Lot Number
From The Allen Smith Collection of Significant Motorcycles
1919 Cleveland "Strap Tank" Single

Offered Without Reserve

• Highly engaging early “Strap Tank” configuration and livery
• A highly collectible American icon
• Renowned design, engineering, performance, and fuel economy
• Formerly owned by renowned motorcycle collector Bill Melvin

221 cc air-cooled, two-stroke single-cylinder engine with longitudinal crankshaft orientation, 2 ½ HP, two-speed transmission with lever-type multi-disc steel clutch, worm-gear reduction and chain final drive, tubular steel frame with spring-type front fork, rear-only brake; wheelbase: 54”

In 1915, the Cleveland Motorcycle Manufacturing Co., an offshoot of the Cleveland, Ohio’s Cleveland Automobile Co., began production of a lightweight motorcycle that immediately gained renown for quality, performance, and affordability. Engineering was stellar, based around a 2 ½-HP 13.5 cubic-inch, two-stroke engine mounted sideways within a lightweight frame, with the crankshaft positioned in line with the bike’s centerline. The drive system was ingenious, using a worm-gear-driven, two-speed, pedal-shifted transmission feeding the power to a chain-type final drive. Fuel was delivered from a cylindrical gas tank strapped to the upper frame member, spurring the early Cleveland’s “strap tank” moniker. Long handlebars, rubber foot pegs, a rear-hub-mounted brake, and a double-spring saddle rounded out this inexpensive performer.

In articles published long after Cleveland ceased production, the little two-stroke engine was celebrated as being easy to start and reputed to come to life every time the engine was kicked over. As written in a comprehensive article on Cleveland’s bikes by Ted Hodgdon in the AACA’s Antique Automobile, “The little power plant with only 13 ½ cubic-inch cylinder capacity would run along all day, giving 75 miles to the gallon. As long as a small amount of oil was kept in the gasoline, and a half-pint of heavy oil in the two-speed transmission, the little Cleveland hardly needed to be touched from one week to the next. Other lightweights on the market at this time would run, but were a constant source of irritation and trouble.” Word of the Cleveland's reliability got out and sales were brisk, with Cleveland dealers active in many countries and the bikes a frequent sight on American roads.

Weighing just 150 pounds yet capable of carrying a 200-pound rider and occasional passengers at up to 35 to 40 mph, the Cleveland was immediately and predictably strong in competition, beginning at the 24-hour endurance contest held by the New Jersey Motorcycle Club over 300 miles on May 29, 1916, where Clevelands finished 1-2-3 and 5th against many more powerful opponents. Many more victories followed, including a new 24-hour endurance-distance record set by “Big George” Austin in November 1917, which spurred competing designs and record attempts from Indian and Excelsior. The 1919 models bore the first updates to the basic Cleveland design. Among them were the elimination of nickel plating on the handlebars, plus deletion of the spark-advance lever and compression release. The saddle was also reconfigured to a yoke-type mounting with two coil springs attached directly to the sides of the frame. Production and development continued through 1925. Only the growing affluence of the “Roaring Twenties” and customer demands for more power brought an end to “The King of the Lightweights.”

Offered from Allen Smith and his renowned “quality over quantity” vintage motorcycle collection, this highly engaging 1919 Cleveland “strap tank” motorcycle was purchased by Mr. Smith in 2010. According to its known history, the Cleveland was restored by a Honda dealer and then placed on display in his showroom for several years. This bike’s provenance also includes noted businessman and motorcycle collector Bill Melvin. As offered, this Cleveland remains handsome in presentation and retains a pleasant patina, consistent with proper care and storage. Long appreciated by vintage motorcycle collectors and enthusiasts, the Cleveland Single is also rightly enshrined in the Smithsonian Collection. Simply put, any proper vintage motorcycle collection – whether of one or many – will be enhanced by this Cleveland Single.

1919 Cleveland "Strap Tank" Single
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