Motorcycle Kidney Belts With Some Harley History

Posted on 30th March 2010 by Electra Glide In Blue in Classic, Harley-Davidson, Old School - Tags: ,

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Its 1920 the road is rutted packed dirt, gravel or in the big towns, paving bricks. Your motorcycle has no rear suspension. You feel every little bump and rut from the rear wheel through the frame and seat to your kidneys. Thank god you have on your riding belt, later to be called the kidney belt.

Harley Davidson Kidney belts

Photograph courtesy of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Archives. Copyright H-D.

What makes kidney belts so historically interesting is that they were one of the first articles of riding wear that were adapted specifically for motorcycle riding, and they were also among the first articles to be personalized by the rider. Archival photos as early as about 1920, show motorcycle riders wearing kidney belts with personalized studs depicting the rider’s initials and other designs. Other historical photos over the decades show club riders and rally attendees in their favorite riding belts, both “stock” and highly personalized. Numerous belts in the Archives’ collections are as unique and imaginative as motorcycle riders themselves with highlights such as reflectors, hand tooling on the leather and even handles for the rear seatSporting a leather kidney belt rider.

Harley-Davidson began offering belts to riders in the accessories catalog as early as 1927. The “Brown Cowhide Leather Belt” was offered as a “Grade B” for $3, or, if you wanted to splurge, the “Grade A” was available for $4. In later years, Harley-Davidson offered leather riding belts complete with studs, gems, conchos, pockets and the Bar & Shield logo. Alternatives to the typical flat leather construction were a woven leather configuration for flexibility.

On the right is a picture of my uncle sporting his personalized kidney belt. I can remember finding this up-stairs at grandma’s house when I was about ten. I thought my uncle may have been a wrestler, I had seen these things on the TV. The back side of the kidney belt had his initials in chrome studs.

Here is a picture of Bessie Stringfield sporting her kidney belt. It was said at the age of 19 Bessie began tossing a penny onto a map and then rode to wherever it landed.

Bessie Stringfield sporting her kidney belt

Bessie Stringfield picture courtesy of The Selvedge Yard.

With the arrival of rear shocks in the late 50’s the punishment of the road had been tamed. Today the motocross riders are about the only ones to sport the modern kidney belt.

Some of this info is from an article by Bill Jackson, Senior Archivist for Harley Davidson.

You can click on any photo to see a larger image, enjoy.

Electra Glide In Blue

Annual Colorado Motorcycle Show and Swap

Posted on 6th February 2010 by Electra Glide In Blue in Classic, Harley-Davidson, KnuckleHead - Tags: , , ,

Last Sunday I did my annual visit to the 32nd Annual Colorado Motorcycle Show and Swap.

This year’s event, as far as finding older parts, was prime for anyone with the money to grab up almost what ever one was looking for. I think the economy had everyone pulling out the old stuff and putting it up for sale. I have seen a few posts around the web stating the good old days of the swap-meet are gone thanks to sites like eBay and Craigslist. This year the Colorado swap proved this wrong. Old parts were easy to be had, if you had the green and the legs to do the walking along with the eyes to do the searching over and under the swap tables.

The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum had to best display as usual in the show arena.

This year they featured their 1941 Harley EL and a 49 Indian “249” Scout. The 41 Harley EL was pretty special considering the bike was sitting there in all its glory.

This 1941 61 cubic inch EL Knucklehead is completely original.

The story goes, this bike was rescued from the original owners’ garage. After sitting for years the drive train was seized, and the engines internals were in question. The Museums’ staff, with some outside help, re-built the engine, transmission, drive train and wheel hubs while maintaining the external patina of the bike. Can you say “Barn Fresh”, off and runn’n.

This bike would have set you back a cool $425.00 back in 1941. Throw in the deluxe solo package option, fender tips, lights, crash bars, saddlebags and some chrome extras, this would have increased your total out-of-pocket expense by an outrageous sum of $60 bucks.

Click on any pic to get a larger view.

Here are a few other bikes from the show that caught my eye.

Enjoy and share.

Harley Davidson VL With A Leather Kidney Belt

Posted on 22nd September 2009 by Electra Glide In Blue in Classic, Harley-Davidson, Old School - Tags: , , ,

I don’t have any information on this one, but just looking at this vintage photo you can see what looks like a 1931 Harley Davidson VL motorcycle with a happy young man showing off a very nice studded leather kidney belt.

1931 HD VL

This is another one of those old Harley Davidson pictures I have received from Restoman.

This is a picture of his dad when he was in high school.

I don’t know about you, but I would have loved to have a motorcycle like this to ride to high school.

Produced from 1930 to 1936 the VL was the top of the line for Harley Davidson.

The specs:
• Engine Type V-Twin
• Cylinders Two
• Displacement 74 cubic inches
• Bore & Stroke 3.4″x4.0″
• Carburetor Linkert
• Ignition Battery & Coil
• Transmission 3-speed, with reverse
• Forks H-D spring fork
• Brakes Drum, front & rear
• Tire Size F 4.00×19,-R 4.00×19

Ride Safe.

Harley Davidson Mechanic School

Posted on 24th August 2009 by Electra Glide In Blue in Classic, Harley-Davidson, Old School, Panhead - Tags: , , ,

Whenever I am doing anything to my 68 FLH, I wish I had just one of these guys to hand me a wrench and offer some Harley tech advice. This picture was taken back in late 1940, at the one and only, Harley Davidson Mechanic School, Milwaukee WI. Just look at the smiles on those faces. Hanging on the wall, to the far right is the cut-away of the newly introduced Harley-Davidson Panhead motor.


This photo was emailed to me from Restoman, his dad is the forth one from the right in the front row.
Ride Safe.