The ultimate French Art Deco motorcycle - the Majestic - has only gained a reputation outside France since its inclusion in the Guggenheim Museum's Art of the Motorcycle exhibit in 1998, which was the first most viewers had ever seen or heard of this rare machine. Despite the exhibit's visibility, live sightings of this elusive motorcycle are rare, although I road tested one in 2010, which was enlightening - the concept of a hub-center steered motorcycle is sound, and the bike proved a civilized and intuitive ride [I've since found this to be true with another hub-steered bike, a 1920 Ner-A-Car, but that's a story for another day].
For all their rising fame, and even an appearance last summer at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours, Majestics rarely change hands, perhaps because few of them exist, but equally likely because owners are attached to these unique machines. The 1929 Majestic in these photos is currently for sale at Yesterdays Antique Motorcycles in Holland, and it's attached to a period Bernardin sidecar, which suits it beautifully in French Racing Blue with cream accents.
Georges Roy's first venture into motorcycle production was the unorthodox 'New Motorcycle' of 1928, with a pressed steel monococque chassis, and blade-type girder forks. The next year, Roy moved even further from the mainstream, showing a prototype of the hub-center steered Majestic at the Paris Motor Show in 1929. The Majestic doesn't have a monococque chassis like the New Motorcycle, but uses a squarish section steel tube frame similar to an automobile, which is covered in swooping steel panels in an unbroken line from the curved front 'beak' to the sporty abbreviated tail.
The central engine cover is removable for access and maintenance, and there's room in the engine bay for a large motor, or even a radiator for a water-cooled machine. Two types of chassis were built; a heavyweight for use with a Cleveland 4-cylinder engine (only one of these exists), or a sideways-mounted JAP V-twin, and light chassis for the single-cylinder Chaise engine, as seen on this machine. The petrol tank sits under the front bulkhead, and the instruments sat in a binnacle on the handlebars - in this case, a clock, speedo, and multi-position light switch.
Detail shots show the arrangement of the steering and front suspension; pillar rods allow sprung vertical movement, and the steering rod can be seen connected to the central hub by a 'c' shaped lever. The front hub has plenty to do, with a large bearing and brake mechanism inside. My road test proved the steering light and the machine nimble and predictable. It was clear the Majestic was a different breed, as the steering felt totally neutral at all speeds, and required a bit of sensitivity to understand, but that took only a few hundred yards; after that, it was easy, and terribly elegant. I have to admit a trace of envy for the new owner of this gorgeous outfit!
Subscribe here for The Vintagent by email!