Most classic bike fans would have "clocked" Steve Mc Queen using a Triumph in the bike stunt scenes in the 1963 movie "The Great Escape". The left footed braking was something of a "give away".
I find it a tad ironic that when you look at the history of "Triumph" it was founded by a German.
Seigfred Bettman was born in Nuremburg in 1863 to a prosperous family. His ability as a linguist landed him a job in Coventry as a transloator. This lasted only six months before the lure of the capitol brought him to the "The White Sewing Machine Company".
Seigfred tried his luck importing and selling sewing machines as a side line to his day job. By the 1880s Britain was firmly caught up in the new craze for cycling. He wasted no time in grabbing this new opportunity.
Sales weren't brisk, so a marketing "rethink" was initiated. It was felt that the Bettmann name was too Germanic for the British market. Siegfried changed the name to "Triumph" This was because it meant the same in both languages. His linguistic skills had spawned a legend.
A fellow German called Schulte became a junior partner in 1886. Schulte was a trained engineer and persuaded Bettmann to start manufacturing their own machines. Up till then they had rebadged other bike firm products.
With monies borrowed from their respected families they built a factory in Coventry. In 1889 the first
"Triumph" bicycles rolled off the production line.
Both partners were keenly aware of the fragile nature of European politics. This led them to found "TWN". This was a German subsidiary based in Nuremburg. This German offshoot produced bikes until 1956.
In 1902 Triumph marketed their first motorcycle. They strengthened a bicycle frame and mounted a Belgian Minerva engine. They tried several other firms engines including a JAP . It wasn't until 1904 that they finally took the plunge and produced an entire motorcycle.
Early petrol engines lacked the reliability required to temp people away from horse power. Schulte badgered Bettmann to commit to regular endurance trials to showcase their new machines. Basil Davis of
"The Motor Cycle" magazine was engaged to cover these events. A distance of 1200 miles in 6 grabbed the publics attention ,and many more £45 Triumphs found grateful homes.
Successes at The Isle of Mann TT races led to demand way out stripping supply. A new factory was built in 1908 to accommodate the publics new found interest is two wheeled machines.
With his rise in fortunes Seifred Bettmann became a pillar of the community in Coventry. He was one of the founding members of the Local Camber of Commerce. The pinnacle came in 1913 when he became the first foreign mayor of Coventry in 1913. Unfortunately he was asked to resign at the start of the First World War latter due to his German background.
His loyalty to his adopted country couldn't be doubted as he threw himself in to the war effort.
He ignored the Jewish sabbath and crated a large Army order for their Model H. 30,000 Triumph machines were bought by the government meaning that they became the countries largest supplier.
After The Great War Schulte tried to encourage Bettmann to focus solely on car production. This Bettmann strongly disagreed with. In 1919 Moritz Schulte was given a £15000 "golden handshake" and asked to leave.
Despite this the firm produced many popular cars in the 1920s but Bettmans heart was always in "two wheels".
The Great Depression forced Triumph to sell its bicycle wing to Raleigh in 1931. The firm was still in a dire financial position. This led to Seigfred Bettman being forced off the board in 1933. He retired a year latter.
The motorcycle part of the firm was bought by Ariel owner Jack Spanger in 1936. He and his inspired designer Edward Turner would revamp the brand with chrome badges and catchy model names like "Tiger". This is more the image that people in the second half of the twentieth associate with Triumph. Triumph cars "limped" on until eventually going bust in 1939. The production plant was completely destroyed in an air raid in 1940. What was left was bought by The Standard Motor Company in 1945.
Triumph motorcycles was sold to the ever expanding BSA in 1951. Duplication of similar machines and perpetual mismanagement led to the death of both companies.
The bike wing reappeared in 1983 as "Triumph Motorcycles Limited". They still provide the "Glamour and Glitz" of the Jack Spanger era to this day.
Standard Triumph cars were bought by Leyland Motors in the early 1960s. Eventually Triumph was absorbed in to British Leyland.
After the demise of BL the firm was renamed "The Rover Group". This was in turn bought by BMW. In 1994 they sold these holdings but insisted on retaining the Triumph name. I wonder what their founder Seigfred Bettmann would have thought about this continuation "The Teutonic Triumph"?
Soichiro Honda rode "rough shot "over convectional Japanese business practises to build a global empire.
He was born near Hamamatsu Japan in 1906. He helped his father repair bicycles in his blacksmith workshop as a child.
