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The Radial Motorcycle

STORY & PHOTOS BY BERNIE TYRRELL

One night in a bar while sketching on a napkin, (a picture of said napkin complete with beer stain is included), John Levey and his two friends/Partners, Chet Thomas and Tim Deml of the Rapid City, SD area who work in the Medical field doing repair to medical equipment such as X-ray machines, came up with an idea to build a completely radical motorcycle. The outline in pencil around a beer cap represented the radial engine, you see John had an interest in Radials since his aircraft mechanic’s schooling days, and so it was their concept of a radial engine in a motorcycle was born.

It took a lot of help from other individual’s to design and make up the parts to assemble such a machine. The front forks are built in Canada, the measurements for the fuel tank were given to Twisted Chopper in Sioux Falls, and the tank to fit the perfectly round engine was hand made. Other parts such as exhaust, and special plates and brackets were fabricated locally.

The three spent week ends and long evenings in John’s Garage at Black Hawk, SD (Just a few miles north of Rapid City). It took nine months to complete the project, the motorcycle made its public debut at the famed EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) show in Oshkosh, WI this last summer. This motorcycle in particular was extremely popular at this type of show because of the many beautiful sounding radial propelled air planes that were on display. These were the most popular types of aircraft before the advent of the jet.

The engine was not actually a down size version of a Radial air plane like most would think, due to the sheer size and weight it ended up being an up-sized version of the remote controlled airplane engine, 350 cc/21 inches to a 172 cubic inch. The Australia built engine has 7 cylinders, dual ignition magnetos, with 2 plugs per cylinder, the massive motor is fueled by a Bing 40mm altitude-compensating carburetor with a belt drive and a 240mph air indicator for effectiveness.

The bike is painted metallic midnight blue, which showcases the dazzling full circle radial engine comprised of polished aluminum. This motorcycle definitely commands a lot of attention!

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