Thursday, March 22, 2007


A friend (thanks Pete!) forwarded an email from a collector in Australia who needed to lighten his garage a bit; mostly he had pre-1916 bikes which needed vast amounts of work to finish or complete. But, nestled amongst the Veteran Triumphs and Rudges was a VINTAGE Rudge, which looked most intriguing. Of course, this was the bike he really didn't want to sell, but it attracted the most interest (it seems to be harder to sell the really old motorcycles nowadays, and the older collectors are passing on).
I put in my bid, and the Rudge may well end up in San Francisco. It's a '29 Ulster, which is a pukka TT Replica machine, a faithful copy of Graham Walker's 1928 Rudge (second pic) on which he won the Ulster TT at a 'world's first' road race average of 80mph. The factory wisely sought to capitalise on Graham's success by building a racer for sale, and the infamous Ulster was born.

The first year Ulster ('29) was a unique beast, and was essentially a one-year model. The engine had a total-loss oiling system, meaning it had no oil pump per se, but rather an oil metering device, and the oil was allowed to burn off/drip out rather than being returned hot to the engine. 'A constant supply of clean oil' was the thought, but properly circulating oil really helps keep an engine cooler! There are other features of the bike which are unique to the year, such as the twin-filler gas and oil tanks and large diameter wheels; in 1930 the tanks changed, the engine gained an oil pump, and the wheels got smaller. Ulsters were still top of the heap until about '34, when they began to add weight and complexity with no additional power (a very typical story of 30's bikes actually - they got heavier as the 30's wore on, with no gain in hp).
Regarding the poster of Graham Walker's machine; the owner has it attached to his garage wall - a pinup! Let's hope the Ulster looks as good as the calendar girl sometime soon.