As I prepare for my #GeorgiaMotorcycleHistory workshops at this weekend’s Caffeine & Octane show at Jekyll Island I am reconnecting with the origins of not only my home state’s heritage, but the very first days of my own journey in American motorcycle culture. Georgia’s first machine, as well as what could be considered America’s first motorcycle was a motorized tandem pacing machine like this one pictured, a utilitarian experiment for use in the day’s most beloved sport, bicycle racing.
Inspired by French cycling star Henri Fournier’s motorized pacing machine which he brought to the United States in 1897, companies like the Waltham Manufacturing Company, makers of the popular Orient line of bicycles and tandem pacers began acquiring French made DeDion button engines to experiment with their own motor-pacer designs. Paced bicycle races had grown in popularity leading up to 1900, and with the introduction and application of new gasoline powered combustion engines the pacing machines had quickly become a sensation at the track. It was a rapidly rising cycling star from Atlanta named Bobby Walthour who, in October of 1899 sent for one of the first DeDion powered, Orient tandem pacing machines for his upcoming races at the Coliseum Velodrome in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. It was a machine similar to this Aster-powered Orient photographed in 1901, with its 7 sprockets, 4 chains, and bright red enamel paint which fired up for the first time in the South, giving Georgian’s their first taste of what would become a revolution in both transportation, socialization, industry, and sport. The next day so many people flooded the track to see this new machine that exhibition runs had to be staged on the dirt horse track outside. Within a couple of years the first viable civilian motorcycles were available and began filling city streets and county roads across the country. For enthusiasts here in Georgia though, It was that cold evening in the fall of 1899 which began Georgia’s obsession with motorcycles, initiating a culture that flourishes still to this day.
I hope to see you at Caffeine & Octane this weekend on the beautiful Jekyll Island, and make sure to preregister for the workshops as they are filling up. For those who cannot make but are still interested in learning more pick up your copy of Georgia Motorcycle History today HERE.