There’s a fierce clatter of valve gear, as two large volumes of air and fuel get compressed and then ignited barely a foot away from my ear. As John wrings the throttle, the barrage of explosions increases and my heartbeat rises rapidly. The loud blat of the dual chromed silencers ricochets off the passing stone walls and resonates within my skull. I have gone through this moment a trillion times over in my head – I later realise that we had done in excess of 100 kph. This is not quite how I expected a 75-year old machine would be ridden!
Brough Superiors, however, were built to be ridden that way – hard, fast and like every day was the last day of their lives – even hours after they rolled off the production line. Every SS100 would be flogged up to 160 kph (or 100 mph) before being sold to the lucky few who could afford the hefty price tag. If the bikes couldn’t make the mark, they went back into the factory and started over from scratch. And the man behind the marque, George Brough, would certify every single one that made it through their test of fire. Yes, this was performance guaranteed; there was no place for second best in this Nottingham factory.
George Brough was a remarkable man, who had a sense of theatre with everything he did. For example, his dad manufactured motorcycles, apart from other things, but George wanted his machine to be better than anything else around. As with many good ideas, young George got a good one in a pub – one night out with the boys, someone suggested to him that he ought to call his motorcycle the Brough Superior. George loved it. On hearing the name his son had chosen for his motorcycles, the old man reportedly remarked, ‘I suppose that makes mine the Brough Inferior’. One can only imagine what it must have been like around the dinner table that night!
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