We humans have always adored speed and have craved to go faster. Heck, the old grape-popping and wine guzzling (image courtesy a childhood spent reading the adventures of Asterix and Obelix) Romans even had a God for it. Today, his namesake urges you to just do it. Quite frankly we don’t know what he means by that, but we suspect it has something to do with tying up those laces.
Almost as soon as automobiles were created, the racing bug was already flowing through people’s veins. The advent of motorcycles fuelled these fires and by the early 1900s, motorcycle racing was already on full throttle. With the first ever international cup race held in France back in 1904, by the late fifties, motorcycle racing was gunning forward at a heady pace.
Not all of us today who ride motorcycles fast are track day addicts and the very same thing applied then. Although outlawed now, street racing was popular among motorcyclists back in the fifties and sixties. The famed cafe racers made their appearance; motorcycles that were stripped of everything to reduce weight. Clip-on bars, rear-set pegs and megaphone exhausts completed these motorbikes, and astride with lads high on caffeine and perhaps on the sugar rush from er, muffins, they fiercely competed against each other.
Street-side cafes sprung up beside the newly built roadways that Britain was frantically constructing all across her countryside and these places became popular hangouts for the tonne-up boys and their fantastic array of machinery. Interesting iterations of street racing emerged and one of them was record racing. The rules, sorry, the rule was simple. A song was chosen on the cafe jukebox and a set course was decided upon. The bloke who made it back to the cafe before the song ended, won. These races were informal and held on traffic filled roads, adding to the danger. Just about anyone with a bike and a will (or some distorted form of wit) to risk breaking some bones (or worse), could be a part of these street brawls. And yes, there were plenty of takers. Maybe the appreciation from all those smiling midi clad beauties had a hand to play as well.
This summer of speed, we pay homage to four of these motorcycles that were popular crotch rockets back in the day and we’ve dragged them as hard as we possibly could have, without disregarding their age. That’s because at the end of the day, they are much older than most of us anyway. Sure, they aren’t even in the same room as the 200 bhp giants of today that eat tarmac for breakfast, but you must realise that these were some of the fastest production machines of their era. And a motorcycle that hit the tonne was considered pretty darn special all right.Yes, we have featured a few of these machines earlier. But never have these greats been pitted together in these pages, until now.