His mother designed a loom to produce intricate designs, so it would seem that innovation was in the blood.
Perhaps these traits led him to forge his own family seal so he could prevent his family seeing his school reports. He made a replica stamp from a bicycle pedal. This deception was only discovered after he started producing stamps for his classmates.
His father made him kneel in the corner of his workshop as punishment. This was not for being dishonest but for not realising that he needed to make a mirror image to make the stamps look authentic.
When the young Soichiro saw his first motor car driving through his village , he knew his destiny.
He left school at 15 and went to work in auto repair shop in Tokyo. His spare time was taken up building his own racing car.
Without any technical training Honda tried and failed to produce piston rings for Toyota.
These failed attempts helped shape his philosophy. He often said that "Success is 99 percent failure".
He revaluated his view on education and studied furiously to obtain the necessary technical "edge" for his rings. Before he had said "If theory promoted creativity, then all teachers would be inventors".
Soichiro Honda was almost killed during a motor rally in the suburbs of Tokyo in 1936. After convalescing for three months both Honda and his brother quit racing.
Production went in to "overdrive" with the advent of WW2. Honda provided rings for Toyota and many aircraft makers.
Business was brisk until an American air aid destroyed most of the Honda factory in 1945. This and a devastating earthquake not long after persuaded Soichirio to sell the remnants of his shattered firm to Toyota.
With all hope seemly lost for Japan Soichiro bought a whiskey making still and took an a year off to evaluate his life with a few select friends.
The spirit of innovation returned in 1946 when Honda fitted a small generator engine to a bicycle to create the first Honda motorcycle. The post war "cash strapped" Japanese loved these cheap machines and 1500 were swiftly sold.
The first completely Honda made bike was the 1949 "Honda Dream". Soichiro gave up drinking
sake and slept in his workshop until he perfected his two stroke design.
The process of "trial and error" was the basis of Hondas successful philosophy. Along with Henry Ford he wasn't too concerned what you knew, but what you could do! He felt that too much formal education inhibited original thought.
Soichiro Hondas mind was a "world wind of ideas , often with little thought of the financial implications. Takeo Fujisawa was hired in the late 1940s to oversea money matters. This allowed Honda to focus on the engineering side of the business.
On a tour of Europe in the 1950s Fujisawa persuaded Honda to develop a cheap user friendly
scooter that they could sell worldwide. The result was the legendary "Honda Super Cub". Strangely one of the design require the rider to be able to ride one handed to aid deliveries.
Becoming the worlds largest motorcycle manufacturer wasn't enough for the ever energetic Soichiro. His lifelong dream was to produce motorcars.
In typical fashion he defied advise from others and threw himself into becoming a major player in the risky venture of car production. Nothing would stop him .When an important foreign client lost his dentures in his toilet, he climbed in to the cess pit and retrieved them himself. This was all part of the company philosophy of equality.
Honda was shunned by the traditional Japanese business community. He refused to limit production during the oil crisis of the early 1970s.He grabbed this opportunity to claim a major slice of the market.
He promoted people on the basis of ability and not seniority. His appreciation of failure in the design process allowed his staff to be innovative.
Both Honda and Fujisawa keenly cultivated young talent to take over the company when the retired. Both agreed not to force their children in to managing the firm. Their foresight payed dividends as the company they founded from a wooden shed in 1949 still leads the world.
Burt Monro was the quintessential mechanical maverick that this site adores.
At 20 years old he bought an Indian Scout that he spent the rest of his life modifying. He broke many speed records and still holds the record for the fastest Indian motorcycle ever. His intrepid efforts were immortalized in the movie "The Fastest Indian" starring Anthony Hopkins .
Burts thirst for speed started as boy riding the fastest horses available on the family farm in New Zealand.
His family were horrified when he spent every penny he had on a brand new Indian Scout motorbike .
He spent most of his spare time altering the design to extract every once of power from his machine .
He cast his own pistons in sand and even shaped aircraft parts to modify his scout. Con rods were carved from propellers.
Burt didn't sleep much (if at all) when he was building his bike up for a record attempt.
After a spell as a speedway rider he settled down to work as a motorcycle salesman.
Burts daughter tells tales of riding in a homemade trailer pulled by the Indian in a 1971 documentary "Offerings to the Gods of Speed"
After Burt broke most of New Zealand's bike speed records he quickly realised that he needed longer tracks. He dreamed of making the pilgrimage to Utah,but with post war austerity hitting pockets hard it took him many years to get over.
