A BIT OF HISTORY

Let’s pause for a little history lesson.

When the motorcycle was first invented and sold in any number, it was the British producers who had total control of the world market.

The big British manufacturers such as B.S.A., Triumph and Norton were as much household names in the 1950’s as Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha are today.

There were a multitude of other manufacturers from Ariel to Douglas, Excelsior to Imperial to…STOP..and they all did! Why? Was it because the market changed?
Did the competition have a better cheaper product?
Did the British not know what the market wanted?
Was bad management to blame?
A lack of reinvestment perhaps?
A death of technical innovations or quality control?
I believe the answer to all of those questions is an unfortunate YES.

Honda started in the small bike market with the now famous Honda 50cc “step thru” – a semi automatic gear change, with leg shields and screen…hardly a motorbike to trouble the big marques? Wrong… they have now sold 35 million models across the world!

Honda 50cc step through
Honda 50cc step through

Look at the Honda CB750 launched in 1969. A powerfully smooth four- cylinder oil-tight reliable engine with an electric start and disc brake for good measure! This particular bike is now credited for virtually single-handedly destroying the British motorcycle industry…and this it achieved, incredibly, in less than ten years!

Classic Bike Esprits Honda 750 K2
Classic Bike Esprits Honda 750 K2

Norton tried to add a “bolt on goody” with their electric start Mk3 Commando and Triumph were also doing the same but trying to move away from their vertical twins, a design which incidentally dated back to 1937, and on to the more powerful triple-cylinder Trident. But it was all too little, too late.

Inside the Triumph factory in Meriden
Inside the Triumph factory in Meriden

I love old British bikes. I love the sound they make, the relatively cheap running costs, appreciation in value, and great fuel economy. I love getting my hands dirty. I am completely crazy and there are lots of others like me!! – Neil Thomas.the old man