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While they were on the battlefield, soldiers had to fight the enemies and sometimes had to travel long distances. Even during the battles, the soldiers’ mobility had ways in which it could have been improved. In war periods, the military used a lot of different means of transportation. Army trucks, cars, and planes were no strangers to the fighting fields.

During World War One, armies were still using horses and cavalry regiments in battles. It was a time of transition between the old ways of doing things and the technology period that revolutionized the way that countries were used to conduct wars.

As the engine production technologies evolved and the engines that the manufacturers used to produce were becoming more and more efficient, the military’s rate of using these technologies increased. 


World War I 

During World War One, there was a need for improvement in many areas of the military. One of the most important areas was the communication area. There was a serious need to improve the messengers’ transportation. 

Messengers who had to stay in touch with the soldiers on the fields were still using horses. Horses were efficient, but there were a lot of accidents, many of the horses got killed, the loss was big and the system was not working as well as it could have worked.

That was the time when the military had to make a choice. And their decision involved replacing the horses with motorcycles. That’s when Harley Davidson started to produce bikes for the military. They needed so many, that 50 percent of the Harley Davidson factory was reserved for the production of military bikes.

The British military realized during that time that the radio transmission system was not very reliable and that the horses were not that productive anymore, so they moved their attention to Triumph Motorcycles, a British company that sold over 30,000 Triumph Type H motorcycles to the British military during World War One.

This model was introduced on the market in 1915 and it gained the nickname “The Trusty” because its engine was so powerful and robust that the messengers could put their trust into the motorcycle to take them safely and quickly to their destination.

World War II

World War II revolutionized the way the army worked on the field. In this period, using motorcycles made a huge difference in how much gear could be transported on the field. This was especially important to the soldiers in the air units, as well as to the paratroops.

Motorcycles were now the main means of transportation for messengers, but, this time, the military started using motorcycles to transport injured soldiers to the on-sight improvised hospitals. It made a big difference to the time in which soldiers could get access to medical care and the rate of soldiers saved because of this change was on the rise.


Motorcycle models used during World War Two 


Motorcycles ‘born’ in the United States: Harley Davidson

For the American military, the most important motorcycle provider during World War II was Harley Davidson. With valuable experience in the business, Harley Davidson engineers developed effective engines that were rapid enough to be used by messengers. Because the war was hard, soldiers used to have some fun racing with the WLA’s around the camps.

Harley Davidson had a model specially made for the military. They took the Harley Davidson WL’s features and transformed them into WLA, with special features that were useful for the army. It didn’t have an integral sidecar design because in the United States military, at the time, the jeep was being used to transport gear and wounded soldiers.

The WLA was used by the Germans and by the USSR as well. Motorcycles were seen as a vital part of military transportation at the time. The USSR used so many WLAs that, a long time after the war had ended, they provided a lot of spare parts for the United States motorcycle owners.

The military police also preferred using motorcycles instead of horses because it was an easier way to inspect areas that were prone to be attacked by the enemies. Later on, Harley Davidson wanted to improve their gear and, inspired by the german motorcycle BMW R71, designed the Harley Davidson XA.

The XA’s motor fuel tank was bigger than the one the WLA had and the engine had a more rapid cooling system, but, unfortunately, in the United States, the jeep’s popularity was on the rise and the need for new models was no longer a priority for the troops.


Motorcycles produced by the Germans: BMW R75

During World War II, the most common motorcycle model used by the German army was BMW R75. This model had been previously used in North Africa due to its fast cooling properties and it was a better choice than the other brands. It was also more resistant to dust and corrosion.

It was inspired by the previous model made by the brand, the BMW R71. This model was captured by enemies and, as we have said before, it had inspired Harley Davidson to produce models that had the same features. It also inspired the Soviet M72 and the Chang Jiang 750.

The BMW R75 was designed to have a sidecar that helped to transport injured soldiers and other military gear. This motorcycle was a very practical one for German troops because soldiers were able to transport their cargo on various types of terrain. 

What happened after World War II

World War I and World War II had been a breakthrough for the motorcycle companies. In Europe, for example, civilians used to see them everywhere the soldiers went. It was seen as an easy and small means of transportation and it became a sort of trend among civilians to own a motorcycle.

The trend is on even in the present, but motorcycles and scooters are representing young people, mostly. The trend isn’t known to represent gangs as it was popular during a period of time in the United States. 

Because in the United States the war didn’t come with a big change in the economy, motorcycles were used as a way of making a personal statement. 

Because a lot of motorcycles became some sort of leftovers after War World II, their price was a very decent one. In the United States, motorcycle clubs were present on the streets even before the war. But now, when the prices were low, the club members weren’t selected by their status, everyone was able to buy one so it became a trend among people.

The veterans had an impact on the perpetuation of this trend. Life after the war was peaceful, but some of them still had the need for adrenaline and thrill, so the number of veterans owning motorcycles was on the rise. Forming clubs was a way for them to feel like they were a part of a community that shared the same past, needs, and passion for bikes.

That’s why the evolution of these communities was different between Europe and the United States, but what all bikers have in common is a passion for riding. Having the same passion brings people together and many of them joined these clubs chasing the feeling of belonging.


Final considerations

As we’ve said in a previous article, the bikers’ community is a big family with members all over the world. There is no other feeling close to that of traveling on another continent and passing by a motorcyclist on the road, stopping at a gas station and being able to talk to a biker like he already knows you, because he shares the same passion you do.

Whether we like it or not, the two World Wars had a big impact on the forming of this family. Many people say that beautiful things come from suffering, like a beautiful song or a beautiful poem. Well, the bikers’ family is a sort of a creation that comes from suffering as well. And the satisfaction it gives us is priceless.



A passionate admirer of all-leather Harley merchandise, Irina can help readers better understand the world of motorcycles. From the latest fashion trends to trip ideas for your next bike vacay, you will find everything you need to know about your two-wheel passion on this website.

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