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Tue Aug 27, 2013, 04:32 PM

The Mysterious 1917 Traub Motorcycle.

Combining innovations that were years, if not decades, ahead of it's time, the 1917 Traub has an unknown beginning. We know nothing about who built it or where he got the money to handcraft a bike that could easily have outsold Indian and Harley in the day. How could he do this without history taking notice?

In 1967, a plumber doing renovations of an apartment building outside Chicago tore down a brick wall and found what would prove to be a baffling mystery to vintage motorcycle enthusiasts - a one-of-a-kind motorcycle bearing 1917 plates and the name "Traub". The building’s elderly owner admitted that his son had stolen the bike before going off to WWI, never to return.
From an engineering standpoint, this early model has no rival. It is far more refined than any of its contemporaries. It features a side valve 80 cubic inch motor, dual stand, 3 toolboxes, and an unknown 3-speed transmission. The bike features a unique dual action rear brake. It has inner shoes and an outer band that tighten down on both sides of the brake drum. It’s fit and finish in all aspects is truly remarkable.

To give you a glimpse of how advanced this size and configuration of engine was, Harley did not release their sidevalve 80" machine until 1936! The design is completely unique with all aluminum parts like the engine cases and magneto drive cover done as a total loss sand cast. The name "Traub" is prominently and proudly embossed into three different castings. What makes this perhaps the rarest motorbike in the world is that of all the hundreds of parts used to build this one-of-a kind twin cam bike, none of them are found on any other motorcycle in the world. Traub borrowed nothing when he put this beauty together. The cutaway in the fuel tank seems to be Mr Traub's only afterthought. It's there to provide access to the front cylinder compression release/primer cup:

The 3 speed transmission at such an early date is even more incredible. At the beginning of the 20th century, motorcycles were nothing more than heavy bicycles with an engine attached, but as engines became bigger and more powerful, a means to transmit that increased power efficiently to the rear wheel became more and more important.

By the very early 20s the choice of motorcycles had been whittled down from over 200 to just the three that developed a working transmission: Harley, Indian, and Excelsior. The manufacturers that tried to make do with underpowered bikes using direct drive belts or chains went the way of the horse & buggy. The Traub had one of the most advanced constant mesh transmissions installed in 1917 when that technology was still brand new.

Read more here:

After you read that (too) short article about the Traub, you may want to add it's current home, the "Wheels Through Time" museum to your bucket list. It's located due South of here in Western North Carolina. You may have already heard of it but they're known for running their display pieces, and I think that's pretty cool.

"The Museum That Runs":


I wish I could watch the museum's weekly TV show "What's In The Barn", but I can't get that channel because I have cable.

Here's an interesting footnote to the Traub Twin. A clue from the Q&A section of a 1912 issue of "Motorcycle Illustrated".

"High Gear and Magneto":

In fact, you may want to save this for later. It's the entire scan of that "Motorcycle Illustrated" beginning in 1910. I was blown away with the ads and articles that were read by those adventurers who rode crude motorcycles in those days:


If you enjoy that sort of history, here's another series of issues in pdf format that you can read online or download to your computer. It's the 1917 (and on) issues of "Motorcycle Illustrated". Go full screen on this:


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Reply The Mysterious 1917 Traub Motorcycle. (Original post)
JohnnyRingo Aug 2013 OP
TheDeputy Sep 2013 #1

Response to JohnnyRingo (Original post)

Tue Sep 24, 2013, 08:47 AM

1. That bike is gorgeous.


Thanks for the cool read.

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