Saturday 16th May 1903

On this very day, 114 years ago, George Wyman left San Francisco on the first ever transcontinental motorcycle trip. He was riding a 1902 California Motorcycle Company motor bicycle. A huge 51 days later, he finally arrived in New York! Finishing a full 20 days before Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson, who happened to be the first person to cross the continent by automobile. Wyman’s machine was sported 28 x 1.5 inch tyres, wooden rims, a leading-link front suspension fork, a Garford spring saddle, a front roller brake, and a 1902-patent Atherton rear coaster brake. A leather belt-drive with a spring-loaded idler pulley directly connected the engine output shaft to the rear wheel.

Using a standard steel bicycle frame, the California weighed approximately 32–36 kg without the addition of a rider. It was capable of around 25 mph using the 30-octane petrol of the day, with a full tank range of between 75 and 100 miles.

Back then, throttle control was not yet perfected, engine revolutions were mainly controlled by means of a spark timing mechanism. The wick-type carburettor was crude, consisting of a metal box with internal baffles stuffed with cotton. With no float chamber, the responsibility for admitting fuel into the carburettor was squarely with the rider, having to open the fuel tap periodically! 51 days on a modern day bike would be exhausting, could you imagine having to do that on this bike?!

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