A History Of Motorcycle Seats, Part 1: The 1920 Levis

Here at AIRHAWK, we’re crazy about great rides and saving asses. We decided it would be interesting to go back in time, to see what our forebears rode on, and how motorcycles and their seats have evolved over time. We popped into the Moto Museum in St. Louis, which houses a fabulous collection of cycles from the past, and thought it would be fun to chronicle our experience in an occasional look back. First up: the 1920 Levis.

1920 Levis full view

Between 1911 and its demise in 1940, Levis built many two- and four-stroke roadsters from its facility in Birmingham, England.  The 1920 Levis Popular 211cc, later abbreviated as the “Levis Pop”, featured a leather belt chain, bicycle-type rear brake and no transmission. (Photo and subject matter courtesy of the Moto Museum, St. Louis, Mo.)

As with all bikes of this period, there was no suspension for the rear frame of the bike, so the seat design was instrumental in contributing to a smooth ride.  This was done by incorporating springs and pivots into the seats subassembly.  This is basically a bicycle seat with a fairly dramatic curve to the rear of the seat, which forces the rider’s weight to the rear of the seat.  The two springs and pivoting mechanism activate only the rear portion of the seat – the front portion of the seat is fixed to the seatpost that is inserted into the seat tube.  When the bike hit a bump in the road, the force travelled up the seat tube and then to the front portion of the seat, which was stationary. The rear of the seat countered the upward force by going down and somewhat equalizing the force.

1920 Levis seat 2

This design was much better than only having a fixed seat mounted onto the frame, but it did cause some stability issues.  With the rider’s center of mass situated well behind the seat tube, there was a lot of bouncing up and down every time the bike hit a bump.  This problem is addressed in the next bike that we’ll feature here. Stay tuned and see how this problem was resolved.

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