With his savings and additional funds from motorcycling friends in New Zealand, Munro finally made the trip to America in 1962 aboard a rusting cargo ship. In order to pay for his ocean crossing, Munro worked as the ship’s cook. Once in the U.S., Munro bought a dilapidated Nash station wagon for $90 in Los Angeles to haul the Munro Special to Bonneville.
Munro arrived at Bonneville ready to make his runs only to be told he was not pre-entered so he wouldn’t be allowed to compete. At home in New Zealand, riders simply showed up, signed up and raced. Munro's American friends, among them Roland Free and Marty Dickerson both of them long-time, well-respected members of the Land Speed Record fraternity, talked officials into letting Munro make his runs. Tech officials looked the other way, ignoring many of Munro's unorthodox means of putting his ancient Indian together.
In his inaugural run at the Salt Flats, Munro set a world record of 288 km/h (178.97 mph) with his engine configured with 850cc of displacement. Munro continued to compete at Bonneville through 1967, when he 68 years old. He survived a crash at top speed in 1967.
In a New Zealand motorcycle magazine, Burt was quoted as saying, "At the Salt in 1967 we were going like a bomb. Then she got the wobbles just over half way through the run. To slow her down I sat up. The wind tore my goggles off and the blast forced my eyeballs back into my head - couldn't see a thing. We were so far off the black line that we missed a steel marker stake by inches. I put her down - a few scratches all round but nothing much else."
I'm fascinated to see Vauxhall Cars referring to its heritage as "British firm since 1905". I was always under the impression that it was bought by General Motors "many moons" ago. The Americanisation of British industry was widespread in the early part of the twentyish century. The British Government even maintained a strict quota to limit the number American film that could be shown.This was to help preserve the native culture by protect its film industry.
I've always wondered if things ever went the other way and the Empire got its chance to strike back. Well back in the early 1950s the tables were turned.
The Indian Motorcycle Company of Springfield Massachusetts was always a strong brand. Their victory in the first Isle of Man TT in 1914 put the mark on the map for decades to come.
After The Second World War sales slumped as men returning home bought cars to ferry their postponed families around. Indian at one stage resorted to importing 125cc two stroke machines from CZ to save on the cost of development. Things came to head in 1953 when production halted and the firm was sold to Brockhouse Limited.
Brockhouse Limited was a successful engineering firm from West Bromwich in England. If it was metal , Brockhouse could make it and they branched out in to all manner of manufacturing. When they saw Indian for sale they knew that they could turn a profit from such a well know make.
Shrewdly Brockhouse didn't saddles themselves with the financial burden of producing their own motorcycle designs from scratch. They rebadged Royal Enfield bikes as Indian. Unfortunately the American public wasn't fooled by these "Limey Interlopers" leading to sales being poor. One can only imagine the poor salesman trying to convince customers that it was a genuine Indian when it sported left footed braking. They had more success selling AJS and Matchless machines through the extensive Indian dealership network .
Brockhouse reduced wheel sizes from 19 to 16 inches and lengthening the wheel base to give a the bikes a American feel. Many in the US felt that the Royal Enfield Indians were a bit fast and lacked the smooth running cruising grace seminomas with American machines.
Many other cosmetic alterations were tried but the rights to Indian Motorcycles were eventually sold to another English firm AEC in 1960.
Only 7000 "Royal Indians" were ever sold, to be fair to Brockhouse they kept the Indian brand alive when cheap cars and even cheaper gasoline became king.
Stay safe,ride safe and be lucky
Those of a certain vintage would have ,at some time owed a product made by this Midlands firm.
Weather it was air rifles to bicycles to motorcycles to machine guns BSA made it all. I certainly had a few bikes and air guns from them ,alas the British firearms regulation forbade machine gun ownership.
BSA or Birmingham Small Arms was originally a trade organisation founded by gunsmiths in Birmingham. They were encouraged by the War Office to use new technology recently acquired from the USA to produce guns more efficiently. The Government of the time was concerned of the perils of a potential monopoly by the Royal Small Arms factory in Enfield.
Owing to a more peaceful geo political climate in 1880 BSA found itself in financial peril. Guns didn't sell particularly well in peacetime and their stock value plummeted.
