The MacArthur/Corbin Bike

IMG_0949Well now.  This history book had taken a little interesting turn.  Here’s the deal.

In 1974, Mike Corbin traded one of his electric motorcycles with noted inventor and hot-air-balloonist Charles MacArthur for his hot-air balloon, at the time plied around the Connecticut countryside.  You can read more about this bike here, on my 2010 post: The Corbin Electric Motorcycle.  Charles MacArthur took his new bike and rode it to the top of Mount Washington (New England’s tallest peak, with an Auto Road that is steeper, more technical, still has an unpaved section and ascends the same vertical gain as Pike’s Peak), making his the first electric vehicle ascent, and the first electric motorcycle ascent.  Read more about that here: (Prof) Charles MacArthur and Electric Vehicles.


I met Charlie when we resurrected the Mount Washington Alternative Energy Regatta, (above, in yellow) after I did the climb myself, thus becoming only the third person in history to make the climb on an electric motorcycle, behind Charlie and Mike Corbin.  Not bad company to be in.

Charlie was getting on in years, and in the last few was struggling with his health.  He passed away last summer.

Howie, the Director of the Auto Road was able to purchase that actual bike, the one that climbed the hill, at the estate auction, and bring it back to the Auto Road’s Douglas A Philbrook Red Barn Museum.  Charlie had parked it in one of his many sheds and barns, and it had gone unused for decades.

So Howie and I are talking the other day…  almost joking I suggested we pull the bike off the floor of the museum and put some batteries in it, and run it up the mountain this summer.  And Howie says, let’s do it.

Then, there’s another side of the story.  It was Charlie’s wish that his ashes be cast to the four winds from the summit of the mountain.  Howie asked me if I’d be willing to ride them up with the bike.  So that’s what we’re going to do.

Yesterday, Howie and his wife Sue showed up at the garage with a special package in tow – the MacArthur/Corbin bike, and delivered it for it’s re-fit with new, lithium batteries (donated by Mike Corbin) and other minor upgrades.


The bike had the original 1978 Connecticut plate on it, along with a new sticker Charlie had put on it – “This Bike Climbed Mt Washington”, visible above.


One side panel has gone missing, but the rest of it, batteries excluded, is remarkably intact.  So intact that, after pulling the guard off so I could inspect the brushes, I fed it a little 12V lovin, and this is what happened:


A post shared by @ poppatd on


So the plan will be to keep the bike in 100% original condition, but fit it with CALB cells, a throttle, and speed controller (the original had an on/off throttle deal…  tapping the batteries at 100%).  Alltrax has graciously donated a spankin’ brand-new controller, due to be released to the public in July, and I’m waiting for word on the throttle – Domino would be my first choice, naturally.

After the run, I’ll strip it back down to it’s original trim, and we’ll fit it up with some battery shells for the museum.  In the mean time, it’ll be a pretty amazing look back at the technology Mike used back in 1974 and a chance to get some great photos…  along with a fitting tribute to a remarkable innovator.

Stay tuned!


4 responses to “The MacArthur/Corbin Bike

  1. When you think that most likely most of your readers weren’t born when this bike successfully climbed the mountain. Who can deny the potential on an electric drivetrain still operative after more than 30 years?


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