American Fours: 1910 Pierce Four and 1914 Henderson Four

Alan Cathcart rides a 1910 Pierce Four and a 1914 Henderson Four back-to-back.

| November/December 2017

American Fours

Writer Alan Cathcart aboard the 1910 Pierce Four.

Photo by Kyoichi Nakamura
1914 Henderson Four Model C
Engine: 65ci (1,064cc) air-cooled inlet-over-exhaust inline four, 5:1 compression ratio, 9hp @ 3,200rpm
Top speed: 60mph
Weight (dry): 300lb (136kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 2gal(7.6ltr)
1910 Pierce Four
Engine: 40ci (652cc) air-cooled sidevalve T-head inline four, 4:1 compression ratio, 7hp at 3,000rpm
Top speed: 60mph
Weight(dry): 275lb/125kg
Fuel capacity/MPG: 1.75gal (6.6ltr)
The 1914 Henderson Four displays a delightful patina of age, and comes equipped with Powell & Hanmer acetylene lighting and a period Gloriaphone klaxon. There’s also a Cowey Engineering Co. Ltd. speedometer driven off the front hub. The Brooks leather saddle is extremely comfortable, with your legs stretched forward ahead of the engine. It’s a comfortable stance that greatly contrasted with the Pierce I’d just been riding. Five years is a long time in motorcycle development, and that was never more evident than in riding these two early Americans back to back.
By comparison, the Henderson seems more substantial and better laid out than the Pierce and also more refined in use. It’s still complicated to start, but instead of pedaling bicycle-style to fire up the engine as on the Pierce, on the Henderson you squat down on the right of the bike, pull out the crank handle that’s clipped to the frame, insert it on the boss at the rear of the engine, turn it over to get it on compression — then yank it smartly. It took three goes from cold to get it started — and don’t leave your left hand anywhere near the rear wheel as the engine fires up! 
The noise from the thin 4-into-1 exhaust running down the right side sounds just like a small 1930s car. Use one of the two brake pedals using your left or right foot to stop the rear wheel spinning, pull the bike off its stand, clip the stand into the rear fender and climb aboard the seat. As on the Pierce, the clutch is the so-called automatic type, which means that to get the bike moving you must carefully engage it by pushing the gear lever forward to select low on the Thor 2-speed transmission.
Order the November/December 2017 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1910 Pierce and 1914 Henderson Fours. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email

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