A genius in bike building


I READ John Robson’s letter (Memory Lane, March 17) on motorcycle dealers in the 1950s and 60s.

As I recall, most of the bikers met at the cafe in Seaton Carew.

Their bikes included all famous British makes like Triumph, Norton, BSA, AJS/Matchless, Vincent, Velocette, etc.

Four of us, all around 17 or 18, owned bikes – Brian Dennis (Denny), first on a Frances-Barnett then a Triumph T110; Alfred Pepper (Pep) on his BSA; Billy Prosser on his Norton; and me, on my Velocette.

We didn’t knock around much with the Seaton crowd, tending instead to go our own way.

Denny constructed a ‘Triton’, using the T110 engine but utilising a Norton frame and parts, except for the forks – he designed his own trailing link forks and had them built by Stan Whitton from Seaton Carew.

Stan was a keen biker, and a genius in bike building and tuning.

Pep’s dead now, bless him, and I don’t think Denny rides now.

However, Billy now lives in Nelson, New Zealand, where he still has his motorcycles, and he lends me his old 1954 Matchless when my wife and I visit our daughter there, usually once per year.

He and I are in the Nelson Veteran Motorcycle Club, and still enjoy our biking on roads reminiscent of those in England in the 1950s and 60s - ie, winding, fairly empty and, therefore, safer!

I have no photos from the early 1960s, but here is one taken of Billy and me at the Veteran Motorcycle Show in Nelson in early 2010.

The bike is a 1939 KSS Velocette, my favourite British manufacturer.

To finish, I remember examining one of the first Japanese bikes in the early 1960s – the Honda 250cc Dream – and thinking “they’ll never catch on!”

Oh dear!

Pete Wiles,

Thorndale Road,