Quite by chance a keen cyclist on a tour of the works named George Illston suggested that they used their shell making machines to turn out bicycle wheels. This brainwave saved the firm and George became BSAs first traveling salesman.
The machining of small components process was very similar to that of firearms. This meant that they avoided the problems normally associated with retooling.
In 1902 local rivals Triumph released a Minerva powered motorcycle. BSA followed suit in 1904.
They were basically bicycles with an engine bolted to the frame. This was the birth of the age of the "The Flat Tanker"
By 1910 after a great deal of experimentation and a few false starts BSA produced the Three and a half horse power motorcycle. This 500cc machine took the Olympia Show by storm. Many bikes of this era had tricky or confusing controls. Some were downright dangerous . Fortunately for BSA the 3.5 HP was easy to control, and the public fell in love with this little "Flat Tanker".
They sold every bike they had brought with them to the show, even the display model !
After a brief unsuccessful partnership with Daimler ,BSA decided not to manufacture cars. This was arguably a blessing as so many who have ventured in to this have fallen by the "way side".
With the outbreak of The First World War in 1914 BSA through itself in to providing armaments for British Empire Forces. Because they had shared tech from their competitors from Enfield most components were interchangeable.
Many returning soldiers had acquired a taste for motorcycling during the war. BSA knew this and strived to produce a reliable machine to take them in to the 1920s. Cars were a luxury that were well beyond the resources of the ordinary man. It was now that the firm built its reputation for affordability with the introduction of the "Model E".
The Model E was a V Twin design with a capacity of 770cc.It sported a three speed gearbox and a chain drive which at the time would normally only be found on more luxurious makes. A top speed of 55mph was produced by its 6 horse power engine. Not the most sporty model around but most buyers valued its reliability and reasonable price.
. As the 1920s drew on it became apparent that Britain had lost its economic world dominance. The United States had "cashed in" on Britain's markets. This led to a slump in living standards domestically. To combat this and increased competition from Villiers they introduced one of their only two strokes, the Model A28. Deflector pistons used on early two strokes inhibited performance. This meant that the 174cc A28 only produced roughly half the horse power of a D1 Bantam.
A selling price of only £28 persuaded many to overlook its lack of available power to sell well in its short production run.
A more long lived model was the BSA C10. This available as a 250cc with a side valve engine designed by the legendary Val Page. Later machines benefited from overhead vales and a foot gear change. A 55mph top speed was developed from its 12 horse power motor,this respectable for a bike as this era.
The War Department requisitioned all available C10s at the outbreak of The Second World War. Its eleven year production run ran from 1938 till 1958
For those that wanted a little more refinement the BSA "Sloper" series fitted the bill. First produced in 1927 this 500cc machine boasted smooth running along with a solid reputation for reliability.
To allow for a saddle tank the barrel was sloped forward .This allowed for a far lower seat height which in turn lowered the centre of gravity, to make handling a dream.
Slopers benefited from large flywheels and a long stroke engines that made them one of quietest bikes around.
Some engineers have suggested that a "V" engine configuration was preferable to pistons moving vertically. BMW took this theory to its natural conclusion with their Flat Twins that seem to run forever. Einstein suggests that the force of gravity is really curved, perhaps this is the origin of the theory. Its beyond my command of physics, so answers on a postcard please,ha ha.
Various refinements and optional extras were offered during in eight year production run. With a smooth willing engine capable of 75mph the BSA Sloper makes a very usable classic even in these days of monstrous horsepower.
The BSA M20 story has a tinge of the Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling" about it. The British Army initially rejected the machine due to the high maintenance required.
Eventually the "milestone" 10,000 miles endurance for the piston and barrel were realised allowing the M20 to begin its legendary journey in to World War 2. Many pre war bikes were still fitted with hand gear change. It must have been a great relief to the riders when foot change was added in 1940. Taking your hands off the handle bars to change gear on heavily pitted roads on such a heavy machine would have been nerve racking experience.
The M20 wasn't that popular with dispatch riders ,they preferred the lighter more agile Norton H16. What really sold the bike to The War Office was the easy of maintenance of its 500cc side valve engine. This coupled with an abundant supply of cheap spares led to over 120,000 BSA M20 seeing service in the war. This was the motorcycling equivalent of the legendary Sherman Tank.
