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The Michaelson 005

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a picture of the original motorcycle frame.

Ky welding on the frame.

Ky with bike

My great uncle, John Michaelson was the first dare devil of many to come, including myself, and here's how the groundwork was laid. In 1905, he came up with a unique way of putting himself through college. Now back in those days, there were obviously no Evel Knievel's around, so what John concocted was nothing short of spectacular for that era. He built himself a 75-foot high, 200-foot long portable ski jump, and traveled with it throughout the Midwest. You may be asking what he would possibly do with such a ski jump, so I'll tell you. Back then, not only were there no "Evel's" around, but there were hardly any motorcycles either, and none of the handful of riders was anywhere near crazy enough to jump over anything. They had a hard enough time keeping the very unstable cycles under control just driving down the bumpy dirt roads, let alone anything else. John came from a different breed, though, and wanted to live on the edge of life, so he used his portable ski jump as a take-off ramp for his highly modified bicycle. I say highly modified because the difference between a motorcycle and a bicycle was very slim at a time when such a contraption was really just formulating. Anyway, he would climb to the top of the ramp, and then use a rope to hoist his bicycle up to him. He had an assistant, who would hold the rear wheel as he mounted the bike. On the bottom of the ramp, there was a carnival barker who would collect money as he worked the crowd into frenzy, telling them "the Great Michaels was about to lose his life if he did not successfully make the jump." (John called himself the "Great Michaels" because he was afraid his Mother would find out he was risking his life to put himself through Hamlin College.) He performed this daring stunt during the summer months at Wonderland Park on Lake Street in south Minneapolis on almost a weekly basis. His billboard read, "See the Great Michaels in his all inspiring, death-defying leap across the gap." Before John made his jump, he'd shout out, "I challenge the world and agree to make the longest leap ever made by any living man." Finally, after there was no more money to be collected, the brass band would start playing, and John's assistant would let go of the wheel. John and the flimsy bike would scream down the ramp, jump over a picket fence, and land on a receiving ramp, setting the jump record of 53 feet. This summer marks the hundredth anniversary of my grate uncles death defying feat so I decided to build From scratch a Motorcycle, which I am calling the Michaelson 005. My plans are to take my bike to Zumbrota Minnesota, and drive it on the very same spot were my Great uncle jumped his bike a 100 years ago in September. I have used the measurements off an original Michaelson Motorcycle frame that Doug Ryckel had in his collection, and was kind enough to barrow me. One of the major differences is that am using a modified Briggs and Stratton twin cylinder with an electric starter. So an old guy like me can just push the start button and drive it away.

Ky, his son Buddy, and friends standing where his Great Uncle jumped his bike 100 years ago.

Kys son Buddy helping
Dad bend frame tube.

Ky and Buddy hard at work.

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to enlarge.

Copyright © 2005 The Rocketman