Deronziere, to name a few. And for those still under the impression that four cylinder engines didn’t appear on motorcycles until the Henderson, Indian Four or the Honda CB750, the impressive FN Four of 1908 is also featured—complete with innovative clutchless shaft final drive!

Triumph faithful need not be offended, however, since the book does feature five Triumph models in later decades and H-D models are featured no less than 19 times in the book, including the Buell and gets the cover shot.

With more than 195 color images, including a great fold-out and some racing images that may bring back some memories for a lot of readers, the book is a visual trove of information about a lot of rarely-seen machines and a source of information that may be hard to find elsewhere.

Book Data

  • Title: 100 Motorcycles 100 years the First Century of the Motorcycle
  • Author: Fredric Winkowski, Frank D. Sullivan with Richard E. Mancini
  • Published: 1999
  • Publisher: Castle Books, a division of Book Sales, Inc., 114 Northfield Ave., Edison, NJ 08837
  • ISBN: 0-7858-1670-4

Note to readers: many of the books that we’ll feature in Rider’s Library may be out of print and some may be difficult to find. That could be half the fun. The Internet should make the search relatively easy but ironically, none of the books currently scheduled for eventual retro-review for the Rider’s Library section were found with the help of the Internet. They all were found at book stores, used book stores, antique shops, motorcycle shops, yard sales and so on.