After the war a deluge of used machines hit the market. These decommissioned military mounts which were practically throwaway machines in their day. And many owners did just that (according to popular folklore in some instances actually buried them in their gardens}. This was post war sacrilege at its worst !
A £65 purchase price made the M20 a favourite with fleet buyers. For many years the AA used the side car version for its patrols. As time passed BSAs more modern twin cylindered bikes became more popular ,so the M20 was discontinued in 1956.
This "dependable plodder" might not have set the world alight like the more racy models like the "Gold Star".
That said its ease of maintenance makes it an ideal classic ride for today. If you fancy a genuine WW2 ride you will only have to part company with approximately a quarte of what would buy an equivalent BMW or Zundapp.
Despite not having the finest racing pedigree after its disarterrous1921 TT campaign. BSA gained notoriety for its Gold Star range.
This happened almost by accident . Record breaking Wal Handley was coaxed out of retirement to ride a BSA Empire Star in a race at the famous Brooklands race track. Not only did he win the race but clocked a speed a tad over 107 mph. His BSA Empire star was specially modified to run on alcohol. Any speed over 100 mph at Brooklands gained the rider a converted Gold Star Badge.
This success encouraged the firm to develop one of the fastest production bikes of the 1950s.The Gold Stars models production ran from 1938 right up to 1963. Each was hand build and came with individual testing documentation from its factory regarding its performance. This was similar to the service offered to Brough Superior customers.
Post war improvements included making the engine lighter and an optional extra sports RRT2 gearbox. This had such a high ratio that 60mph could be achieved in first, a huge advantage in the "Café Duels" infamous in the 1950s
When Lucas phased out its magneto ignition BSA decided the "call time" on this successful model.
Two things are for certain with the Gold Star ,you need plenty of money to buy one, and an equal amount of courage to ride these beautiful beasts !
The BSA Golden Flash was a reaction to the success of the Triumph Thunderbird that was immortalised in the Marlon Brando movie "The Wild One". Commonly referred to as the "Gold Flash" this 650 twin went on to be the best all round parallel twin machine of the 1950s.
One of the more ironic elements was the career of its designer Bert Hopwood. He left Triumph for Norton only to be "poached "by BSA a year later. Then BSA to bought Triumph in 1951. According to legend he was known as "Boomerang Bert" in the canteen for a while.
Even thou they were in the same group, both firms spent valuable resources developing rival designs without sharing information. Perhaps these were the "early seeds" of demise of the whole group.
Even thou it was capable of 100mph the Golden Flash was never designed as a sports bike but rather as a cruiser. A long stoke engine returned miles per gallon figures that its modern counterparts would find more than respectable. Being based on the tried and tested A7 ,spares and reliability were there in equal amounts.
The gold colour scheme was for export only and most found their way to the Untied States where they sold well. British riders had to content themselves with a black paint and a long delivery wait times. Many classic bike fans prefer the black "Goldies". They feel that it ties in with the "bad boy" image that biking had in the era.
To keep the ever "speed thirsty" American market happy BSA "beefed up" the A10 in to the Road Rocket and The Super Rocket. When Lucas decided to abandon manufacturing magneto ignition in favour of alternators, BSA knew that they would be forced in to redesigning their range. They decide to phase out the The Golden Flash and the A7 in 1963.
The British public first got a glimpse of the BSA Bantam at the 1948 motor show. It was originally for export only but the massive interest expressed in this little two stroke forced the firm to reconsider.
War weary Britons could see the sense in owning such an economical lightweight bike. They needed cheap transport ,and with a MPG 100 to the gallon most could afford to run these "Little Chickens".
Many of the older generation believe what BSA said at the time, that The Bantam was a "unique British design".
It wasn't until BSA collapsed in the early 1970s that the truth was revealed. The design is a direct copy of the DKW RT125 from Germany.
The management at DKW had collaborated with the Nazi authorities, so to make amends they offered the design free to the world. This and the fact that it was so ingenious led to this machine becoming the most copied bike design in history.
In 1948 the Bantam D1 sold for £80. This super low price made it a favourite with fleet buyers. The Post office bought thousands of them. Those of a certain vintage will remember telegrams being delivered on these "chirpy fellas". During the 1970s many were sold for next to nothing .Probably a good thing was they led hard lives on the streets of Britain.
The official top speed for the 125cc D1 was listed as 49mph. Most "Bantamites" would confess that would be
down hill flat on the tank with a tail wind.
