1929-1930 Sunbeam Model 90 foot-change gearbox

A very interesting picture here of the footchange arrangement used by the works Sunbeams in the Senior TT for their 3-speed gearbox. This was perhaps not Sunbeam’s greatest technical achievement and likely one of the reasons that after their victory in 1929 the Rudge factory was so dominant in 1930. The crash box from the hand change models is retained with the exception of a shorter main shaft that moved the clutch inwards and necessitated a dished engine sprocket. As can be seen, the lack of a positive stop mechanism meant that the lever is simply moved up and down to different positions in order to select a gear. A V-shaped spring does the job of the hand-change gate by engaging in a notched plate to hold it in particular gear with a spring-loaded catch that makes it harder to shift from middle gear. This is to avoid overshooting 2nd when changing up or down.

My own M90 has the same setup and it works well enough but Sunbeam soon moved on to their own 4-speed constant mesh type gearbox and later adopting 3rd party units supplied by Burman.

Sunbeams at the TT on British Pathe newsreels

A great find by Martin Shelley with this British Pathe newsreel where “Tourist Trophy Thrills – C.J.P. Hodson, riding a Sunbeam, wins… covering 226 miles… made doubly perilous owing to rain soaked roads… in 250 minutes.” I’m sure Dodson was thrilled to have had his name spelt incorrectly!

Also from the same era we have the 1930 Senior TT when I believe my own bike took part with H.J. “Bertie” Bacon on board.





Sunbeams at the National Motorcycle Museum

Many thanks to Rob from Racing Lines Derby for a grand day out at the TT riders Association luncheon yesterday. This annual celebration of TT riders past and present  was held at the National Motorcycle Museum. Whilst Nick Jeffries acted as MC, we shared a table with the legendary and apposite John Cooper. Others present included 5-times in a week TT winner Ian Hutchinson and Triumph factory rider Percy Tait. Publisher and TT rider Malcolm Wheeler rode into dinner on a Ducati to take over presidency of the association.


Beforehand, we squeaked a couple of hours to check-out one or two of the many wonderful exhibits.


It is of course impossible to do justice to such a collection so I didn’t bother. Instead, I took a lot of photos of the Sunbeams on display which included a number that were restored by our good friend Peter Woodward. These included a Model 80, Model 9 and two Model 90s and they can be seen in the gallery together with many other detail shots.

Debates about provenance may continue in certain circles but the 1925 Sunbeam Sprint must be one of the most beautiful bikes in the museum.

Ex-Dance racer, unbeatable in its day

Ex-Dance racer, unbeatable in its day

Art-deco masterpiece

Art-deco masterpiece

Isle of Man TT

Over the course of the sunniest race week in recent history, the 2013 Isle Of Man TT races culminated in a titanic battle between the legend that is John McGuiness and young pretender Michael Dunlop. If you have never watched a superbike on full-noise tearing trough the kink at the end of Cronk-y-Voddy or flat-out past the pub at Sulby you are denying yourself one of the world’s greatest motorcycling experiences. You’ll get goose bumps and the hairs go up on the back of the neck every time one of the 180mph projectiles hammers past a few feet from your pint and a few inches from disaster.

The TT attracts all manner of bikes and enthusiasts from around the globe and I managed to pick out a few examples of older machinery from amongst the legion of R1s and GSXR1000s.

This 1932 Rudge Ulster was spotted at the Ramsey Sprint where its owner had completed 7 or so runs up the 1/8 mile curved strip. 1932 is the only year Rudge made the Ulster with fully radial head and associated complex valve gear which makes it a very rare bike indeed.

The bike has been modified with a foot change and, more importantly, runs methanol through a later concentric carburettor. I’ve looked for the results online and will edit the post once I locate them but, if memory serves, this amazing bike clocked over 70mph on the 1/8 mile strip.

The bike show at Laxey is always worth a visit and the first bike I came across was this Scott. I’m not sure of the model or year but it certainly caught the eye with the chrome tank glinting in the sunshine.

Along the prom a bit further was this fabulous Norton CS1

The first of the “cammy” Nortons was released in 1927 and, with the CS standing for camshaft, this bike would have been the Fireblade of its day and many were raced with great success both at the TT and internationally. The CS was produced until 1929 and was the foundation for the International and Manx models that would follow.

After a sedate lap I parked up on the pit lane to watch three guys roll up on three near identical Norton 500T trials irons. I had seen them once or twice over the course of the week and they had spent the week embarrassing the riders of more modern machinery exploring the myriad of paths and trails that cover the Island. It must be a fantastic way to explore the place and get to vantage points that defeat the rest of us. Here is a shot of two of the bikes apparently following a well-needed jet wash.

This was my first TT for a few years as I have been visiting the Manx GP of late where the weather changes fast and can often challenge even the hardiest sheep. But this week showed that when the sun does finally shine, the Isle of Man is not only one of the most exciting places you could visit but also one of the most beautiful.

Charlie Dodson’s Model 90

Some time ago I was lucky enough to take a few snaps of the bike I understand was used by Charlie Dodson to win the ’28 Senior TT. Archie Beggs later rode the bike at the club Centenary rally and also at the 2012 festival of Jurby. More pictures are stored in the gallery.