A pink Johnny Pag motorcycle that smacks of Mary Kay
  • A real ‘Jingle Bells’ one-horse open sleigh
  • Don’t ride the (real) white horse
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    Auction Finds

    Real horse saddles as motorcycle seats

    I stood slightly away from the table, trying to get a better look at two bulky and very dirty horse saddles lying on the floor, wondering how anyone could ever have heaved them on top of a horse.

    For me, they were a novelty. I’ve seen all manner of equipment and tools at auction, but never horse saddles. They looked to be in need of a good cleaning and polishing, but from the intricate carving in the leather and the white threading, I knew they’d look good after some care.

    Behind me, I overheard a man speaking to a friend. I’ve seen those on motorcycles, he said. I wasn’t sure what he was referring to, so I turned toward him so I could follow his gaze. He was staring at the horse saddles on the floor.

    horse saddle

    An up-close view of one of the horse saddles at auction. Despite the dust and dirt, you could still see the maker’s handiwork.

    I’ve seen them around town, he said.

    Was he kidding? Bikers actually used these as seats? These things looked to be excruciatingly uncomfortable with their hard surfaces and round ridges. I could not imagine the torture they inflicted on the soft parts of a motorcyclist. The saddles still had their soft fur padding, which had once protected the horse but was now useless for protecting a biker.

    I don’t recall seeing any bikes on the highways equipped with a horse saddle, so I assumed they are not very commonplace. I did find some photos on the web, mostly on Pinterest.

    Horse saddles

    Two horse saddles up for sale at auction.

    I found a custom-made saddle with two gun holsters and another with a rifle holster near the back. Most, though, were traditional horse saddles made for riding only. One of the most unusual included the front and rear of a model horse draped over a motorcycle engine with the horse’s back as the saddle.

    A biker noted on his site that he got into horse saddles after seeing European rat bikes on the web. They seemed to be made of found, thrown-away metal or junk materials. They reminded me of found art – creations made with materials that artists basically found in the trash or their surroundings.

    1885 motorcycle

    A replica of the first motorcycle, the 1885 “riding carriage” made by the founders of Mercedes.

    History seems to be a bit muddled about who actually made the first motorcycle. There seemed to have been some experimentation with powering bicycles during the early part of the 19th century. In the United States, Sylvester Roper invented a steam-engine motorcycle around 1869, while a Frenchman was also puttering around with steam engines.

    A German inventor named Gottlieb Daimler produced the first motorcycle with an internal combustion engine in 1885, using an upgraded version of an engine that had been invented by Nikolaus Otto in 1876. Daimler, who had worked with Otto on the engine, left the company and sought to improve on the engine with his partner Wilhelm Maybach. They put their engine on a wooden frame. Daimler’s 17-year-old son rode the “riding carriage,” as it was called, for six miles at 7 miles per hour.

    The saddle on Daimler’s motorcycle looked like a simplified horse saddle. Replicas of the motorcycle have been made (One sold for $31,250 at auction two years ago, and others are in museums). The original burned in a fire at the company’s factory in Cannstatt, Stuttgart, Germany, in 1903.

    Daimler and Maybach went on to make the first gas-powered automobile in 1889. More than a dozen years later, after Daimler’s death, the company built the Mercedes car.

    horse saddle on motorcycle

    A leather horse saddle on a Harley. Photo from Horse Saddle Motorcycle Seats on Pinterest.



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