French Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

KD Motor Bicycles

Keller-Dorian 1¾ hp

Image by Phil Aynsley [1]

KD Spring Fork, 1907

The spring fork fitted to the K.D. Lightweight.

KD Lightweight, 1907

The K.D. Lightweight Motor Bicycle. The motor attachment for a pedal bicycle weights about 30lbs.

Manufactured by Keller-Dorian of Lyon from 1905, the motorcycle had AIV (snuff valve) engines of 170cc and 216cc and were also available in an open frame version.

Albert Keller-Dorian (1846, Mulhouse - 1924, Paris), a man described as having "an extraordinarily fertile brain", trained as a printmaker in Manchester, England, and in 1880 assumed control of his father's business in Mulhouse, building printing machines. He established branches in Lyon, Germany and Italy. In 1908 he developed a process for colour photography, and applied the method to film making. He made his first colour film, Colomba, in 1923. His name is now in the lexicon of cinematography.

The Keller-Dorian company was bought by an Anglo-American group in 1930, and his patents were used by Technicolor, Kodak and Paramount.

N.B. Nick Smith writes that Keller-Dorian took out the following patents.

    Swiss patent for the engine dated 25 October 1906.
    French carburettor patent dated 21 August 1906.


THE K.D. lightweight motor bicycle, which was referred to in our Paris Show report of December 19th last, was recently placed on the British market by Messrs. L. Ripault and Co., 64a, Poland Street, W.

The engine, tank, jockey pulley, etc., are so designed that they form a complete set, which can, if desired, be attached to an ordinary roadster bicycle, it being held on to the frame by three clips. The engine possesses several interesting features. One of these lies in the valves, there being only one valve seat in the centre of the cylinder head, the inlet valve working automatically, the surrounded by the mechanically operated exhaust valve. The silencer consists of a perforated casing, which surrounds the valve seating. An extra exhaust port is also provided at the bottom of the cylinder. The exhaust valve lifter is brought into action by retarding the spark lever to its fullest limit.

An excellent spring fork, shown in the separate illustration, is now supplied with the K.D. motor bicycle, which is of very neat design, the spring being hidden from view, and protected from dust in the upper portion of the device. This fork is suitable for any standard roadster bicycle. The attachment, including engine, tank, jockey pulley, etc., weighs about 30 lbs. Two brakes are provided, one being a rear brake, which on one side bears against the belt rim ; the other shoe presses against the wheel rim on the other side. The other brake acts on the flywheel of the engine. The carburetter, which possesses no float chamber, is controlled by means of a petrol valve - that is to say, the flow of petrol, not the quantity of air, is regulated. Two sizes of engines are fitted - the 1¼ h.p. being 60 x 60 mm and the 1¾ h.p. type 65 x 65 mm.

The Motor Cycle July 17th, 1907. Page 562

L. Ripault
(Stand 179).

The K.D. motor bicycle. This is a lightweight motor cycle attachment for attaching to ordinary bicycles. We illustrated the engine in our report of the Paris Show. The principal novelty in connection with the engine is the fitting of the valves one within the other, the inlet being concentric with the exhaust. Battery ignition is employed, and the total weight of machine is about 75 lbs.

1907 Stanley Show
The Motor Cycle, November 1907

Napoléon is a 1927 silent French film recognised as a masterwork of fluid camera motion, produced in a time when most camera shots were static. Many innovative techniques were used to make the film, including fast cutting, extensive close-ups, a wide variety of hand-held camera shots, location shooting, point of view shots, multiple-camera setups, multiple exposure, superimposition, underwater camera, kaleidoscopic images, film tinting, split screen and mosaic shots, multi-screen projection, and other visual effects. A revival of Napoléon in the mid-1950s influenced the filmmakers of the French New Wave. Napoléon used the Keller-Dorian cinematography for its colour sequences.

The film was distributed by Paramount in France and by MGM in the United States.

Sources: Graces Guide, Wikipedia NL, The Motor Cycle,, Wikipedia.

Notes 1. Phil Aynsley says that the FIM plate on the Collezione Moto Poggi machine dates it as 1899.

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