A mighty stomp on the kick-start, a nervous but smooth shift into first (via the tank-mounted hand-shifter) and I trundled down one of Dadar Parsi Colony’s shady avenues. The 500cc, four valve, 3.5bhp powerplant had a surprising amount of get-up-and-go and I was soon making a spectacle of myself, lurching forward with a flick of the thumb and frantically dragging my heels on the ground to try and stop the darn thing (the brakes, as you may have deduced, weren’t exactly F1 carbon–fibre). The long–stroke engine produced a large amount of torque as well, so the bike didn’t complain even when I accidentally shifted from first to third – it simply hitched up its socks and chugged along in an unperturbed manner. As enjoyable as the Rudge was to ride, the absolute coolest bit of it was the carbide headlamp. Picture, if you will, the steps you have to take before a ride at night: add lump of carbide to water in canister, wait for resultant gas to reach the headlamp via tube, light a match, open headlamp cover, hold match to gas spout et voila, a little flame emerges to serve as illumination.
I can tell you, with a straight face, that I had more fun on the little Rudge in a half hour than I’ve had with many of our long–term bikes in a months worth of riding. Freddy obviously figured that out, because he said ‘I have another bike, a big one. Want to take it for a spin?’. I almost danced with delight as he brought out the machine, a massive 1300cc...wait a minute, that’s another story. Watch this space!
Chocolate rudge: The Rudge is a sweet old machine to ride (right) and comes with quaint features – a carbide headlamp (above left), snail-like accelerator lever (above), an air-pump for a quick top-up (above right) and tank-mounted gear lever
A RUDGE LIFE
Dan Rudge started a company in 1868 to make velocipedes and it was eventually acquired by the bicycle manufacturer Whitworth Cycles in 1894. The two bicycle manufacturers merged names and started selling motorcycles in 1911. They had several early innovations, including a spring-loaded stand, a front-and-back linked braking system, a spray-action carburettor and, in their early 1912 model, the Rudge Multi, a belt-gearing system that offered 21 gear ratios. In the 1920s Rudge built four-valve cylinder heads for their 500cc single, a version of which won the 1928 Ulster Grand Prix – ‘The World’s Fastest Road Race’ – with a speed of 80.78 mph. As a result, their next model was named the Ulster and offered a top speed of 90 mph. Rudges were reliable too; Stanley Glanfield took a Whitworth on an 18,000 mile world tour
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