Showing posts with label British TT Bikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British TT Bikes. Show all posts

Excelsior Manxman

Excelsior Manxman 1930s British classic sports racing bike

Excelsior was the first British motorbike manufacturer. The company's best-known machine, the Manxman, was named after the TT - Tourist Trophy. That being the ultimate devil-may-care road race - through the picturesque scenery of the Isle of Man.

In '33, Excelsior took the Lightweight TT title. Overnight, the English firm became a motorcycling name to be reckoned with. The bike which achieved said feat was dubbed the 'Mechanical Marvel'! Keen to capitalise on their success, Excelsior conceived a racing replica roadster. At the last, though, the project was cancelled. Excelsior were worried about long-term sales. They feared its engine might prove too complex for Clubman-level 'tinkering'!

While that eleventh hour change of heart was a loss to amateur racing, it was a boon to road riders. Instead of the 'race rep' they had planned, Excelsior served up the more orthodox Manxman. Its single overhead camshaft motor came in 250, 350 and 500cc versions. For those so inclined, a bit of light tuning sorted it for the track. In standard trim, it was more than adequate for country lane heroics. In short, the Excelsior Manxman pleased everyone. In so doing, it signalled the finest hour for an historic marque!

Manx Norton

Manx Norton 1950s TT race bike

The Manx Norton has a proud heritage. Throughout the '30s, Norton were nigh on invincible at the Isle of Man TT. Their top-selling roadster at the time was the International. It was the production racer based on this bike that was first to sport the legendary 'Manx' badge. However, it was not until 1950 that the most memorable Manx Norton of all arrived on 'the island'. So flexible was its frame that one of Norton's race aces said it was like riding a feather bed! From then on, it was known as the 'Featherbed Manx'.

But a great bike still needs a great rider. And riders do not come any greater than Geoff Duke. Clearly a perfect fit for the Featherbed, in '51 Duke took both the 500 and 350cc World Championships. Supreme sportsman that he was, Duke would have been first to acknowledge the part played by Irishmen Rex and Cromie McCandless. They were the top-flight engineers who designed the Featherbed frame.

Today, it seems inconceivable that a bike as successful as the Manx could have been a single-pot 'thumper'. Air-cooled, four valves, 54 bhp. Indeed, it would be the first four-cylinder forays at the TT - by Gilera and MV Agusta - which finally signalled the end of Manx indomitability. Thankfully, though, those booming single-cylinder sounds - exiting megaphone exhausts - can still be heard at classic race meets. As the majestic Manx Norton swoops into sight - on its way to completing yet another lap. Basso profundo, basically!