BMW Motorrad Spezial

1922 Megola Sport

1922 Megola Sport motorcycle
This lovely piece of rolling sculpture is the Megola Sport, and it was built in Germany in 1922. Aside from the extraordinary styling, the most notable thing about this machine is that the engine sits by the front wheel.

It’s a five-cylinder, 640cc radial—which was reportedly powerful enough for top speeds of between 85 and 140 kph (88mph), depending on model and year. The engine had tremendous torque, which meant that gears were not required. It didn’t have a clutch, either: to start the bike, you put it on its stand and spun the front wheel until the engine fired up.

‘Megola’ is a portmanteau brand name—almost—derived from designers Meixner, Cockerell, and Landgraf. Unfortunately, their motorcycle endeavours were short-lived, lasting just four years from 1921 and 1925. A few years later, there was an attempt to resurrect the front-engined concept, with the Killinger and Freund. But that’s another story.

More Megola history on Visual Gratification, one of the more thoughtful motorcycling blogs out there. Image by Mr. Kimberly.

  • chris

    It is a rotary piston engine, not a radial piston engine. In a rotary the crankshaft does not move, instead the cylinders rotate. In WW1 planes that used this type of motor the engine was either on or off with very little in between. And when I say on I mean wide open on. The pilots had to flip the magnetos on and off to come in for a landing.

  • tim hanna

    With no clutch the handbook recomended that in the event the rider encountered an obstacle they circled until the way was clear again.
    By 1922 this must surely have been a major obstacle to sales success.

  • Andy C

    Swoopy! Red! Original! I like it.

    Tim, I think you’re ultimately right about the clutch being a sales drawback. On the other hand, I have a copy of “Tracing Motorcycle Troubles” from 1922 and it offers a similar perspective on that era. It’s a book of tips on owning and riding motorcycles and the section on difficult hills is hilarious. When defeated by a hill, the authors recommended changing the crank case oil, taking a run up at maximum speed and as the engine starts labouring “begin zig-zaging across the road to reduce the gradient”. Clutchless bikes going around in circles fit in with that. Ibet it was fun!

  • monkeyfumi

    It looks like a streamlined postie.

  • carn

    Beautiful machine, innovative. Another good reason to look back… in order to go forward…

  • WRXr

    Always thought this was a beutiful design…except for the engine, which shows something of the obsession with aviation after the first world war. As impressive as this implementation is, having so much unsprung weight and gyroscopic force in line with the steering must have made turning very interesting. A big effort on a technological dead end. Rotary engines would soon disappear from airplanes too, so no reason to implement them on ground vehicles.

    However, this idea may be making a come back….with electric bikes. Already most of the electric scooters you see running around Asia use hub motors…albeit in the back, and also with a weight many factors less this rotary engine.

    Still one has to wonder:

    1. Why didn’t they put the rotary engine on the back wheel?
    2. Did anyone ever make a special that had rotary engines both fore and aft?

    That could be REALLY interesting.

  • Don

    What a beautiful machine. And with what is esentially a monocoque frame, this motorcycle was way ahead of its time for 1922. And in many ways it still IS ahead of its time, even for today. As I recall Cycle World magazine did a one-off monocoque custom street bike back in the 70s. Powered by a 2-stroke twin, it made their cover.

  • Riding a bike without a clutch sounds hard, but it isn’t too tough. Traffic stops are the major headache, but once on the open road, the bike will just sing along. Early motors had low compression ratios, about 4:1, so it is pretty simple to paddle away from a stop with your feet, drop the exhaust valve, and the motor will light up and pull you away.


  • sikorsky

    @WRXr: rotary engines did not disappear from aviation so soon. At least in Central Europe they were in wide use in lightweight planes since 1980s. But still, the Megola is one curious example of mixing aviation technology with onground vehicles… much less like the infamous propelller-powered cars (can’t remember the proper name now). I found a mention in my sources that Megola had its own racing team, and it was even successful, albeit only moderately. I wonder how this thing worked during the races… :)

  • w


    Leyat produced propeller powered cars from 1919 to 1925.
    They ever got one up to 170+kph