Bizarre Bikes is a segment that looks at an unconventional motorbike. Over the years, there have been a variety of unusual machines, and one that stands out is the Megola. The Megola is unique because it used a rotary engine mounted within the front wheel. We’re looking into the history of the Megola to see how this engine design made the motorbike different to other models.
Advantages of having a unique engine
The Megola was created in 1920 and got its name from its creators: Hans Meixner, Fritz Cockerell and Otto Landgraf. It’s a combination of the first two letters of their last names, with Cockerell allegedly going by the alias of Friedreich Gockerell. It was built during a time when German aircraft manufacturers needed to diversify because of the ban imposed by the Treaty of Versaille.
The Megola’s design made it different to other motorbikes. The engine had five cylinders that displaced 128 cc, creating a total displacement of 640 cc. The cylinders rotated around the front axle, which produced a low centre of gravity. This gave the Megola excellent handling.
You might think the lack of a clutch and gears would be a disadvantage, but the engine was actually very flexible. The Megola could reach a top speed of 52 mph and it achieved victory at the 1924 German Championship.
Inevitably, a wheel-mounted engine came with some difficulties. There was no way to disconnect the engine, so riders needed to push-start the Megola or spin the wheel while the bike was on its stand. Push-starting was hazardous because a rider could hurt themselves if the Megola started up too quickly.
The odd layout also helped to promote illegal activity. The main tank was housed in the hollow pressed-steel monocoque frame and this allowed smugglers to hide supplies. As the Megola had a front-wheel system, it would have pulled strongly to the left when accelerating.
Another disadvantage was the weight of the engine on the front wheel. This put pressure on the leaf spring that formed the front suspension and it was known to break.
Production of the Megola ended in 1925 and it’s estimated 2000 were created. Around ten rideable examples still exist and one was displayed in the ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum.
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