In 1954 a 150cc version was released. The BSA "Major" sported 3 colour option with extra performance of a respectable 50mph.
With traffic flows becoming faster a 175 version was introduced in the late 1950s. The Japanese invasion had become by now and the Bantam looked rather antiquated compared to the Honda Cub 90.
As time passed bikers didn't want to have to "tickle carbs" and expected their machines not to leak as so many British machines would. Despite the writing definitely being on the wall and there being a desperate need for new designs, BSA carried on producing the D1 until 1966.
Many popular variants were produced including the much sort after "Bushman". The world really wanted the higher power output provided of four stroke machines. Production came to and end in the early 1970s when BSA collapsed.
A parallel can be drawn with BMCs "Morris Minor". Both are design classics but in their own way they both kind of "out stayed their welcome".
After all is said and done, these small two strokes are simple to maintain and heaps of fun to ride.
The history of the BSA Rocket 3 is an excellent example of how the British motorcycle industry put itself out of business.
It was designed at the Triumph works at Meriden by Doug Hele, Bert Hopwood and Jack Wicks, as BSA owned Triumph by this time.
Hopwood had the idea in late 1961, and Hele had drawings by October 1962, but the idea was not officially shown to Triumph management until 1964, when rumours of a 4-cylinder street bike from Honda began to surface.
The BSA Rocket 3 was initially a great design that was years ahead of its time. Unfortunately in typical fashion the management out soured the cosmetic design to Ogle , a firm that was more accustomed to producing toasters.
This delayed the project by over a year.
Rumours were rife around Armory Road that Honda were building a new 750cc.This new bike could have been released two years before the all conquering Honda CB750, but it was not to be.
The Rocket 3 sports a novel three piston arrangement and is very similar to the Triumph Trident which it was designed alongside.
Its 740cc engine could produces the best part of 120mph ,so it was fast for 1969. It took a fair amount of criticism for its seemingly old fashioned push rod engine from American dealers.
Handling and performance were good but the age old British bike problems with oil leaks plagued this early "Superbike". It wouldn't be a "Proper Brit" otherwise ? The original square tank designed by Ogle were replaced by a more tradition round set up that was more appealing to the US market.
Unfortunately, Honda introduced the revolutionary CB750 shortly after the launch of the Rocket 3 and Trident. Although its handling wasn’t the best, it was oil tight and featured an electric starter, an overhead camshaft and a front disc brake. Honda sold an estimated 30,000 CB750s in 1969, against some 7,000 Rocket 3s and Tridents.
The Rocket 3 is a good machine and should have helped BSA stay in business but their delay proved fatal !!
Whilst having a casual beer with an old American pall he asked me "how on earth did the Brit motorcycle industry disappear so fast"? I came up with some second hand information that Id gleamed from my father about the Japanese invasion in the 1970s but to exactly why and why so fast I was a bit "stumped". A bit of research was required.
Motorcycling always had a strong following in the days of British motoring. With a temperate climate and heavy taxes on car purchases owning a bike was as much as the ordinary British worker could aspire to. This led to a multitude of British manufacturers competing for their market share.
During The Second World War British industry produced over 80,000 motorcycles for the war effort. this was far more than any other nation. You would have thought that this would have led to a prolonged dominance of the world market but this what not to be.
Britain was forced to sell most of their bikes and cars abroad to repay vast sums borrowed from the United States and Canada to fund WW2. This led to a chronic shortage of new machines at home. This shortage was met in many cases by foreign manufacturers. Some of the overseas competitors had generous funding arrangements from their respective governments.
The BSA Bantam was originally going to sold exclusively abroad until the firm succumbed to public pressure and made them available to the domestic market. With economic conditions being hard on the the post war British public affordable transport was a must. As a result many small Italian and German scooters were sold.
A combination of obsolete factories and outdated designs made the average British bike look a bit "old hat" as the 1950s ended and the 60s started. The complacency and somewhat arrogant attitude of the British manufacturers is difficult to believe. After Honda launched the Cub 90 in the late 50s a "Top Bod" from BSA said that he wasn't worried about it as customers would eventually want to trade up and buy a bigger British machine. I would have love to have seen his face after Honda launched their excellent CB 750 in the late 1960s.
Time after time the British Bike industry retreated from competing for a slice of the smaller machine market to focus on their 650 and 750s. It was if a sort of false machismo had corrupted their corporate thinking.
