1918 Pope Motorcycle
November 2, 2007 1:14 PM
Following his fascination with the bicycle, Albert Augustus Pope, also known as Colonel Pope, founded his bicycle manufacturing company in Hartford, Connecticut in 1877. By the early 1890s, he had bought up most of the leading bicycle patents, and nearly every U.S. bicycle manufacturer paid him $10 per unit. By the height of the cycling craze in the 1890s, Pope was manufacturing more than 250,000 of his Columbia bikes annually and was beginning to produce cars as well. It wasn’t until 1911 that Pope mounted an engine on a bicycle, and began to manufacture motorcycles.
The Pope motorcycle was high end. Selling for around $250 [about the price of a Model T], the Pope was more expensive than a Harley or an Indian. But the Pope was also a bike technologically ahead of its time. When most motorcycles were built with flathead engines, the Pope was powered by a 1000 cc, V-Twin, with overhead valves. This engine ran a three-speed transmission equipped with both hand and foot clutch. Inspired by his bicycles, the Pope featured a chain drive for the first time in 1918, while most manufacturers were still using belts.
Perhaps the most innovative and unique feature of this motorcycle was its suspension, and rear suspension was uniquely Pope’s. The rear axle was mounted in a carrier that compressed a pair of springs on impact. Extended rubber hand grips were developed to utilize the rider as an integral component of the suspension. When reaching top speeds of about 70 mph, or traveling particularly bumpy roads, the grips absorbed vibration. This comfort feature, while primitive, became a huge selling point.
With World War I raging, Pope turned to war production in 1918, and motorcycle production was quickly phased out. It’s kind of hard to figure, especially when Jay’s Pope starts on one kick, even at the ripe old age of 89!