Superior by name, Superior by nature

Some things in life don’t stand up to being described in words. A tropical sunset, a new born baby, you will find the sum of the words do not give a fitting description to the experience being felt by whoever is doing the describing. In the motorcycle world, the equivalent of this is attempting to put the Brough Superior SS100 on paper. The sleek lines and beautiful chromework do not lend themselves easily to descriptions of a literary nature, always equaling something less than the whole. I’m willing to give it a try though.

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An almost mythical creature in the cycle world, the Brough Superior is the stuff of legends. It is the granddaddy of today’s breed of superbike, from a time when 100mph was fast, and cork was the substance of choice for helmet padding. That is, if a helmet was worn at all. Long and low, with flowing lines, the SS100 is the perfect paradigm of a motorcycle. From the leading link forks to the swing arm rear suspension, it can be hard not to admire the leading edge technology of it’s time. With every SS100 coming with a written guarantee it has reached over 100mph during the testing stage, the bike was bound to attract those riders with a more sporting bent. Today’s feature bike is one such bike, having cut it’s teeth in competition and moved onto a more sedate lifestyle of touring. With many interesting miles behind it, FGX5 is a beautiful example of the Brough Marque and it’s story does need to be shared.

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First registered on the 13th of December 1938, the SS100 was placed in the showroom of Godfrey’s of London. Sold the same month, the first owner took part in several trials over the course of 1939. Five years later, the bike appeared for sale in a 1944 edition of The Motorcycle magazine. After that it disappeared for some time, reappearing in 1956 in Stroud, then in 1964 having had two separate owners during that year. In 1997 the bike was purchased by Bob Shapiro, an American living in London. On his passing in 2000, the bike was passed onto another owner from across the pond. The SS100 was kept and maintained in the UK, under the watchful eye of another Brough club member. The new owner made annual trips to England to take part in rallies, or to visit the bike during the Club’s August rally. The bike was by no means UK bound during this time, with the new owner taking the gleaming machine to the continent, his wife perched upon the pillion seat. The magnificent machine passed to it’s current owner in September 2010, with the bike being kept in regular use. Rallies in Germany, Scotland and England ensure the Brough does not collect any cobwebs on it’s gleaming chromework.

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FGX5 is definitely a bike with a full and interesting history. Commonly referred to as ‘The Show Bike’, it is a duplicate of a Brough Superior that was featured at the Earls Court Motorcycle show in the autumn of 1938. Unsure as to whether it was one of the two bikes featured at the show, or simply an understudy of sorts, the bike has all the accessories one would expect on a show bike. Chromium plating, crashbars and special paint work add up to an eye catching motorcycle. It was this lavish bodywork, and beauty of the machine that led to George Brough’s own claim that the Brough Superior was the ‘Rolls Royce of motorcycles’. This raised the ire from those at the top of the Rolls Royce organization, and a tour of the Brough factory was scheduled for the top brass from Rolls Royce. Upon seeing the bikes were assembled by workers in white gloves, permission was given to use the Rolls Royce name to advertise the Brough marque. The workers outfitted in white gloves were doing so in preparation for the 1938 Earl’s Court, with the show bikes being specially prepared, but the Rolls Royce ambassadors weren’t to know that. Brough Superior, the Rolls Royce of motorcycles. A term coined over 75 years ago, but an analogy fitting so well it has stuck since.

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