The military motorcycle is known as one of the U.S. Armed Forces’s motorized heroes. Dating back to the Mexican Revolution, the military used motorcycles for many different types of jobs. Their simple and nimble functionality allowed them to be used for communication tasks and screening operations. They’ve even seen their fair share of combat, as they can offer faster transportation for the military over vehicles with four wheels.
Considering motorcycles have been an asset to the United States military, we just had to ask, “What does the military use motorcycles for, and which ones are the most popular?” Below, you’ll find a list of the military motorcycles that helped the U.S. gain success at home and abroad.
Suggested read: $100M Donation Creates National Museum of Military Vehicles
Most-Used Military Motorcycles
1. Indian Powerplus Big Twin
The Indian Powerplus military motorcycle is one of our favorites that’s been used in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was used during World War I, and many historians believe that this motorcycle was a big reason why the United States won the first World War.
The military had purchased around 50,000 of these motorcycles during the wartime era, and the Indian company committed its entire production line to providing bikes for the military. This motorcycle has a 1,000-cc side valve, a four-stroke engine that can output 18 hp, and a top speed of 60 mph.
2. Harley Davidson WLA
Harley Davidson military motorcycles are the most well-known bikes that are and were used in the military. Designed by Harley Davidson, the WLA is known as the most iconic military motorcycle, as over 90,000 of these motorcycles were produced for the military during World War II.
The bike was based on the civilian model and was, at first, being produced in small numbers. The bike is finished with either chrome or nickel-plated parts and painted in the Army’s signature olive drab. The WLA had enlarged fenders that reduced mud clogging, a heavy-duty luggage rack, a skid plate, leg protectors, and a windshield that could be included, if needed.
The WLA motorcycle was reliable, easy to repair, and had great overall speed, which would make it difficult for other vehicles to catch up to it.
3. Harley Davidson Model 17F/J
The Model 17F/J was specially designed by Harley Davidson for combat during the Border War for General Pershing to combat Pancho Villa. This military motorcycle was impressively successful in helping troops traverse the desert, so the military put in an order for more of the Model 17F/J motorcycles.
4. Zero MMX
The Zero MMX motorcycle was designed to be used specifically for special operations in the United States military. The Zero MMX has a nearly silent electric motor, 54 horsepower, 68 pound-feet of torque, and can run for nearly 3,500 hours on just one charge.
The bike was reported to be maintenance-free and could supposedly be ridden almost anywhere around the globe, which is the whole reason why it was ideal for recon missions, search, rescue, and other operations.
5. Kawasaki KLR650
The Kawasaki KLR was the popular choice for motorcycles when Desert Storm broke out. The bike was versatile and able to run on either diesel or jet fuel and get up to 96 mpg. After World War II, motorcycles became less popular for military use. That was until the 1980s when they made a comeback and the Kawasaki became the popular choice.
6. Norton WD Big 4
The Norton WD Big 4 is a lesser-known military motorcycle that was produced during the 20th century. The motorcycle fashioned a sidecar, had low-end torque, and was designed to be able to carry two to three men at a time over rough terrain. The Big 4 was made to be able to transport ammunition to troops on the front lines.
The bike was powered by a 633-cc side-valve air-cooled cylinder engine and was equipped with drum brakes. The reason behind the name “Big 4” is because of its 4 tax horsepower.
Military Motorcycle Clubs
Since military motorcycles were most commonly used during the wartime era and reached peak popularity during the 1980s, there are many military Veterans who have a love for them. The U.S. Military Vet Motorcycle Club, established in 1987, is a national non-profit organization for military Veterans.
Overall, the club strives to provide a club for male military Veterans who are qualified and offers brotherhood and an opportunity to connect with other male military Veterans who have served in their country. Within the club, they hope to ensure their members have a sense of pride from serving in the U.S. military; they also hope to improve the image of bikers and military Veterans.
The military motorcycle is still in use within the United States military today, and many Veterans who’ve used motorcycles during their prime are still around to celebrate them. If you’re a member of the Armed Forces and have a love for military or non-military motorcycles, the Harley Davidson military discount could be helpful if you’re looking to buy a military motorcycle for sale and relive your glory days (or create some).
Images: Mecum Auctions; Zero Motorcycles; Yesterdays