Motorcycles In The Military

Military Motorcycles

Think about this for a second-a century ago, we were fighting from the back of a horse. Since then, we’ve seen so many technological advances come through the military, both terrifying and completely awesome. One piece of equipment that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is the motorcycle. It has helped with recon missions in Afghanistan and was able to handle mobile machine gun fire. Over the years, it was used throughout many wars and is still used today.

WWI Bikes

During World War I, the government ordered 20,000 Harley-Davidson Model 17’s after its success with the Army in the hunt for Pancho Villa and his troops. This motorcycle had a 61-cubic-inch F-head engine with 15 horsepower and a 3-speed transmission mounted to the fuel tank. These bikes were capable of holding hospital stretchers, sidecars, shields, and machine guns. It was after the motorcycle accident death of a British soldier during this time that sparked the idea in a neurosurgeon’s mind about creating a piece of equipment that would protect a riders head. They weren’t as fancy as the modular helmets that we have today, but they still did the job.

Indian Powerplus Big Twin

Another popular motorcycle was the Indian. Once the manufacturer heard that the war was going to use their bikes, they dedicated almost all of their production resources to the effort. They ended up shelling out 50,000 Indian Powerplus Big Twin bikes that surpassed the Harley. Unfortunately, Indian bikes never really re-popularized itself with the civilian market, something that was never overcome.

The Harley Davidson In WWII & Korea

By this time, Harley had made a comeback and was considered to be the American motorcycle company. When war started in Europe, they were right there to help with the war efforts once again. This time around, they modified their most popular civilian model from the WL to the WLA.During this time, they weren’t equipped with gear for combat, rather, they were used for messages between formations and had holsters for the Thompson submachine gun. There were over 70,000 of these bikes produced, including thousands the the Soviets took.

Operation Desert Storm-The Kawasaki

One name that you’re probably very familiar with is the Kawasaki. This bike was extremely gas efficient, getting an astounding 96 miles per gallon. It was the modified version of the KLR650 and could run both diesel and jet fuel. Today, the Kawasaki M103M1 is very popular with the United States Marine Corps because of how well it runs and handles. NATO also has a few of these on hand, as does the United States Air Force. They have the M1030B1 and the M1030, but these ones cannot run on diesel like ones from Desert Storm could.


Motorcycles are very beefy machines that have the capability to surpass just about any obstacle. It has come a long way since WWI and even the development of the helmet has. Men and women go off to war every day to keep their families safe and these motorcycles have played a huge role in all of it.

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