The History of the Servi-Cycle

Barber Vintage Museum
ChuckSchultz/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Outside of the United States, one of the lesser-known American motorcycle manufacturers was Louisiana-based Servi-Cycle. Manufactured by the Simplex Manufacturing Corporation in New Orleans, the little 2-strokes were produced from 1935 to 1960.

Servi-Cycle Production Begins

The concept to produce a small lightweight motorcycle was the brainchild of Baton Rouge Harley-Davidson dealer Paul Treen. The demand for cheap transportation in the 1930s was a direct result of the economic depression.

After a number of prototypes had been evaluated, Treen's company began production in 1935, initially producing between twelve and fifteen units per week.

Over the years the Servi-Cycle relied on the same basic engine configuration-a single cylinder air-cooled 2-stroke developing 2 hp, which can power the little bike to 40 mph. The early model featured a direct drive; a belt from the crankshaft delivered drive to a centrifugal clutch which then relayed the drive to a large pulley on the rear wheel.

Early machines needed a push start to get the little motor fired up while stopping occurred via a switch on the handlebars that earthed the primary side of the ignition system. A foot operated clutch was added in 1941 and a fully automatic transmission in 1953.

Servi-Cycle Restoration

With the current trend towards small classics, the Servi-Cycle is being restored by many enthusiasts. However, identifying the exact year may prove difficult, as the system the company used for serial numbers gave only a date range.

The simple design and construction of the Servi-Cycle make it an ideal first-time project for someone just getting into classic bike restoration. As a price guide, a complete but unrestored example of a 1946 Servi-Cycle realized $2000 at auction in 2009.