Don Johns on his Cyclone
One legendary victory for Johns on the Cyclone was a winner-take-all one-lap race around a mile dirt track in Phoenix on November 18, 1913. The promoter offered the princely sum of $1000 to the vehicle that could lap the mile the fastest – that included planes flying just above the mile oval. Johns and the Cyclone beat the automobile ace Barney Oldfield and barnstorming pilot Lincoln Beachly to win the prize.
The Cyclone, while often the fastest motorcycle at a race, suffered from reliability problems. Johns easily turned the fastest lap times and many times built big leads only to suffer mechanical problems with the bike. The most infamous race for Johns and Cyclone was the epic 1915 Dodge City 300. A total of seven manufacturers fielded factory teams in the event. Harley-Davidson, debuting in the classic race, and Indian each had eight riders. Johns, on the Cyclone, turned laps over two mph faster than Dave Kinney’s qualifying speed in the early laps and was heavily favoured to win the race. He opened a large lead, lapping a number of riders in the first fifty miles. Then the bike began to fade and he lost the lead just before the 100-mile mark and later dropped out of the running. Johns also lead similarly in the 100-mile national at Ascot Park until the Cyclone again failed before reaching the chequered flag. Johns did win a number of shorter races on the Cyclone, including the 1 mile FAM National held in Sacramento in July of 1915.
The company owners of Cyclone had little experience or even interest in marketing, building up dealerships or service, production was slow and expensive, profits were minimal, so the owners eventually stopped production in 1915 after no more than 300 Cyclones had been built. A number of ttempts were made to revive the Cyclone. Firstly, in 1916, a Chicago businessman bought the assets and moved the machinery, partially completed bikes and all the remaining parts to Chicago, where they were stored in a warehouse. Two other investors got involved, but were unable to get the business up and running. Four years later, the left-overs were sold and moved to Cheboygan, Michigan, where a building was put up and production was set to resume. This never happened either and another move to Benton Harbor, Michigan was made. Another factory was prepared and Andrew Strand was brought in to update the design. A new Cyclone with a three-speed transmission (reportedly based on an Excelsior unit) was displayed and adverts appeared in motorcycling magazines. Again, nothing came of it. The Cyclone's last gasp came in 1923. A racer called the Reading-Standard competed in several races. As it turned out, this was a Cyclone bearing a different name on its tank. Reading-Standard (itself recently purchased by the Cleveland Motor Company), had acquired all remaining Cyclone assets and put together one last racer from left-over parts.