Frederick Fortune is a graphic designer, a motorcycle hobbyist whose taste about brands goes from vintage Harley to classic Norton to Cyclone…But a 1915 Cyclone Racer like the one on the top picture, the fastest motorcycle of its time (50 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, 111 mph) will set you back at least 1/2 million dollars because only 300 were built by the Joerns Motorcycle Manufacturing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota will only 8 known remaining. But what do you do when you are mesmerized by such a machine? Read what Frederick told me about the story of his “Psyclone”
“Forget it, you can’t have one. This wifely advice was delivered to me while standing awestruck in front of one of eight remaining Cyclone board track racers at the 2005 Guggenheim Art of the Motorcycle exhibit at Las Vegas’ over the top Bellagio Hotel. No kidding I can’t have one, I agreed silently. Lord knows what this pristine yellow jewel with all its polished nickel screw heads perfectly lined up is worth.The motorcycle visually lunging at me was one of the fastest, most amazing motorcycles of its day, a 1915 Cyclone racer. In its trademark yellow livery, it was the fastest thing on two wheels, and by all accounts living or dead, unquestionably the epitome of the breed. For some reason, long after the last dust clouds settled and the last oil fumes dissipated, old-timers and modern enthusiasts alike would speak lovingly and endlessly of the bike I was now absorbing through every exposed orifice. Of course I had to have one. One problem…of the eight Cyclone racers believed to still exist, the last one auctioned for a record $530,000.
Whoops…well, what next? Let’s see…I had earlier acquired a 900cc 1964 Ironhead Sportster motor from dear friend Sportster goddess Diana Pettijohn. So the challenge began. The pristine, virgin 1964 Sportster motor was torn down, top end only. The heads and cylinders, headers, and Triumph finned header clamps were sent out for high temp “near chrome” powder coating. This gave a silvery, bullet proof coating that looks like polished nickel which further helps nail the all-silver look of the original Cyclone motor. A Linkert DC-12 carburetor was found and rebuilt by Linkertcarbs.com of Wyoming. A Joe Hunt rare earth magnet magneto was ordered and delivered. The rear sprocket cover and cam chest were cut down and powder coated in a specifc pattern to help disguise the characteristic Sportster silhouette, as was the tin primary cover. I scotchbrighted everything to a satiny, brushed stainless appearance. All fasteners are stainless with the marks on the bolt heads ground off and polished.
For forks, Girder style was a must. Choice went to Donnie Smith forks with adjustable Progressive shock, available in stock Sportster length so I did’t have to bone up on frame rake and trail engineering. Then, I came across a single front down tube rigid frame from Carolinas Customs available with stock rake and no stretch that would accept a Sportster motor with minor jiggling. James Banke of Banke Performance did some judicious slimming of the rigid rear frame forks and added a bicycle style seat post. I picked 40 spoke shoulderless 21″ rims from Excel dressed with Avon Speedmaster tires. Rear rotor comes from a Buell Blast and is pinched by Grimeca single calipers borrowed from a GasGas Trials Bike. Rear fender is a lucky find, an extremely narrow bobbed one from a Triumph sidecar run through a beading die to make a flat rib like on the original Cyclone. Widened rear fender struts are from the front of an early Norton roadster and were donated to the cause by noted vintage Norton restorer Ken Armann Classic Motorcycle Restoration & Repair. Then I found out about a saddle maker in Texas making reproductions of the vintage leather covered, split wood base racing saddles. Mine was mounted on a home-brew parkerized spring seat frame from a 1916 Schwinn Motobike (found on Ebay) Master Evan Wilcox did the body work with oil contained in an inner box living inside the left side of the tank. Gas surrounds and cools it, a technique used in early motorcycles from Excelsior to Indian. Hiding the oil reservoir kept the bike visually open and true to the original”
Total parts, machine work, coatings and materials came to just under $12,000. Beats a cool half million any day and Frederick and supportive crew had a blast building it.