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Jay Leno explains why the Henderson KJ was the superbike of the 30s

Jay admires one of his favourite classic bikes
Jay admires one of his favourite classic bikes
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Jay Leno of the famous 'Tonight' chat show is also well known for his love of classic collectibles, his favourite category being 'original and unrestored' of which the Henderson KJ is a prime example.

Even though Henderson was a popular manufacturer who made bikes for police forces across the United States, the company went out of business in the thirties.

This was during the 'golden age' of motorcycle manufacturing and, despite a full order book in 1931 and showcasing well at the New York Auto show, the owner correctly predicted the Great Depression and shut down production in order to concentrate on the Schwinn bike.

This makes any Henderson a sought-after piece of kit today, this model even more so owing to the fact that it had five main bearings in a time when most cars didn't have half that many.

Henderson's were the largest and fastest bikes of their time, capable of achieving speed of up to 110mph, which in 1931 was astoundingly fast, leading Leno to describe it as "the superbike of the thirties".

Have you been speeding, sir?

The bike had an engine of about 35-40bhp which was quite substantial in the thirties and being quite light meant greater speeds and with 80 cubic inches of torque, you can even slow down to 8-10mph in third gear.

Leno describes the speedometer as being particularly unusual as it had two spindles, a red and white one.

When a police officer gave chase, the red spindle would remain at the highest speed the bike had achieved allowing the police officer to know if a car had been breaking the speed limit and present it as evidence.

Leno laments that the halt in production is a great loss to motorcycling due to their robust nature and smooth ride that was given even in the thirties.

If they could produce a 'superbike' this good over 80 years ago, MotorcycleTimes can't help but wonder what they could have achieved given the motorcycling world of today?

To listen to Jay Leno waxing lyrical about one of his favourite bikes, watch the video below:

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