Simplex Motorcycle For Sale

The Simplex Manufacturing Corporation was founded in the late 1920s in New Orleans, Louisiana. The founder was a Harley-Davidson dealership owner, who had pitched the manufacturer the concept of a smaller, lighter motorcycle to get young, novice riders to buy new Harleys. When Harley-Davidson rejected his offer, Paul Treen invested $25 in founding a new company: Simplex. 

Treen then went to work, and in 1935, he introduced the Servi-Cycle. True to its name, the Simplex Servi-Cycle is little more than an oversized, motorized bicycle with a tiny, 130cc two-stroke engine. It would remain in production for twenty-five years, undergoing little to no cosmetic changes from the original model.

Treen was known as a hands-on owner and spent much of his time in the design shop working with the company’s engineers. In the mid-1950s, he partnered with Western Auto to sell Simplex motorcycles under Western’s Wizard brand. Improvements were rolled out as they were developed, without the reference to model year, to be made available to customers as soon as possible. In addition, Treen had success in his family life; his son, David Conner Treen, would grow up to become Governor of Louisiana.

Unfortunately, while the Servi-Cycle’s design was cutting edge in the 1930s, it was woefully out-of-date by the 1950s. Rather than radically redesign the bike or try something entirely different, Simplex simply ended production in 1960. The company would continue to sell a small number of go-karts and minibikes for the next fifteen years until they finally went out of business. By then, Treen was no longer involved; he had sold his interest in Simplex in 1972.

Simplex Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide

Simplex motorcycles are prized for their value as curiosities, having been out of production for over sixty years. There is nothing particularly impressive about their performance, nor are they iconic enough to attract a high price tag. That said, there are a few basic factors you should be aware of.

To begin, the original Servi-Cycle had to be push-started. In fact, there would be no kick-starter until 1953, though this wasn’t as big of an inconvenience as it may sound. The bike weighs 135 pounds, so it is by no means impossible to push around. Still, it can be quite an annoyance when you are on an upward slope or in a crowded area like a full parking lot. Worse, the earliest models were clutchless, with a direct-belt drive. Whenever you came to a stop, you had to shut the engine off. A pedal-operated clutch was added in 1941, eliminating this issue. 

The two-stroke engine had a fuel economy of 100 MPG, which was one of its main selling points. Perhaps the most impressive feature was the in-house magneto, which provided 6 volts of power despite running on such a small engine. In 1950, Simplex upgraded the transmission to an automatic, a helpful innovation for very inexperienced riders.

Simplex Spitfire And Compact Sportsman

Almost all of Simplex’s income came from sales of the Servi-Cycle. However, starting in the 1950s, they produced small minibikes. These are small, novelty vehicles, although they have surprisingly good acceleration. There were two primary models. First, there was the Simplex Spitfire, which came with a 5HP Tecumseh engine. The Simplex Compact Sportsman was built for even faster acceleration and sported a 175cc engine.

An Italian Simplex?

The bikes we are looking at today were all manufactured in Louisiana between 1935 and 1975. That said, there was actually a second Simplex company operating during the same time. Founded in Turin in 1922, the Italian Simplex originally built add-on engines to convert bicycles into small motorbikes. In 1926, they produced their first motorcycle, a lightweight 125cc two-stroke.

The Italian Simplex evolved again in 1927 when they released a larger, 150cc four-stroke motorcycle. In 1930, they released a 175cc four-stroke with a three-speed transmission. This first model, the Ala d’Oro, would be rebuilt on the same frame in 1931, but with a bigger, 500cc engine. In 1932, the gearbox was upgraded to a four-speed, and Simplex added sports and luxury models in 1936. Additional modified 250cc and 500cc models followed in 1937, along with a new 500cc in 1938. Production was suspended the following year due to World War II. After the war, no new Simplex bikes were produced, but a handful were assembled from parts left over from before the war.

Italian Simplex motorcycles are exceedingly rare and difficult to find. They had a higher price tag than most Italian brands at the time, and the average worker couldn’t afford one. As a result, only around 300 units were produced in any given year. Considering that the vast majority have since been scrapped or destroyed, you won’t find these bikes on eBay. You would have to watch auction houses. Realistically, you would want to deal with a broker in Italy. 

It goes without saying that a simple Google search isn’t going to get you what you want.

The Best Places To Buy A Simplex Motorcycle

As you probably guessed, any Simplex motorcycle you are going to find these days will be well-used. That is just fine, though. There are plenty of units available in good working order, provided you are willing to shop out of state. Keep in mind that if you cannot personally inspect the bike, you should have a mechanic inspect it before buying it. Just because the bike looks good in a picture doesn’t mean there aren’t serious flaws under the surface.

Simplex Servi-Cycle

The price of the Simplex Servi-Cycle mostly depends on the condition and the transmission type. Earlier, manual transmission models were inexpensive. You can find them as cheap as $2,800, although the mint condition models will cost upwards of $4,000. Automatic transmission models cost a bit more and regularly sell for more than $10,000.

Simplex Minibikes

Simplex minibikes are harder to find than the Servi-Cycle. The Spitfire is exceedingly rare, and you will only find one by regularly monitoring auctions. That said, there is a surprisingly healthy parts market if you need to repair one. The Compact Sportsman is a bit easier to find, but you will still need to look for one-off listings like this one. $500 is a reasonable price. However, you should never pay more than $600, and only then for a Sportsman in pristine condition.