Sales of bikes overall slowed between 1950 and the end of the 60s with cars out selling bike by five times. Popular models like the Morris Minor and the Mini brought affordable transport without the cold or danger of motorcycling.
The effort that Japan put in to modernising its factories after WW2 played a huge role in their eventual world dominace. Before the war Japan used European and American machine tools and production techniques. They focused on acuracy and effiecientcy to such an extent that they could mantain production with half the manpower of their Western competators. Cooperation between management and workers was esencial to this tranformation. Worker and top excucutives famouly ate in the came cateens. This led to a better infomation flow and a sence that everyone was part of a large corporate family. A big contrast to the class ridden work places of 1950s Britain.
Industrial action during the 1960s alienated the press againt British Industry to such an extent that they would exsagerate the frailties of British built goods. Because of this the Japaneese makes stole the mantel of reliablity and performance.
Theres a certain kudos about having a machine from a firm that is deceesed. Perhaps like when an artist dies and his work becomes more vaulable. Without this tragedy would we have such classic British bikes?
With eight times the power of convectional Lithium the new Aluminium Air battery is set to revolutionise motoring.
A claimed range of 1500 miles on a single charge could render the conventional internal combustion engine obsolete.
The benefit to humanity could be huge , but where would the classic vehicle scene fit in to this new green future?? Perhaps vehicles of a certain age would be granted "Grandad Rights" so people could continue to enjoy them.
If future authorities went against the classic bike world ,what would we do? Would we be forced to fit electric motors to our classic rides? It could save on finding rare and expensive spare parts. Will petrol become difficult to find in days to come? Could you imagine a classic bike being driven by an electric motor and the owner producing an engine sound artificially through a speaker? Lets hope that we can keep a small section of our history alive in its original form . Only time will tell .cleantechnica.com/2019/10/20/uk-man-invents-aluminum-air-battery-in-his-garage/
I'm always amazed to see people riding large motorcycles in the United States without helmets. The history of helmets worldwide is an fascinating one.
As far back as 1914 helmets were made compulsory for The Isle of Man TT races. Despite this the world had to wait until 1961 when Australia became the first nation to make helmets mandatory.
I think that most right minded people would agree that helmets make sense but some still feel that being compelled by law is an injustice. What would promote this ?
In Victorian times many class A category drugs were perfectly legal to buy. Whether you took these potentially harmful substances was down to personal choice.
I believe most would agree to maintain our current laws to save vulnerable souls, especially from "hard drugs"
Surely you can use this argument against those who wish to revoke helmet regulation.
During the early days of motorcycling ,the machines weren't much faster than bicycles. There didn't seem to be a need for protective helmets. As they became more powerful the injuries became more numerous and serious.
This was brought to the fore by the death of TE Lawrence of Arabia in 1935.
Along with grief the public were struck by the irony of someone surviving the perils of The Great War in the Middle East only to die on an English country road.
Australian doctor Hugh Cairns treated Lawrence after his accident and was appalled by his injuries. After he reviewed the death rate amongst dispatch riders in the British Army he became determined to introduce some form of head protection.
After fighting back considerable opposition ,helmets became compulsory for Army dispatch riders in 1941. Unfortunately Cairns died in 1952 so didn't see his innovation become law in Britain in 1973.
I presume that it was easier to compel those in the forces to see sense because they were in the military.
Persuading "Joe Public" worldwide was quite a different matter.
A study in Iran revealed that many felt that helmets were too heavy or that they inhibited head movement. Some felt too hot or their hair styles were affected. Are these good enough reasons for regulators to allow people to take the risk?
In 1966 the US Federal Government persuaded most States to make helmets compulsory. Funds for road improvement schemes were promised as a sort of "trade off". Slowly over time many States revoked their helmet laws .Some even reasoned that they were unconstitutional.
Does The State have the right to compel you to wear a "lid"? You don't exactly endanger others by doing so. Some argue that too many safety features stop people thinking for themselves and accuse law makers of imposing a "Nanny State" on the individual.
On the other hand the wearing of helmets prevents serious brain injuries. This prevents a rider from requiring extensive treatment and placing a burden of care on their communities. This fact would some would say "over road" an individuals right to choose.
It strikes me that the cultural view of authority of any country affects the willingness of its people to accept regulations. Its been proved that helmets save lives. But is that life truely forfilled without the riders freedom to choose?
Ride safe people