By Tom White

In the late 1960s, the market for small-bore two-stroke trail bikes was exploding. When Harley-Davidson realized that Hodaka was selling 10,000 bikes a year, they decided to jump into the 100cc trailbike market. Since Harley owned the Italian Aermacchi factory, they had them build an Italian-sourced Harley dirt bike. It was called the Harley Baja 100 and was hopelessly tall, short wheel-based, underpowered and ill-handling.

But Harley didn’t give up on the Baja 100. They had their race team hire some of the best desert racers in SoCal. The riders included Bruce Ogilvie, Terry Clark, Earl Roeseler, Larry Roeseler and Mitch Mayes. As you would expect, Baja 100s were soon dominating the trailbike class and selling like hot cakes.


Unfortunately, what the customers were buying wasn’t what the Harley team was racing. The stock Baja 100 had rigid footpegs, no horsepower, a huge overlay sprocket on the rear wheel (that often came loose), a tank shaped like a lunchbox and a very hard seat. Oh, did we mention stupid handlebars and street-bike grips? The Bajas did, however, have Baby Ceriani forks, abundant ground clearance and racy Italian looks. Harley-Davidson’s entry into the offroad market coincided with the arrival of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki on the scene. It didn’t take long for Baja customers to realize that they had been duped. Harley-Davidson tried to enter the dirt bike market twice after that once in 1976 with the rear-forked 250 and again in 1978 with the ill-fated MX250.

Suggested retail in 1971 was $670. Harley Bajas are growing in popularity as collector bikes, and a well-restored example can sell for as much as $7500. Harley sold the Baja 100 in 1970 and 1971. In 1972 through 1974, they produced the SR100, which was basically a Baja 100 with lights. The offroad version was discontinued. If you have a Baja 100 or want to restore one, make sure that the Baby Ceriani forks are there, along with the large aluminum “friction knob ” steering damper. Look for the overlay rear sprocket, stamped pipe, Dellorto carb, and clutch and brake lever assemblies with big grips that look like they came off the big Harleys.

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