The MV Agusta single cylinder gems

Italian beauty and simplicity

The superb proportions of the 1954 MV Agusta CSTL 175 Turismo Lusso
Image: Wikipedia

The superb red and silver MV Agusta three and four cylinder machines, ridden to prominence primarily by the great Giocomo Agostini, are what usually comes to mind when enthusiasts think of the MV Agusta name. However, it was the single cylinder race and road bikes that established MV as a motorcycle manufacturer. It was an MV 125 single that won them their first of many World Championships, in the hands of Cecil Stanford. These beautifully lean machines are highly desirable and are eagerly sought after by collectors of historical machinery.


John Player Norton

John Player Norton early version

It was 1973 and the riders were lining up for the Trans-Atlantic Match Races. The Easter Trans-Atlantic Match Races were a big deal at the time drawing huge crowds and television coverage. They would have races Friday, Saturday and then skip Sunday and then race again on Monday at three different tracks, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Oulton Park. The John Player Special of Peter Williams wasn't given much of a chance. No one doubted his riding ability but the bike was powered by a primitive Norton air cooled pushrod engine with a separate gearbox and he was up against the three cylinder two strokes of Kawasaki and Suzuki as well as the British BSA and Triumph triples. Williams and the bike were outstanding. He won three races and finished first overall.


The myth of anti-dive front ends

Why they don't work on the track

Innovative design is something that should be applauded. It's the way we evolve, the way we improve on what we already have. Over the years there have been many clever designers and engineers who sought to improve a motorcycle's handling characteristics. It's an ongoing process of trial and error, particularly in racing, and with racing, if something works it's used and if it doesn't work it's not, it's as simple as that. And we've come along way. We started with no suspension at all and progressed to having a sprung front end and later, the rear was suspended by twin shocks that featured damping as well. This was probably the single biggest breakthrough.


The Harley Road Racers

The early RR250

The words, 'Harley Davidson' and 'road racing' just don't seem to fit together. There's a good reason for this. From 1969 until 1981 Harley was owned buy the misguided bowling alley manufacturer AMF. In 1981 Harley was bought by a group of 13 investors led by Vaughn Beals and Willie G. Davidson for $80 million. One of the first things they did was design a new engine. Realizing that they weren't all that well equipped to do it on their own, they turned to Porsche for help. This partnership resulted in the new 'Evo' engine. The new engine looked and performed similar to (that was the intention) the old ones, but there was one big difference, it was reliable!


Massimo Tamburini

The Master

Massimo Tamburini

Rimini was a motorcycling enthusiast's town. It was near the Benelli factory and after 1969 it housed the Misano World Circuit that later became Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. It was the site of many road races following World War II. Later, nearby in a small town called Tavullia a young motorcycle racer called Graziano Rossi was to have a son called Valentino. That story is history that is still being written. It has a thriving motorcycle culture today and for many, that's the way it has always been.

Massimo Tamburini was born into a farming family from Rimini on November 28, 1943. His family couldn't afford to send him to university, instead he attended the Istituto Tecnico Industriale di Rimini, a technical school in Rimini. He left the technical school early and not yet knowing how he could make a career from motorcycles, he began working at the age of 18 on heating ductwork.


The Rotary Nortons

Unlikely successors

Norton Rotary at the Isle of Man in John player colours
Image: Wiz Norton Racing

Rotary engines are sometimes seen as a sort of half way point between two and four-strokes. Apart from the combustion chamber, which is radically different to both, its characteristics are more aligned with the two-stroke. The bikes sound like a cross between a two-stroke and a four-stroke, a little closer to a two-stroke. Rotaries control intake and exhaust flow timing via ports, as well. Without the need for conventional pistons, conrods, cams and valves, the engine is small and light. The eccentric shaft's main bearings and the inlet manifolds are fed by oil-injection, and the fuel-air mix also carries a residual mist of oil from the interior of the rotors, which lubricates the rotor tips. Also like a two-stroke, further large scale development was halted with encroaching emission laws. The original Rotary engine was invented by German engineer Felix Wankel in 1924.



It looks a bit like a MotoGP bike from a distance,
but the sound will be similar to what you are hearing now.

The sound of a V4 could be heard in the distance. More than one and they were miles away. The spectators strained forward anticipating a flash of colour. The noise got loader and suddenly they appeared. It was the two silver Nortons in the lead followed by a gaggle of others. The sound was melodious as the gear changes echoed off the buildings. It felt like the ground was shaking. The engines almost shrieked as they went up through the gears, disappearing into the distance. Someone said, "The TT Zero is up next." "Yeah" was all his friend replied.


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