8 iconic numbers in motorcycle history
For vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, history is filled with iconic dates and numbers. Here at Fuel, we put together a list of 8 of the most important numbers for you to be inspired by!
#100 - “the ton”
The true origin of the Café Racer Culture evolves around this iconic number. In the 1950s and 60s, the Ton-Up Boys started appearing on the British motorcycle scene. The name came from a common goal of doing “the ton,” going over 100 miles per hour, which wasn’t an easy task in those times. They modified their bikes, and the cafe racer genre developed out of it. Hitting 100 mph/h on a motorcycle, whether you were on a Triumph, a Vincent, a Norton, an RE Twin, or the common home forgery of the Triton, was proof of your mettle.
#1963 - The year of Dick Mann
Dick Mann was an American professional motorcycle racer and two-time winner of the AMA Grand National Championship. In 1963 he was the first rider ever to win a championship on a foreign motorcycle. He managed to pull off one of the greatest upsets ever when he unexpectedly beat all the Triumph TT specialists on a single-cylinder 500cc Matchless to win the 50-lap TT National and ended up winning his first AMA #1 plate over Harley-Davidson’s George Roeder by one point.
#278 - The number of The King
In the world of nostalgic motorcycle culture, there is nobody more famous than Steve McQueen, the Kind of Cool. The number 278 is the number of The King.
It is said that there is no actor in Hollywood who better embodies the love for motorcycles than Steve McQueen. He has stated on many occasions that he wasn’t sure if he was an actor who also raced or a racer who also was an actor. Steve McQueen competed in the famous International Six Days Trial (ISDT), nowadays known as the International Six Days Enduro. This competition runs over six days in the most challenging terrains that can be found. McQueen’s ISDT competition number was 278, and it has since become a part of history.
#1912 - The First Round-the-World Motorcycle Ride
1912 was an important year for Carl Stearns Clancy. He began the longest, most challenging, and most dangerous journey that had ever been attempted in history on a motorbike. A year later, he became the first person to ever travel around the world on a motorbike. Without any GPS or high-tech equipment, his journey was a very unique one. His motorcycle was a 934 cc, 4-cylinder, 7-horsepower Henderson. It had one foot-operated brake, which stopped the rear wheel, and a fully-enclosed chain. After numerous experiences, both mind-blowing and scary ones (in Algeria, a gang shot at him, but he managed to get away, and in Sri Lanka, he found his tent one night surrounded by jackals and mountain cats), he returned to the US after 11 months, having traveled 18 000 miles on three continents.
#331 - A speed record
Burt Munro dedicated his life to speed. He spent 20 years highly modifying his 1920 Indian motorcycle in his New Zealand home. He set his first speed record in 1938 in New Zealand and traveled to compete at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats, where he attempted to set world speed records. He visited Bonneville 10 times, setting three speed records, of which one still stands: 331 km/h.
#18360 - An epic high-altitude ride
In 1997 Forty Royal Enfield set their destination to Khardung La in India, a mountain road that at the time was the world’s highest motorable pass at 18.360 ft. This journey set a precedent for many epic rides across some of the world’s most challenging terrains and created a blueprint for the annual Himalayan Odyssey ride. The Khardung La pass became a must-visit place for adventurous riders. In August 2021, the title for the world’s highest motorable road was surpassed by Ladakh in India, at the height of 18600 feet. The road has already become an interesting destination for tourists, including motorcycle riders, for its many natural attractions.
#1980 - First woman to travel around the world on a motorbike
Elspeth Beard learned to ride a motorcycle at the age of 16. In the eighties, she became the first British woman to ride a motorcycle around the world. She sent her bike to the US, where her journey began. From there, she continued into Canada, down to Mexico, and after this, she headed to New Zealand and Australia. With many incidents on the way, she continued through East Asia, Nepal, India, and Pakistan and then headed towards Europe. Her journey became a part of history.
#214 - Countries visited on a motorcycle
Emilio Scotto from Buenos Aires, Argentina, had dreamed of traveling around the world since he was a little kid. In 1984 he quit his job and sold all his belongings, and on January 17th, 1985, with $306 in his pocket, he set out on a journey on his motorbike that lasted until April 1995. He visited 214 countries and territories during these years, covered 485 000 miles, and became the current Guinness World Record holder for the longest ever journey by a motorcycle.