The Harley-Davidson Peashooter
Harley’s latest attempt at a single cylinder motorcycle was aptly called the Buell Blast. Produced from 2000 until 2009, the Blast was lightweight and easy to ride, making it a favorite training motorcycle for MSF and Rider’s Edge courses. Many modern riders might not realize that the Blast was just another motorcycle in a long line of single cylinder models which Harley has produced off and on since their first motorcycle in 1903. From 1926 to 1929, Harley produced another notable single cylinder, but this one was not aimed at first time riders. Instead it was destined for the race track.
In 1925, the American Motorcycle Association announced a new 21 cubic inch racing class with the idea that the smaller displacement motorcycles would reduce costs for participants. Soon Excelsior and Indian announced they would be fielding machines in the new class and Harley-Davidson was ready with a 21 cubic inch OHV single of their own. The motorcycle’s official designation was the Model S, but due to the popping noise that came from it’s short exhaust pipes, it soon garnered the nickname “Peashooter.”
Despite it’s small displacement, the Peashooter was a serious race bike. There were no brakes, rigid suspension front and rear and a device called a “meat hook” was mounted on the right side of the tank. During a race, the meat hook helped to hold the rider on the motorcycle in the turns. Since they only turned to the left, the rider could wedge his outside leg under the meat hook for greater stability.
In it’s inaugural year, Peashooters won six of the fourteen National Titles available for the new 21 cubic inch class. Still, Americans always seem to prefer more cubic inches and the Peashooter was a short lived model. Although not popular in the US, the 21 cubic inch class was very successful overseas and the bulk of the Peashooters that Harley produced found their way to race tracks in Europe and Australia.