Frenchmen, Historic Bike Make Epic American Road Trip

Jul 30, 2018

To honor the end of World War I - 100 years ago on Nov. 11 - two Frenchmen are riding a vintage Harley-Davidson across the U.S. The motorcycle recently made a stop at Milwaukee's Harley-Davidson Museum.

“This bike arrived in France in 1918 with an American soldier to liberate France and Europe,” says Christophe de Goulaine, owner of the vintage motorcycle. What, exactly, happened to the bike after it left the American solider is unknown.

The first American soldier rides into Germany on a Harley-Davidson bike after the Armistice was signed. About 20,000 of these bikes were used during the Great War.
Credit Courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum

This is the first time the bike, named Bonnie after a village where hundreds of American soldiers died, has been home in a century.

“It was a fantastic day for me, the day I found her, but she was in very poor condition. It needed 9 months work to make it safe to ride," de Goulaine says.  The ride, he says, is not as comfortable as what riders of modern motorcycles would expect, but - traveling at around 40 mph - not exactly uncomfortable, either.

The seat is the original from 1918.
Credit Lauren Sigfusson

De Goulaine owns two "newer" Harleys - from 1927 and 1929 – but says he’s been eyeing the brand-new ones since being in America. "Yes, I want to buy a brand-new Harley-Davidson," he adds.  

With one month down, de Goulaine and Pierre Lauvergeat have about two months left on the road. After their stop in Milwaukee, they're continuing their way to California.

"We are very, very proud as French Harley-Davidson fanatics to be riding this Harley-Davidson, it’s just a dream. It’s a lifetime road trip," de Goulaine says.