Historic Motorcycle Brands
The Megola was a German motorcycle produced between 1921 and 1925 in Munich. Like Bimota, the name is a portmanteau, derived loosely from the names of its designers Meixner, Cockerell and Landgraf.
The Megola had a unique design, laid down by Fritz Cockerell in 1920, using a rotary engine mounted within the front wheel. It looked like an aircraft radial engine, but in a radial engine the cylinders are fixed to the airframe and the crankshaft rotates, spinning the propellor. In a rotary engine, the crankshaft is stationary and the wheel-attached cylinders rotate around it.
Bo Hare on his AeroPeu
(AeroPeu is a one-off 1930 Peugeot P50T oval board-track racer, repowered by Bo Hare with a radial engine. The engine is a 100cc scale version of WW1 period Gnome & Rhone overhead-valve, nine-cylinder radial aircraft engine. Running on methanol premix fuel with glow-plug ignition it developed 7bhp at 7000rpm.)
In the case of the Megola, the engine had five side-valve cylinders and a total displacement of 640cc. The cylinders rotated around the front axle at six times wheel speed, so while the cylinders were at maximum of 3600rpm the front wheel was turning at 600rpm, or roughly 97km/h.
1922 Megola motorcycle – Pebble Beach Concours
Different wheel and tyre rolling radii could be used to alter the final drive ratio.The cylinders could be disassembled without having to remove all the wheel spokes to service the engine.
A hand-controlled butterfly valve was located in the hollow crankshaft to regulate throttle. Power output was a modest 14bhp, but drove the wheel directly. This arrangement produced a very low centre of gravity and is said to have resulted in excellent handling.
1922 Megola 640cc Touring Model – Thesupermat
The first prototype was built in 1920 with the five cylinders mounted within the rear wheel and at leat one more machine had rear wheel drive. Production machines, from 1921, had front wheel drive.
Production models had a main fuel tank mounted low down in the box-section frame and the fuel from it was hand-pumped to a header tank above the engine. Two independent brakes were used for the rear wheel.
Megolas came with a fuel gauge, tachometer and ammeter as standard equipment and were available as sporting and touring models. The touring version featured a sprung rear wheel and soft saddle, while the sport had a rigid rear suspension and a more powerful engine with a top speed of 85km/h. The front suspension on all models was an inverted leaf.
Megola on front and rear axle stands – Martin Hans V
Motorcycle racer Toni Bauhofer achieved 142km/h on a sports-model on the Avus racing circuit in Berlin. In 1924, he won the over-500cc-class on a Megola at the German Motorcycle Road Championship.
Riding the Megola on the road must have posed quite a challenge, because it had no clutch. The rider had to stop or stall the engine when the bike was stationary. To start the engine, the rider had to push the bike onto the provided front wheel stand and hand-spin the tyre, or push-start the bike.
As an alternative, the owner’s manual suggested the rider make small orbits in the road if at any point the bike had to halt!
In fewer than five years of production, approximately 2000 machines were built and sold and one survivor was displayed at the Guggenheim Museum ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibition in New York City in 1998.
A replica, fitted with an original engine, was sold by Bonhams auction house in London in 2016 for Stg£82,140.
In 1935, there was an attempt by a group of engineers to make an improved version, the Killinger and Freund Motorcycle, but World War II put an end to their plans.