Gentleman’s Motorcycle: The Brough Superior SS100

First things first; the new Brough Superior SS100 is as a fantastic motorcycle to ride as its engineering is to behold.

Secondly, you would attract less attention riding a pink camel, whilst naked, at the Grand National– shrinking violets need not apply. Thirdly, it costs from £60,000. And lastly, I can’t think of a more reasonably-priced bike that would truly compare. This is a truly unique motorcycle. Badge engineering is such a contentious subject, especially when it comes to motorcycles. Our love for a marque, its history and its models stretches far; so when someone buys the right to use a name, many have mixed emotions. Will any new bikes be true to the original ethos? Will they fit in?

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Some work, some don’t. Triumph has managed it well. John Bloor created a clever, sustainable business model that goes from strength to strength. Norton are aiming at a lower-volume, higher-end market, BSA hope a famous name will give the Indian-built bikes a credos, while AJS, Aerial and New Imperial are also badges to adorn new models. It seems an established name helps a brand to grow momentum, which is why Polaris has Indian after trying so hard with Victory. Back in 2008, Mark Upham gained the rights to the most famous of all motorcycle brands; Brough Superior. For those unfamiliar with the name, it was the fastest, most expensive brand ever ridden by thrill-seeking Oxbridge undergrads and those well heeled. George Brough was son of William Brough, who made bikes under the Brough name and George even rode one of his father’s bikes at the TT. But George was a clever marketer and started up the somewhat ostentatiously named Brough Superior, using the yearly motorcycle show at Olympia to enthral the media of the day with his latest creations. Brough Superior’s best-known fan was one T E Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia who had seven of the marque, with an eighth on order when he was tragically killed while riding in May 1935, aged 46.

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So the new company has a lot to live up to. Hand-built in Marseilles, France, the design has taken years to perfect; giving enough of the original look while making it a bike you can actually ride. Love or loathe the look as you first see it, once you get up close few will be as cynical once you take in the details. That signature tank is 8mm cast alloy, which is then machined down to around 3mm for a perfect finish and to eradicate any possibility of a welded tank fracturing over time. The paralever front end is something you don’t just look at while at standstill, but you see it working in front of you while riding. The front and rear ends bolt to the engine in a Vincent-esque manner, with a hand-welded titanium framework clasping the tank and fuel injection system. Very few parts are not made by the factory – the wheels are bespoke made by an American firm, but the rest is in house. The machined levers have roller bearings in them for a precise feel, the top yoke frames the large speedo and at the back the underslung suspension linkage holds an exquisite swing arm. The Connolly leather seat, the exquisite top yoke, the aluminium bodywork, titanium subframe and even the switchgear are all unique.

And then there are the brakes. To keep with the original look, small, twin, fully-floating discs per side are used to keep rotation weight down and to look similar to a drum. The calipers hold three pads; the middle one has friction material on both sides and they cost £300 a set. The engine is a 997cc, four-valve, 88 degree V-twin. It has to be liquid-cooled to pass today’s standards, adding the only unsightly part of the bike, the water pipes. Designed and built by Akira in Spain who also make Kawasaki’s World Superbike engines, it makes 100bhp and a creamy 88lb ft or torque, with 130bhp available in unhomologated Sport form. Apologies for the lazy description; but creamy is the only way to describe the flat line delivery of the engine – gearchanges are optional. The side cases are sandcast and then machined lightly to still show the casting marks, holding forged pistons. There are six gears and a chain final drive – it is delightful to ride a bespoke built engine that is so well finished. The only downside is the engines are currently Euro 3 compliant, so have to be individually type approved. Brough Superior say this is just for the time being and are working to get the bike through Euro 4 compliance.

Following many high-end products, the SS100 can be finished as you wish. From paint to chrome, even gold-leaf emblems – the world is your – expensive – oyster. Word is there will be a less exotic version to follow the current models.

Read the full story in the August issue of CBG!

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