Saturday, July 16, 2011


After a thoroughly satisfactory breakfast at a local diner, Tam K and I set out to visit National Moto+Cycle, whose storefront may be found in the same 1920s building as Luna Music and Indie Bike (around the corner). They already had eye-candy waiting out front: It's even prettier up close, though the guys were quick to point out that this is a prototype, lacking the custom paint and trim the production models will have. (Notice the helmets in the window, of which I should have taken a closer photo).

Inside, Chief Designer Matty Bennett and his partner-in-vehicularity were waiting and filled with enthusiasm.

National's basic product is a bicycle, but one that hearkens back to the first two decades of the 20th Century, as the "safety bicycle" was at its peak and the first production motorized versions were appearing. But they use modern materials with far better strength-to-weight properties, to produce a bicycle of reasonable weight and retro looks. The race-style turned-down handlebars can be flipped, resulting in a classic recreational/practical bike, or replaced with even more upright "beach cruiser" style handlebars. The bike has a multi-speed kickback hub and optional disc brake system.

...Or you can add a motor! Matty describes it as "like an early production motorized cycle. They're not intended to go superfast," running at the same speeds as city traffic. He plans to add an electric version as well. (More info at this link). The internal-combustion version has a standard twist throttle, kill switch and hand brake.

Sidecars will be available for all versions -- they'll be kept lightweight, in keeping with National's goal of attractive, retro, useful vehicles. As you can see, even the showroom is something of a design engineer's dream.

Both the name and the logo are not a new invention but the return of a very old Indianapolis automaker: between 1900 and 1924, the National Motor Vehicle Company built a successful line of internal-combustion and electric vehicles in their plant at 22nd and the Monon (rather a lot of photos here); the building still stands and is presently The Project School.

Matty himself is the eye and hand behind the look of a number of Broad Ripple institutions, not the least of which is Taste. Between that talent, his background in bicycling, enthusiasm for these bikes and the history of National, I think we're looking at a winner.

I've more photos, from National Moto+Cycle's secret basement proving grounds, but they must wait for another day.

1 comment:

  1. That's pretty slick!
    Good to see something Made In America again.
    I hope they do well.