Monday, February 15, 2010

Rudge Motorcycles

Rudge Whitworth produced high-wheel (penny farthing) bicycles, notably the 'Rudge High,' and safety bicycles until 1909, when the company entered the burgeoning motorcycle market. Daniel Rudge's company retained its value long after his death, due primarily to his invention of the adjustable ball-bearing (patent #526).

1934 Rudge JA Prestwich Speedway
Daniel Rudge (left), D. Rudge & Co. ad c.1885

The first Rudge motor cycles were French-built Werner motorcycles from Michel and Eugene Werner, that were re-branded with the Rudge name. By 1911 Rudge began producing its own motorcycles. The first Rudge was a 500 cc single-cylinder motorcycle with an IOE (inlet over exhaust) F-head.

The Rudge Multi

The first "Rudge Multi" was introduced in 1912, featuring a single-cylinder 499 cc engine with final belt-drive and a 'continuous variable transmission' that used variable groove-depth pulleys to create up to 21 gear ratios. A 750 cc version of the Multi was introduced in 1913, and it won the Isle of Man TT with rider Cyril Pullin in 1914.
In 1915, a 1000 cc Rudge Multi was introduced, using a four-speed gearbox made by John Jardine. By 1923, the Rudge 1000 had an in-house gearbox, and the name "Multi" was discontinued.
In 1922, Rudge-Whitworth licensed its wheel mounting technology to an Italian engineer named Carlo Borrani who formed Rudge-Whitworth Milano in Milan. Rudge-Whitworth held a patent for mounting a spoked-wheel on an axle hub using a splined drum that was attached with a central lock-nut. This led to the creation of the wire-whell manufacturer Ruote Borrani Milano srl.

The Rudge Ulster, Special & JAP Dirt Track

The Rudge 'Ulster' was introduced in 1929, and was one of the company's most famous models. The Ulster was named after Ulster Grand Prix winner Graham Walker who won with an average speed of over 80 mph. The following year the company also introduced two models using J.A. Prestwich (J.A.P.) engines; a 250 cc model and a parallel 4-valve 350 cc model.

1934 Rudge JA Prestwich Speedway
1934 Rudge JA Prestwich Speedway

Using a new 350 cc radial 4-valve engine prototype, Rudge finished first, second and third place at the 1930 Junior TT, and took second place at the Senior TT as well. Rudge's radial-valve engine was introduced on their road-going bike in 1931. Their 500 cc "parallel-valve" engine was also available on the "Rudge Special" and on the new "Rudge Ulster" which was sold with a 100 mph guarantee!
In 1932, Rudge introduced its "radial-head" 500 cc model, and a year later the 500 cc Ulster with "semi-radial" head (parallel valves with radial ports) was introduced. 1933 was the last production year for their TT Replicas and dirt-track speedway bikes.

1938 Rudge Whitworth Special
1938 Rudge Whitworth Special

In 1935, Rudge Whitworth was acquired by Electric & Musical Industries Ltd. (EMI), a gramophone manufacturing company which had formed in 1931. 1939 was the last production year for Rudge motorcycles, and EMI repurposed the factory to produce radar for the British war effort.

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