Flying Merkel

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Flying Merkel of 1909

The Flying Merkel was a motorcycle of the American company Merkel in Milwaukee, which relocated later to Middletown, Ohio.[1] The motorcycle was produced from 1911 to 1915.

Early days[edit]

1912 Flying Merkel Model W-S, on display at the California Automobile Museum
1912 Flying Merkel engine
Flying Merkel emblem

The founder of the company, Joe Merkel, began designing engines for motorcycles in 1902, and built his own motorcycles beginning in 1903, including a one-cylinder engine with a capacity of 316 cc, which was also used in the contemporary Indian. In 1908 he set up a company under the name of Light Manufacturing and Foundry Company in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. His motorcycles displayed the trademark "Merkel Light" on the tank. In 1910 he offered the first two-cylinder engine. In 1911 the company was taken over by Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company of Middletown, Ohio. Subsequently, the trademark was changed to "Flying Merkel", and a bright and shiny orange paint was used, which was later described as "Merkel orange".[1][2]


"Merkel-Orange" (replica of 1911 model)

The Flying Merkel had a conservative engine-control system featuring an automatic inlet valve and a pre-set outlet valve.[2] The V-shaped engine initially displaced 884 cc and delivered 6 hp through a two-speed gearbox and a belt, and had a maximum speed of 97 km/h (60 mph). A motorsports version without brake was available with a 997 cc motor including roller bearings, Bosch magneto ignition, Schebler carburetor and chain drive. The roadworthy version had a band brake on the rear wheel and was sold for $325 USD.[1]

An innovation was the motorcycle fork, patented by Joe Merkel as a "truss fork" and which could be seen as a predecessor of the telescopic fork. The Flying Merkel had an automatically dripping oil feeder, which was subsequently copied by Indian and Harley-Davidson.[2] In 1913 a new model appeared: the engine had now an automatically controlled inlet valve and a spring-loaded kickstarter.[1] Production ceased in 1915. The Flying Merkel achieved its iconic status through the shape of its tank and the colorful body paint.[2]

At auction[edit]

A replica of the racing version was auctioned in January 2012 at Bonhams for nearly €30,000.[3] A 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer went for US$423,500 in 2015 and a 1911 Flying Merkel for US$201,250 in 2011.[4]


Currently Greg Merkel, the great-great grand nephew of Joeseph Merkel, has taken ownership of the trademark "Flying Merkel" and has started a revival of the brand called "Flying Merkel Inc".[better source needed][5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Jerry Hatfield: Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles. 1898–1981. Krause Publications, 2006, ISBN 978-0-89689-949-0., pp. 378–384
  2. ^ a b c d The Art Of The Motorcycle. Guggenheim Museum, Las Vegas, 2001, ISBN 0-89207-207-5., p. 114.
  3. ^ Auktion 19679, lot 303 (downloaded on 18 October 2013)
  4. ^ Gizmag - World's most expensive motorcycles
  5. ^ About, Flying Merkel Inc 

External links[edit]