Rich, a long time customer of ours, came in today to show us something he made! He’s restoring a 1915 Flying Merkel. And this brass oil valve that he machined from 360 brass round bar will go in it!
A Flying Merkel?
No, not that kind of flying Merkel…
A Flying Merkel is a type of motorcycle made from 1911-1915. Joe Merkel, a bicycle builder from Milwaukee, decided around 1900 that he wanted something more. So he started building motorcycles! Then, he opened a small business in Pennsylvania and began making these from 1902-1910. Then rights to the bikes were bought out by Ohio-based Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Co. in 1909-1910.
These bikes ran with an 884cc engine that put out a jaw-dropping… 6 horsepower. For what it’s worth, that was pretty shocking at the time. Because they used imported top-of-the-line German steel ball bearings, they were known for being smooth, fast, reliable, and really expensive. Also, it famously was always painted in a bright “Merkel Orange” color.
A 1913 Flying Merkel Twin
The reliance on high-end imported German parts proved to be both a great success and the cause of the company’s failure. With the outbreak of World War I, the British Royal Navy began blockading Germany. Also, these high end bearings were needed in Germany for the war effort. The company could no longer import the parts. The bearings they had on hand weren’t good enough. Shortly thereafter, engine production ground to a halt. Then, in 1917 the rights to the company were bought by Indian Motorcycle.
Nowadays, Flying Merkels are highly sought after by collectors. In 2015, a 1911 Flying Merkel auctioned for $423,000! Interestingly enough though, Kevin Merkel, the great grandnephew of Joe Merkel, started a revival company, Flying Merkel Inc.
If you’re interested by these bikes, Hagerty wrote a good blog article about the company and Joe Merkel.
Our customers make cool stuff
Thanks for bringing this in this great piece of machinery to show us, Rich! Nice work! Also, as a history buff and biker himself, the author of this post was particularly happy.