It must have been 1949 when, aged 16, l bought my first motorbike, a 1936 bronze head Ulster. I had no license to ride it and it was a wreck in The Motor Mart, a second hand motor dealers yard, in St Pancras, Chichester. I walked it home over a mile away and was confronted by an angry father who understood the potency of a Rudge Ulster and threatened to destroy it in order to prevent me killing myself if l ever made it go.
The bike really was in poor condition with a badly damaged clutch, scored bore and worn big end. I marvelled at the complexity of the semi radial needle roller grease lubricated rockers. All this was discovered while stripping down, cleaning and painting and saving pocket money for the necessary new parts. My older brother helped and my father became less discouraging as we agreed to sell the machine when repaired.
Godfreys supplied parts COD via the post office. A wonderfully simple process and within the next year we had the crankshaft rebuilt, new cut away piston, and rebored pot. A former Chichester motorcycle garage rebuilt the crankshaft simply done with a big vice and hammer, a big spanner and V blocks. Being impatient hooligans we started the engine without pipes and the mighty roar and flames startled us and the neighbours.
My father had become quite interested in the project by completion and took me for a ride as pillion which convinced me sale of the bike was to be avoided at all costs. As my brother was away in the RAF l became sole owner and insured third party with Norwich Union. My first ride was exhilarating and carefully undertaken. The Chichester By-pass was, at that time, single carriageway with a nasty bump where it crossed the Chichester Canal just before the Stockbridge traffic lights. I remember finding air between saddle and me for one frightening moment at no more than 4o mph and that fright convinced me l had a lot to learn.
At that time CMW motors,owned by two ex army mechanics, was situated in the village of Lavant, north of chichester and when l called in l was greeted by Alan (Mac) Morgan who was a lifelong Rudge man. He took my bike for a ride up Lavant Straight and we were pals from there on. He raced a 1930 Ulster in the Brighton Speed Trials and learned to alloy weld extra metal on the piston to increase compression ratio.
I had several years riding the Rudge passing my test on it and selling it later only to buy another broken down 1931 Ulster locally from a dealers shed down the road. That Ulster cost seven pounds ten and was missing its dynamo and headlight but that is another story.
Nothing quite like the burble of an Ulster engine on a cold frosty morning at 50 mph carefully adjusting the advance and retard lever to get it just right.
The Rudge Enthusiasts Club has an active Members Forum. It's a great place to ask for tips and advice for a project, arrange to meet up for a ride out or just socialising with fellow Rudge Enthusiasts!
The Club runs an online new spares store for Members which is growing all the time in its range of Rudge Spares. All spares are manufactured to a high specification and can be delivered worldwide.
Inside the Members area you will get access to search original Rudge factory technical drawings which are available to download in PDF format - essential for your restoration project.
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