Classic Summer: Rudge Motorcycles


Images: Magneto for Influx

In the pre-war years, The Rudge was the British bike to have. With a reputation for reliability, brawn and style, the company was the result of a the merger of two bicycle manufacturers in 1894. “Rudge it, do not trudge it.” was their natty sales blurb – and by the mid thirties Rudge bikes had enjoyed success in Isle of Man TT as well as dirt track racing.

The Rudge enthusiasts club was founded in 1957 with the objective of keeping Rudge motorcycles, which were last manufactured in 1939, on the road for as long as possible.

Today the club has around 800 members, a comprehensive spares scheme, and a dedicated website that continues to produce a quarterly journal for its members.

There are probably around 2000 Rudge machines still in existence around the world. These machines excel in the vintage racing scene and continue to win awards, some 70 years after they were last manufactured.

Aleks Rümmel (below) brought this bike, a 1934 Rudge Special, in 2008 from legendary builder Derek Leigh. It was raced by Tim Johnson in vintage races against Norton Manxes.

The engine is a shortstroke (90mm bore, 84 stroke with 9.5.1 compression running on methanol). The transmission is a four speed Norton ‘dollshead’ gearbox. Jawa speedway hand made the cam profiles, which were altered to suit Rudge roller camfollowers.

The engine was lowered approximately 5cm for a lower racing centre of gravity. The bike has been raced on the continent in Hillclimbs and in England with British Historic Racing as a pre 48’ bike with maximum speed of over 100mph.

Though a mint-condition Rudge is a rare and expensive item these days, there is a workaday burliness to them that appeals way outside of the notoriously purist vintage bike scene.

Long live the Johnny Rudge!