Throughout history, there have been some glorious motorbikes, and one of the greatest of all time has to be the Brough Superior SS100. First built in 1924, the Brough Superior became known as the ‘Rolls-Royce of motorcycles’ thanks to its stylish appearance and excellent engineering. Looking back at the creation of the vehicle offers an insight into how talented engineers were back in the 1920s.
A superior model
The SS100 was designed by George Brough in his Nottingham factory. Each bike was created to meet specific customer standards and 69 SS100s were produced in 1925. It became the first custom motorcycle to feature components from different suppliers.
The first engine was a twin-cam KTOR JAP V-twin, which was upgraded to a Matchless engine in 1936. The gearbox was the Sturmey-Archer 4-stud 3-speed version, while Brough created his own version of Harley-Davidson forks. The result was a lightweight bike that had strong handling. Each SS100 could reach 100 mph. Brough advertised his machine as the ‘Rolls-Royce of motorcycles’ after getting permission from a Rolls-Royce executive.
The SS100’s engineering and speed helped it win over 50 events in the early 1920s. Bert le Vack, who worked with Brough on development was the holder of seven word records. 1927 saw Brough and Freddie Dixon achieve a record of 130 mph.
Lawrence of Arabia
Due to the motorcycle’s speed, it became a natural choice for anyone who was looking for a thrill. One such man was T.E Lawrence, who owned seven Broughs in a row. He liked to clock up a lot of mileage, happily leaving Nottingham on his SS100 for a weekend retreat.
In 1935, Lawrence was riding a SS100 on a narrow road in Wareham and he almost collided with two boys on bicycles. He swerved to avoid them, lost control of his vehicle and landed on his head. Lawrence died in hospital six days later. The fact that he wasn’t wearing a helmet inspired neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns to research the use of crash helmets for military and civilian riders. Ultimately, this allowed Cairns to save the lives of many motorcyclists.
Development of Brough Superiors stopped during WW2 so there could be a focus on the war effort. However, in 2013, the company created a new SS100 to mark the 90th anniversary of the original model. The new SS100 featured a 997 cc V-twin engine and in 2016 the marque seemed poised to make a triumphant return.
The Brough Superior is one of the finest motorbikes ever created, serving as an example of British engineering.