Friday, June 17, 2011

Cleveland Motorcycle Repairs

By Nancy DeWitt and Willy Vinton

We had our Cleveland lightweight motorcycle in the shop recently to work on the 2.5-horsepower, one-cylinder two-stroke engine. We shipped the piston out to see if we can get a new one made, as someone in the past had broken it and welded it up to make it work. We did not want a failure that could be devastating, so we will make a new one. With luck before the summer is over we should be up and running.

This motorcycle was built by the Cleveland Motorcycle Manufacturing Company in Ohio from 1915 to 1929. First designed for use by dispatch riders during World War I, the Cleveland became one of the most popular American lightweight motorcycles of the era. Its most remarkable feature was a little two-stroke engine mounted crossways in a cradle frame. This was a sensible arrangement for a shaft-driven motorcycle, but it required a worm gear to turn the drive through 90 degrees.

While its low price of $175 appealed to many, it was the Cleveland’s performance and reliability that attracted buyers from throughout the world. Unlike most two-cycle engines of the day, the Cleveland was famous for starting on the first kick and needing little maintenance. Despite weighing only 150 lbs., a Cleveland could carry a 200-lb man for up to 75 miles on one gallon of gasoline. We think Mark, our docent at right, could get at least 100 mpg.

This Cleveland was sold to us as a 1917 model, but one of our references indicates that the saddle mounting (on a yoke, rather than a single post) dates it to 1919. Are there any antique motorcycle experts out there who can weigh in on this?

By the way, we could use a copy of a manual for our Cleveland.

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