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

Iron Man Stan Dishong

Posted on 28th January 2010 by Electra Glide In Blue in Drag Bikes, Old School, Panhead, Readers Ride - Tags: , , , ,

Stan the Iron Man Dishong was a true motorcycle legend here on the West coast.

He bought his first Harley in 1944 at age 16. He first raced on the salt flats of Bonneville in 1951 setting a short lived land speed record of 156 mph. This was the first year the Southern California Timing Association invited motorcycles and Stan was one of only 10 riders asked to participate.

He originally opened Stan’s Cycle in Vallejo as a BSA dealership in 1953 but he worked more with Harleys and Indians. Stan and Jackie’s house was three doors down from the shop and at some point the street was officially renamed Dishong St.

It was during this period that Stan raced his reputedly undefeated 1937 Indian Scout drag bike.

One of his many innovations was the first racing slick on a drag bike. He had the Pope Tire co. vulcanize a flat strip of rubber onto the rear tire of his Indian in July 1953.

He was probably best known for the Panhead engine he converted to overhead cam in the late 50’s. He successfully raced this engine in a bike he called the “Hog”. Stan raced at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, Kingdon in Lodi and the Nationals at Vaca Valley raceway in Vacaville to name a few.

Here’s an early version of the Hog at Kingdon drag strip, Lodi, 1957

Here’s a more recent version of the Hog.

In addition to Stan’s Cycle, he operated Dishong Manufacturing, a facility that made after-market parts for motorcycles.

Stan’s Cycle was filled with rare motorcycles and related memorabilia. He not only displayed the racing bikes he had built and raced, he also had some extremely rare antique bikes, originals and restorations of many different makes and models.

One of Stan’s customers in Vallejo was another racing legend; Burt Munro from New Zealand whose record setting runs at Bonneville were made into the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian”.

In 1987 he closed Stan’s Cycle in Vallejo and moved to Port Orford Oregon where they bought a 13 acre ranch and, for the next 15 years, Stan and Jackie restored many of his antique motorcycles.

Jackie passed away in 2002 so, together with his daughter Jeanette, he sold the ranch and opened the Antique Motorcycle and Auto Museum in August 2003.

Along with a few antique cars, guns and early electronics, Stan displayed 33 motorcycles. The oldest was one of the first motorcycles ever built in the United States; a 1896 Marks, built in San Francisco with serial #1, originally purchased as a basket case for $100.
Another rare bike was his 1934 Harley Speedway. Only 20 were originally built and only three or four remain in existence today.
Also on display, in no particular order; a 1903 Indian, 1911 Pope, 1914 Indian 8 valve Board Track Racer,. 1920 Indian Hill Climber, 1926 Indian Prince, and a 1928 Harley Factory Hill Climber.
In June 2006 Stan closed the museum in Port Orford and, due to declining health, moved to a suburb of Boise Idaho to be near his family.
A motorcycle collector/investor bought Stan’s motorcycles and sold many of them at the annual Mid-America Vintage Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas the following January.
Stan Dishong passed away in January 2008. He not only preserved motorcycle history, he made motorcycle history.

This has been a welcomed guest post by Perry from the West Coast. Perry’s 1957 Pan was a featured Readers Ride on this site back in November of 2009.

Thanks Perry!

Suicide Knucklehead

Posted on 26th October 2009 by Electra Glide In Blue in Harley-Davidson, KnuckleHead, Old School - Tags: ,

So you think you are a hardcore biker, this is what a hardcore biker looked like back in the late 40’s. This is yet another pic of Restoman’s dad on his Knucklehead. I don’t have a clue what they called this back in the day, but today I would call this a Knucklehead bobber. If you look just above the tank emblem in chrome letters it says “suicide”, that was Resto’s old mans nickname. This picture was taken in the wintertime, somewhere around Chicago in the late 40’s.


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.