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The 1916 Traub Is A Motorcycle Shrouded in Mystery

If unsolved mysteries are your thing, then we have one for you. In the history of motorcycles, few machines have captured the attention of motorcycle lovers quite like the 1916 Traub.

The Discovery

The motorcycle was discovered in 1967 by a plumber who was doing work on a home. The bike was hidden behind a bricked-up wall in a Chicago suburb.

Little is known about how it actually get there, but there is a theory based on a talk with the prior owner of the home.

When the original owner of the home was found, he reported that his son had stolen the bike. As punishment he made his son serve in World War I, from which he never returned.

How it got into the wall is still unclear. But, could the dad have put it there?

The Creator of the Motorcycle

To add more mystery to the motorcycle, there is no clear details on who actually created this marvel. But various sources believe the creator was a man named Gottlieb Richard Traub.

richard traub motorcycle shop

He was born on in 1883 and after returning from WWI opened a motorcycle shop out of his garage. It is said that by 1910 he was building bikes that were way before their time.

A letter to the editor of Motorcycle Illustrated in 1907 is what brought his skills to light. It also included a picture of a motorcycle which looked a lot like the one found in the wall.

A portion of the letter he wrote reads:

Dear Sir – … find the enclosed picture and specifications of a motorcycle made by myself throughout engine and all. I worked on this cycle about one year, putting in the time only between 7 pm and 11 pm. I also worked Sundays.

Specifications – Wheelbase, 55 inches; tank capacity, 3 1/2 gallons gasoline, 1 gallon oil, sufficient for 125 miles; power, 4 horsepower; bore and stroke 3 1/4 by 4 inches; auxiliary gasoline tank, 1/2 gallon; speed, more than the roads will stand; perfect grip control; throttle and spark motor is geared 3 3/4 to 1; it has a cycle chain with washers and does good service; has never troubled me yet, and I rode all of 1,500 miles.”

1907 newspaper article with traub letter

The Engineering

The Traub’s story begins with its remarkable engineering. At a time when most motorcycles were still in their infancy, this machine boasted features that were years, if not decades, ahead of its time.

Its massive 1,278cc (78 cubic inch) side-valve V-twin engine was a powerhouse, capable of reaching speeds over 85 mph – a feat that left contemporary machines in the dust.

But the Traub’s innovations didn’t stop there.

It featured a dual-acting rear brake system with a single cam operating both internal expanding and external contracting shoes – a design never before seen on any American motorcycle.

Additionally, it is believed to have been one of the first American bikes to feature a three-speed gearbox, complete with two separate neutral positions and an adjustable crankcase breather.

As remarkable as its engineering was, the true mystery of the Traub lies in its origins. The best theory links it to Gottlieb Richard Traub, an experimental machinist in Chicago around 1916, based on a letter he wrote describing a “homemade motorcycle.” However, this connection remains tenuous, leaving the Traub’s true provenance shrouded in uncertainty.

After its discovery, the Traub was taken on a journey through the hands of several owners. Among them was Bud Ekins, the legendary stuntman who worked on films like “The Great Escape” and “Bullitt” alongside Steve McQueen – a fitting custodian for such an extraordinary machine.

Where The Bike Is Now

Today, the 1916 Traub resides at the Wheels Through Time Museum in North Carolina, where it stands as a testament to the boundless creativity and ingenuity of its unknown creator.

Fully operational, this motorcycle continues to captivate visitors from around the world, its very existence a reminder that sometimes, the greatest mysteries are those that lie hidden in plain sight.

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