The Extended Cyclone Family (l-r) Robin and Bill Sewall, Marlis and Bob Sewall, Jeff and Helaine Gilbert.
The Extended Cyclone Family (l-r) Robin and Bill Sewall, Marlis and Bob Sewall, Jeff and H
While the competition bikes were painted a "violent yellow," apparently to make them more visible during race events, the color was not particularly popular with the public looking for a daily rider. A more sedate blue paint was an option for the road-going machines, the first Cyclones following the trends of the time featuring a conventional loop frame and front coil-spring forks similar to Indians of the day. Later models benefited from a rear suspension setup consisting of swinging arms controlled by a leaf spring mounted vertically behind the seat. All Cyclones during this period were clutch-operated, single-speed, chain-driven designs. And all featured Andy Strand's beautifully designed and crafted bevel gear driven single overhead cam V-twin powerplant. Price tag when new? $350. The 45hp Cyclone was the king-of-the-hill racer of the time tearing up the board and dirt tracks at speeds reaching 110 mph, and that with a one-gear transmission. Showroom sales faltered as the plant closed its doors in 1915 after producing a purported 300 (but probably far less) road machines and far fewer racers.
Fast forward to the 2000s, and the younger Sewall, Bill, himself a successful construction company manager and major musclecar gearhead, was presented with information by his father about his ancestral mechanical history of the two-wheeled kind. He traveled to New York and the Guggenheim Art of the Motorcycle Exhibit, crawled under the ropes, and had his photo taken with the Cyclone display. It lit a fire, so to speak, and Bob began his own hunt for the elusive history of the Cyclone, tracking down as much information, documentation, and ultimately bikes as he could. He would eventually find his way to Jeff and his bike in L.A.. It was the beginning of a quest to personally see as many of the 11 existing bikes as possible.
A bike that bridges the decades. Jeff introduces Bob and Bill to the Cyclone racer
Jeff says, "I got a call from a guy who said his grandfather had a connection to the Cyclone and wanted to know if his father and he could drop by and see my bike. I get all kinds of calls and most of the time no one shows up. In any case, I said, 'Sure, come on by.' I think it's just great meeting a real connection to the people behind this unique motorcycle."
One of the first of the several Cyclone myths, mistakes, and muck-ups as its story has been served up-rehashed, rather-over the nearly 100 years since it ceased production, is solved from the get-go: the spelling of the Sewall name. The Cyclone "literature" often spells it Sewell, replacing the "a" with an "e." Bob goes on to explain that his father was a draughtsman who worked for Andy Strand who thought up the complex single overhead cam and hemispherical combustion-chambered Cyclone engine design. At the time, Bob's father worked for Strand and was given the responsibility of the drafting of the engine design, therefore providing the missing link between concept and rip-roaring reality. Then the Joerns brothers, who had tried building their own motorcycle, the Thiem, which proved unsuccessful, agreed to build the Cyclone as they had the necessary manufacturing facilities. It's one of a handful of the 1,000cc (61ci) V-twin racers and street machines built in the years 1914-15.
Jeff further clarifies the issue relating to the Cyclone motorcycle versus the Cyclone engine, "This is really more of a story about an engine than a motorcycle. Racers of the day would install the Cyclone motor into a frame of their choice. This ties in to the present day situation, that of the 11 existing 'real' Cyclones. Only two of the road models and only one of the racers are fitted with Cyclone-built frames. The others are in either Harley, Indian, or reproduction frames."