A blog post on Husqvarna’s history speaks to Husky’s entrance into building motorcycles.  While the article isn’t a complete history of the Swedish manufacturer’s entrance to producing motorcycles, it does offer a feel for what Husqvarna was thinking when they decided to manufacture them.

Husqvarna – Replacing horses

Before the turn of the century, horses were the primary means of transportation.  But shortly after that, horses would find themselves becoming a secondary means of transport as the sound of 4-stroke engines grew rapidly.

During this period, Husqvarna was already producing bicycles with names like “La Draisine,” “The Bone-shaker,” “The Hi-Wheeler,” “The Kanguru,” “The Giraff,” and “The Crypto-machine.”  And in the five years between 1897 and 1901, Husqvarna’s manufacturing resulted in the production of 4,916 bicycles.

As people became more prosperous, the desire for new inventions and more leisure pushed the boundaries of transportation.  And that’s when motorcycles or, more appropriately, motorized bicycles started their rise to popularity.

Husqvarna motorized two-wheelers

At first, motorized bicycles were big and heavy and were quite expensive.  Some even had three wheels.  And it’s because of this that many did not see their benefits.

In Sweden, motorized two-wheelers were also met initially with skepticism and ridicule.  But as people began to see the benefit of motorized two-wheel travel and designs improved, they began to change their minds.  The people who had money wanted an easier life, and motorized bicycles quickly grew in appeal.

Husqvarna velocipede

Husqvarna logo.

At this time, Husqvarna was mainly a weapons manufacturer. Their factory by the river Huskvarna (which means Mill House) in the town with the same name was growing. So in 1898, the factory decided that it was an excellent time to evaluate manufacturing two-wheeled motorized vehicles.

Powered two-wheelers had already begun to make their mark in Sweden.  A significant amount of powered bicycles were already being imported from both the United States and England.  Sales in the multi-millions of Swedish Kronor had already occurred.

Decision time for Husqvarna

So the heads of Husqvarna met to discuss whether the company should begin to compete with the imported brands. The Board’s conclusion was understandable.  Saying, “People want to make life more comfortable, so let’s give them what they want,” the Board of Directors decided to begin the manufacture of “velocipedes”; bicycles powered by an engine.

People wanted mobility and the ability to reach their destinations as quickly as possible.  Husqvarna seized upon this opportunity and, in 1903, introduced its first motorcycle, that is, a bicycle driven by an engine.

Designing the bike

Husqvarna’s engineers thought long and hard about which drivetrain to attach to their new machine.  After significant consideration, Husqvarna chose to use the FN-engine produced in Belgium.  The single-cylinder, 225 cc FN powerplant provided one-quarter horsepower, enabling top speeds of approximately 40 – 50 kph (25 – 30 mph).  With its four-liter fuel tank, an FN engine could provide a range of approximately 150 kilometers (~93 miles).  For those times, it was a commanding range.

In its production-ready version, Husqvarna placed the FN engine in its bicycle. And Husqvarna even says that the Huskvarna “Motor-velocipede” was more like a pedal bicycle than a motorcycle. Still, the FN engine mated to a transmission and linked to the rear wheel by a leather belt gave the Husqvarna bike plenty of power and range for the time.

Husqvarna velocipede

Documentation for your new (then) Husqvarna velocipede.

Risky business move

It was a pretty risky move for Husqvarna.  Especially with competitors already having a foothold in the Swedish market.  But Husqvarna’s velocipedes were well received, and orders started coming in.  Orders came in from the general public and the police force, postal services, national telegraph, military forces, and others.

Attracting customers

Interestingly, Husqvarna pitched that anyone could ride their machine.  The instruction book read:

“There are no obstacles in learning how to operate this engine-velocipede, nor is any technical knowledge needed. But you have to take care of the machine and its proper functions.”

And to help those people if there were problems, the Husqvarna manual also provides advice if the bike’s owner had difficulty starting the machine:

“If the petrol is too cold, you can warm up the carburetor by holding a burning newspaper underneath it, but do not use a welding torch to heat it as it would be dangerous – catching fire in the worst scenario!”

When the new Husqvarna motor-velocipede entered production, it was manufactured on a relatively small scale between 1903 and 1906.  Unfortunately, we’ll never know how many were sold because the Swedish company didn’t keep any sales figures.

Husqvarna velocipede

Husqvarna factory workers came in all shapes, sizes and ages.

Husqvarna makes a premium product

But it’s clear that Husqvarna thought of its bike as a “premium” product.  The bike’s initial price tag was 700 Swedish Kronor, or about $150 then.  In their marketing strategy, Husqvarna pitched that Swedish products were of the utmost quality, whereas imported competitors offered products manufactured with cheaper materials, hence their lower price.

According to Husqvarna, customers “Shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” They thought that their product offered high-quality goods, and they did it with lots of confidence that their pricing represented their high standards.



Source:  Husqvarna



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