Monday, November 25, 2013


The 1935 Böhmerland Reise with 600cc Leibisch OHV engine
In the 1920s, the Czech motorcycle industry pushed the technological forefront of engine and chassis design, producing the first series built double-overhead camshaft design (the Praga), as well as the longest production motorcycle in history, the Böhmerland. The brainchild of Czech engineer Albin Leibisch, the Böhmerland was built between 1925-1939 in Schönlinde, Sudetenland, and was almost entirely the result of Leibisch’s design and manufacture.  That remarkable chassis of welded tubing, the unusual leading-link front forks, the engine, and the cast wheels (a pioneering use for motorcycles, not generally taken up until the 1970s!) were all made in-house, with only the gearbox and various ancillary parts bought-in (magnetos, carburetors, controls, etc). The small factory at one point employed 20 assembly workers, with parts supplied by local subcontractors; production eventually totaled around 3000 units.

The cast wheels of the Böhmerland were a motorcycle 'first', and were immensely strong

The most visually distinctive feature of the Böhmerland was its great length, although several models were produced, from the shortest-wheelbase racing model with a claimed 96mph (160kmh) top speed, to a single-seater ‘Sport’ version, a 3-seater ‘Touring’ model (the most popular, and seen here; seating designation includes the pillion at rear), the extravagant 4-seater ‘Langtouren’ (Long Touring), and even an experimental military model with 4 seats and two gearboxes (the rear ‘box operated by a passenger), giving 9 possible ratios!  With a sidecar attached, a Touring Böhmerland could safely carry 4 or 5 passengers, with more elegance and speed than nearly any contemporary automobile of the 1920s. Early models used twin petrol tanks, which kept the cylinder head visible and accessible to the rider/mechanic; later models used a more conventional ‘saddle’ tank (as seen here) which covered the top frame rails. Some later models also used cast steel wheels, as aluminum casting technology lagged behind the far-sighted ideas of Albin Leibisch!!

The Leibisch engine is a tidy and robust OHV design with open rockers...easy to keep an eye on while riding!

Specifications of the ‘Touring’ Model seen here are a total length of 124” (317cm), with a wheelbase of 88” (223cm).  The Leibisch engine is a sturdy overhead valve, dry-sump unit of 600cc (80x120mm bore/stroke), producing 24hp @5000rpm, with a top speed of 65mph (110kmh), giving a frugal 70mpg in normal use.  

Distinctive, idiosyncratic, and the work of a genius, Böhmerlands are today rightly coveted as collector’s items.


abritz said...

...because of their length and the tube frame they were called " the flying scaffold" :) back in the days...

GuitarSlinger said...

Wow ! If you think about it for a minute ... a tweak here ... an aesthetic change there .. a larger motor between the rails .... and this bike'd look like it just rode out of some top drawer custom builders shop .

Carl said...

Longest production motorcycle in history Is 14 years? HD built the Panhead from 48 until 65, the Sportster from 57 and are still building them. Nimbus built the Type C from 32 until 60

The Vintagent said...

The longest production bike, yes, but not the longest period of production, which must go to the BMW R71, still in production in various forms since 1938. Next is the Honda Cub, since 1957 and still built in essentially the same form

Carl said...

Ahhhhh...brain fade. Longest bike, wheelbase wise.
I figured my Boss Hoss would qualify, but it's not even close, only 80 inches