Rider Of The Week focuses on a famous racer and looks at the significance of their career. Charlie Collier was one of the earliest examples of a talented rider. Not only did he win the first Isle of Man TT race, he set numerous world records as well. A lot of his world records were carried out on a Matchless motorbike, and they were produced by his father’s company H.Collier & Sons.
Collier was born in Plumstead, London in 1885. His father, Henry Collier, was an ambitious man who founded his own motorbike manufacturing company that went on to become AMC. It was only natural that Collier followed in his father’s footsteps of being a motorcycle enthusiast.
Collier’s first race was at the 3½ mile Canning Town cycling track on a Matchless motorbike. He started strong, leading until the last lap. Unfortunately, a burst tyre caused a crash and Collier couldn’t finish the race. In 1905, he competed alongside his brother Harry in the eliminating trial for the International Motorcycle Cup. The trial was held at the Isle of Man and although the brothers qualified, Charlie was forced to retire after his motorbike suffered a broken connecting-rod.
Collier raced in the 1906 International Cup, but was said to be unhappy with the motorcycle weight restrictions of 110 lbs. He participated in the first Isle of Man TT in 1907, competing against 19 other riders. Collier made history as the first man to win the TT, coming first in the single-cylinder class. Collier won while riding a Matchless, but victory didn’t come easily. The route was challenging, yet Collier persevered and secured his name in legend. He earned £25 and became the first recipient of the Marquis de Mouzilly St Mars trophy.
Collier’s success was down to his motorbike knowledge. His Matchless was fully road-equipped with mudguards, a silencer and a tool kit. Collier won the TT with less than three pints of fuel to spare.
His next victory came in 1910 when he won another TT. He also came close to winning the 1911 TT, only to run out of fuel. He decided to top up at an unofficial station. This led to him being disqualified.
Eventually, Collier retired from racing and became a joint managing director of AJS and Matchless motorcycles. He died in 1954, but he left behind a legacy that inspired future TT winners.