‘Freedom on two wheels’ - How the history of motorcycles is traced at this quirky Norfolk museum
PUBLISHED: 08:04 17 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:05 27 August 2019
What began as one man’s hobby turned into an attraction that draws visitors from around the world. STUART ANDERSON toured the collection of marvellous machines at North Walsham’s Norfolk Motorcycle Museum.
From their beginnings as souped-up bicycles and evolution into state-of-the-art, sleek beasts of the road, the motorcycle has come a long way.
And the history of motorised thrills on two wheels is traced at the Norfolk Motorcycle museum, one of the only attractions of its kind in this part of the country.
Steve Harmer, 50, who runs the museum in Norwich Road, North Walsham, said many of the bikes had an aged look, which they had sought to preserve.
"We have what people can relate to," he said. "The condition that they're in is a bit rough and ready. But back in the 1950s and 1960s, if you managed to buy a brand new bike you were doing very well, so most people would have had 20 or 30-year-old machines."
"There's a bit of all sorts, makes and models here, primarily British but also French, German, Italian, American and Japanese.
The museum was started by Mr Harmer's dad, George, who's now 83. Mr Harmer said: "He's been collecting bikes for 40-50 years. He thought it would be nice to see them in a museum but it was difficult trying to find one that would take them on board.
"I got made redundant and started doing restorations from home, so we thought we'd do something that encapsulated all of it - a museum and restorations."
Mr Harmer said he started riding motorcycles when he was 16 and has never looked back.
He said: "In those days, at that age, you had to ride a Japanese bike because there was no British bike that was small enough.
"What makes it is the freedom. It's not as fun as it used to be with the volume of traffic on the roads. 15-20 years ago you could go out and have a nice pleasant ride, but now there's always people pulling in front of you, tractors, lorries, but it's still fun to get out on a nice summers day and feel the wind through your hair."
The museum also organises seasonal ride-outs, with the next one taking place on September 1. Mr Harmer said all bikers were welcome to take part in the ride, which would head to Kelling, and then to Norfolk Lavender at Heacham in west Norfolk.
Visit www.facebook.com/norfolkmotorcycle for more.
Some fascinating machines at the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum
The 1912 New Hudson
The oldest bike in the collection is the New Hudson, produced by a British company founded in 1903 by George Patterson.
Mr Harmer described it as "quite a usable machine" with groundbreaking design features for its time.
He said: "It's got a clutch and gearbox whereas a lot of the machines from that time wouldn't have had that, but just a belt drive straight off the engine instead. It's also got a gearbox in the back which is different.
"It looks a bit rough but it's usable as it is."
The Racing Rudge
The 1931 Works Racing Rudge is a 500cc four valve machine that held the lap record at the world-famous Brooklands banked racing circuit in 1932-33. Ridden by Privateer Sam Allerdyce, it lapped at 106.6mph. It is fitted with twin fuel filler caps for fast refuelling at pit stops.
The Honda Gyro Canopy
This three-wheeled motorcycle was introduced in 1990, one of a series of tilting bikes often used by delivery and express riders.
Mr Harmer said: "It's got one wheel at the front and two at the back, but the frame pivots, so you've always got three wheels on the ground."
Although the Gyro Canopy's design was British, it was licenced to Honda and sold widely in Japan.
The 1952-54 BMW R67/2
This four-stroke two cylinder flat twin has a 594cc engine and single plate transmission. Just over 4,200 were produced by the famous German manufacturer.
Mr Harmer said: "They were originally an aircraft manufacturer, but after the First World War the weren't allowed to put too much into aircraft and things like that, so they carried on producing the next best thing, which was motorcycles."
The BMW C1
An enclosed scooter first produced in 2000, the idea was to appeal to car drivers in crowded city streets, offering the convenience of a motorbike without the danger. Mr Harmer said the design sparked controversy when released in the UK because it was unclear if drivers would be required to wear crash helmets.
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