Saturday, January 17, 2015

A British Biker

On his Twitter page Patrick Fry defines himself as "Green member. Biker. Hates toryscum. Thinks for himself."

Patrick is from the UK and sends out lots of tweets, mainly about politics in Great Britain, largely about what the Torry scum are up to, which is roughly what the Republicans in the US are up to: throwing poor people into the streets and helping the filthy rich get filthier and richer. Fry also tweets a lot about a slowly unfolding pedophile scandal in the UK involving mainly conservative UK politicians who had a sex ring of young boys and about the fact that while Margaret Thatcher was prime minister the sex ring was in full swing and there are indications she knew about it and overlooked it because powerful men and important allies were involved. The scandal has flared up recently because news has emerged that a young boy was murdered during one of the group's pedophile orgies.

One of Patrick Fry's tweets today, however, was simply a picture of a motorcycle.

It's a 2014 Brough Superior.

A man named George Brough, 1890-1970, made big, fast motorcyles in England between the 1920s and 1950s. They were expensive and superbly engineered. TE Lawrence, the British diplomat known as Lawrence of Arabia (who gets mentioned in a book review I posted recently) owned eight Broughs and died on one in 1935. Jay Lenno owns a 1925 Brough and features it in one of the videos he's made of his huge collection of vintage cars and motorcycles called Jay Lenno's Garage.

Someone has resurrected the Brough name and is selling Brough motorcycles, but just as someone in the US is selling Indian motorcycles that don't share a lineage with the magnificent old Indians, the new Broughs are made by Boxer Design, a company that "offers expertise in electric vehicle development, engineering and industrial development and design and prototyping" and Akira Engineers, a company that designs industrial pipe.

The new Brough Superiors sell for £50,000 each but appear to be very nice. The specifications page lists all the things a motorcycle that bills itself as superior should have as far as engine design, brakes, electrics, suspension, wheels and so on. I always look for the weight, which on specification pages is given as either wet or dry. The Brough has a "dry weight" -- with no gas or oil in it, which add 20 or so pounds -- of 395 pounds, which is an indicator of good engineering. When you're designing a motorcycle it's hard to keep the weight down, but it's critical to its handling. For a big bike, if it's around 400 or even a little over, you've probably got yourself something. Even the British motorcycles made for the masses, Triumph, BSA, Norton, were around 400, very light compared to most other brands' big bikes.

It interested me that Patrick Fry posted a picture of a motorcycle, and with no explanation for it. Just, "There it is. Behold."

Motorcycles are different things to different people. You see many Harley Davidson's being driven by older men dressed in a specific costume and having a specific hair do. They look like they stepped out of a Harley Davidson ad.

Harley Davidson was in trouble in the 1980s, when they hired some good ad people who re-branded the company from something somewhat negative to what it is now. Some people were still buying the big road cruisers, but many Harleys were destined to be customized and especially to be made into choppers, and the image of the Hells Angels hovered near the Harley brand. But after a marketing campaign that's often pointed to as an example by marketing people, the image is of a middle aged man who will never really grow old as long as he rides with the wind on a Harley. In Albuquerque you also see a Hispanic Harley-riding counterpart who gets himself up in another kind of costume and hair do.

Motorcycles, hunting, playing sports, watching sports, tearing around in old hot rods, bragging, one-upsmanship, the things men do that betray a kind of perpetual adolescence, and fear. A fear of getting old, of petering out, of being overwhelmed.

I've had a motorcycle of some type since I was 16. Several kinds of British bikes, a Ducati, a Yamaha, a Honda 450 I bought from Colvin Young, a Black sergeant I knew in Germany, and rode around Europe in the summer of 1978 just before my three-year tour in the US Army was up.

In 2000 I bought a Moto Guzzi, a nice, big, Italian bike. For a few years I rode it off and on, but the last couple times it kind of scared me. The sense of invincibility, the thrill, were no longer bigger than the fear. Some would say good sense overcame me. But the balance had shifted. It sits in a storage unit at Central and Unser with just over 2,500 miles on it, and I haven't had it started in five years, but I pay them $45 a month to keep it for me, just in case.

Here are some pictures of some old and new Broughs. Behold.


Brough Superior 1940s - pick one up now for $400k

2014 models are £50,000 each

George Brough and TE Lawrence

Be effing hold

An old one - this looks like the Bonneville salt flats

TE Lawrence on a Brough - Jay Lenno pronounces it "Bruff."


  1. I bought a "bike" once back in 1975. I can't recall what brand or what size it was. It was larger than what are described as dirt bikes, nice seat and looked good. We then lived in Northern Rio Arriba County, 20 miles of dirt road before you got to the village we lived in.

    I got the bike home, polished it up, started it and revved the engine a couple of times until the neighbors came out to watch. Took it for a spin at 10-15 MPH around town and back so my family could admire me. Then I felt comfortable in taking it for a ride on the "open road". That winding 20 miles of dirt road I mentioned. Anyway off I went and picked up enough speed so I could get the "easy rider" feel.

    Six to seven miles later I was feeling pretty good so I picked up some more speed as I approached the pavement. Suddenly I got that uneasy feeling I was not going to make that last curve at the speed I was going. I dared not use the brakes, so I drove off of the road into the sagebrush flat adjacent to it. I finally stopped and realized I was still alive.

    It took me 3 times as long to get back home and the family was concerned as it looked like I had been in a fight with a bunch of cats. I sold the bike for 1/2 of what I had just bought it for. That was my only ride ever on a motorized vehicle with just 2 wheels.

    But they are sexy......