A Brief History of Chrome Plating for Motorcycles

October 4, 2017
Posted in news
October 4, 2017 Bend Plating

A Brief History of Chrome Plating for Motorcycles

A product of the industrial revolution, several companies began manufacturing motorcycles at the turn of the 20th century. Though simple at first, these early motorcycles harnessed the power of the internal combustion engine and utilized parts similar to that of a pedaled bicycle. Since then, a lot has changed. Here’s a history of motorcycle manufacturing as well as the historical use of chrome plating for motorcycles.

Here’s a Brief History of Chrome Plating for Motorcycles:

The First Motorcycle Manufacturer

Originally designed to pace bicycle races in the late 19th century, motorcycles became of general interest in the early 20th century. In the early 1900’s, bicycle builder George M. Hendee partnered with custom motorcycle builder Oscar Hedstrom to develop the Indian Motorcycles, the first commercial motorcycle company in the United States.

To build their motorbikes, George and Oscar contracted with the Aurora Machinery Company in Aurora, Illinois. At the time, the manufacturing facility produced steel components and precision castings for bicycle parts. After reviewing Indian’s prototype engine, however, Aurora improved the castings by providing additional cylinder wall strength and improved air cooling by adding fins to the casting. They became the first motorcycle part manufacturer in the United States.

Innovations in Motorcycle Manufacturing

Aurora manufactured motorcycle parts, motorcycle kits, and eventually complete motorcycles from 1901 to 1916. During that time they added automatic intake valves, started producing two-cylinder engines and added a free-will engine clutch. Though essential, Aurora’s innovations weren’t enough to keep up with the competition. Bill Ottoway, one of the head designers for Aurora moved to Harley Davidson in 1912 where he would go on to build racing motorcycles for the thriving new company.

Started by tinkering boys, William S. Harley and brothers Arthur, Walter, and William Davidson, Harley-Davidson’s first motorcycle placed fourth in a local race. This early success led to three more prototypes and the Juneau Avenue Factory which manufactured 50 motorcycles for the company in their first year of production. However, the Great Depression and World War II produced drastic changes in motorcycle manufacturing.

The First Use of Chrome Plating for Motorcycles

Until that time, nickel electroplating was the primary method of applying decorative finishes to bicycles and motorcycles alike. This finish was used for bumpers, fenders, and trims to provide wear resistance, corrosion protection, and a high luster finish. Then in the 1920’s, chrome plating was developed by George J. Sargent and became the standard for motorcycle and automotive use.

However, during the start of the second World War chrome plating became scarce and other metals and finishes were used. To survive these challenging times, Harley-Davidson manufactured more than 90,000 motorcycles for the military known as WLAs. These motorcycles featured chrome, nickel, or aluminum plated parts that were painted black, olive, blue, or white.

After the war, it became important to use chrome plating for motorcycles again. To this day, chrome plating and triple plating are the most common finishing options for modern motorcycle parts. Bend Plating provides industrial chrome plating services for motorcycle manufacturing processes and aftermarket companies. Contact us for more information about your motorcycle manufacturing needs.

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