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A primer to the Veloce project.

November 11, 2010


A dozen-plus years ago I was firmly involved with old Velocette motorcycles, with a wife who enjoyed the same passion.  We had been riding our 1930’s Velos on VOCNA rallies and local club rides with as much gusto as possible.  But my interest had always been slowly changing its focus from the strong, streamlined and sexy 1930’s Brit bikes.  While a 1938 Triumph Speed Twin and a mid 30’s OHC Ariel Square 4 are beautiful things on many different levels, my mind continued to study the engineering designs of the bikes.  And I was compelled to continue looking back further in time, studying earlier solutions to the same problems that 2 and 3 wheeled transport faced back then as they do now:  power, stability & tractability, controls, reliability, weight and aesthetics.

1905 Triumph fork patent

My engineering professors had taught me some of the ‘best ideas’ circa the 1980’s but the engineers working 100 years ago in Birmingham, Springfield, Melbourne or Neckarsulm had a different tutelage, but all faced the same challenges.  In a nutshell, that is it. My excitement is based on the multitude of different designs that were tried in the pioneer days of the 1880s through WWI.  There was no “correct” way of doing things, and each motorbike has its good points and its bad points.  Contrast that with the offerings of today’s manufacturers; where the paint colors and decals are the only visible differences on the fairings of the plastic rocketships.  This site isn’t the place to debate the merits of old vs. new bikes, that should be apparent from my tagline of FUN STUFF FROM 100 YEARS AGO.  So, continuing on…

I was compelled to study and to ride older and older bikes.  The confluence of my interests quickly drew me towards finding an early Velocette, made by the Veloce company.  However pre 1915 Veteran Veloce bikes are not numerous today, and it was not an easy task to locate one, and much harder to find one for that was for sale…  Fast forward 10 or 15 years and I’ve ridden some early bikes, and enjoyed them all.  But last weekend a special project bike arrived in my workshop.  happy happy joy joy.

For the next 6 months I’ll be writing about my newest project, a 1913 Veloce.  The history of this bike, this model, and the early years of the Veloce company is a bit of a mystery without a full published record.  I’ll do my best to tell y’all what I have gathered, and to illustrate the steps of the restoration in a number of How To articles.


Photo by Richard McKenney of his gnome and Triumph motor

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Abbott permalink
    November 11, 2010 2:19 pm

    Pete: I’d almost given up hope of ever hearing about the “pile of rusted metal arriving soon on a very slow boat”! Hooray, Hooray Hooray!!!

    yr pal Jim A.

  2. Jim Abbott permalink
    November 11, 2010 2:23 pm

    p.s. Does this mean you’re going to send some of your newer Velo’s to the used bike lot??

    • Pete Young permalink*
      November 11, 2010 2:24 pm

      no way! But the Premier will have to go. 😦

  3. November 11, 2010 2:24 pm

    The site is engrossing and your first hand ‘how to’ knowledge refreshing and so I’m looking forward to this next ‘volume’.

    But hey, that little figurine/statue affair gives me the creeps; advice , lose it!
    Appologies if it was a gift froma loved one.

    • November 11, 2010 2:28 pm

      It is Richard’s “shed gnome” I think it watches over his shop projects. Richard, can you give us some details?

  4. brian b permalink
    November 11, 2010 2:28 pm

    I’m sure that somewhere you will explain why “Triumph” appears to be cast in the engine case?

    • November 11, 2010 2:37 pm

      That isn’t my motor. I wish mine looked that good. It was a neat old photo that Richard had sent me some time ago from his shop. However, there is a very strong tie between the Triumph motor and the Veloce motor, which will become apparent when I get into the motor rebuild.

  5. November 11, 2010 2:47 pm

    I’ve got a much more interesting cb450 engine if you want to trade. 😀

  6. Tyler Hammond permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:52 pm

    I too have become entranced by the queens Iron ( I was on my recently finished black ’71 commando at the “49 mile” ride). Your project is very exciting and look forward watching its progress.
    I have another commando “in a box” that i hope to start right after christmas

  7. alan comfort permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:56 pm

    Looking forward to following your adventure with this new project. Glad to hear that the trials and tribulations of the Cannonball haven’t soured you on veteran machinery.
    I love your Burma Shave series. The photos take me back to a couple of my trans-America journeys from the 60’s.
    Regards, Alan in Vancouver

  8. Richard McKenney permalink
    November 11, 2010 4:58 pm

    G’day Pete and all

    If the Gnomes ego wasn’t big enough already now he wants a Limo for the groupies!
    Don’t knock the Gnome 59, haven’t you chaps got shed Gnomes? Who nicks your tools then?
    I’m missing a bag of Imperial Hex keys and the Gnomes not talking, he looks like that because he just smoked a pipe half his body weight!! I have to have someone to blame for my missing parts I just put down, now where the #^%$ is that woodruff key I just hand filed.
    See what I mean? The Gnome was made by a blind guy (true story).

    That’s all my own self taught hand turning in the photo, see what brute force and ignorance can do.

    Good idea about losing the Triumph soon to be Veloce logo on casing thought, I could double my money on ebay; if I were bent.
    Triumph, BSA and Veloce must have all been in bed together, the parts are so interchangeable.

    You’ve blown your cover Pete, (my engineering professors had taught me…..) so you have degrees in?
    You’re a busy man Pete, thanks for the past and future inspiration.

    Cheers Richard

    • November 11, 2010 5:23 pm

      glad to hear more about that gnome. I always blame my kids! My schooling was in mechanical engineering, a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. But to keep my mind from melting under the stress, I worked in a machine shop during college. I enjoyed the job, and the money allowed me to have beer, which was a vital necessity.

    • November 14, 2010 3:50 pm

      Yep, RMc: we have the ‘Garage Monster’. If you dismantle a bike /component and don’t attend to it on a regular basis ‘ where it goes no one knows’, ie the ‘ Garage Monster ‘ has had it away.

      As with most things in life; ‘ little and often’ will usually keep things on track.

  9. November 11, 2010 5:01 pm

    Really looking forward to this series. This period of motoring is fascinating because, as you write above, there was little in the way of conventional wisdom to channel and dirrect development and experimentation.

  10. Paul Venne permalink
    November 11, 2010 10:27 pm

    Pete, Big wow on this one. Shopping for popcorn now.
    Idea: Get a metal detector and find big pile of 10mm wrenches and sockets. Gnome will be nearby. Kill him. Thanks again, Paul
    PS What about proper wheels, tires and gearing for the Excelsior? Must look period! And I’m wondering how you date it. Ever thought about starting a serials list? Kap koon kap mak. (Thanks a lot)

    • November 11, 2010 10:32 pm

      Hi Paul. I put the drop center rim on the rear of the X just for the cannonball. I have correct 28×3 clincher rim and tire to put on there later this year. That will bring the gearing up to standard. The tire that it is on it is almost the same diameter as a clincher, but about 1/2″ or 1″ smaller on diameter.

  11. Richard McKenney permalink
    November 11, 2010 11:59 pm

    G’day Pete & All

    Brain wave! Should have done it two weeks ago, I sat the Gnome on the gas burner, he had smoke coming out of holes he didn’t know he had, the imperial hex were under a pile of oily rags on the bike lift, doh!
    A Masters degree in mechanical engineering!!! And I thought I was jealous of the Vintagent.
    How about a, Flat tank Occhio Lungo Brooklands Montgomery British Anzani Replica?
    I’ll bet you have some “one of” ideas somewhere, there must be drawings? Shall I send a deposit?

    Cheers Richard

  12. Alan Harper permalink
    January 22, 2011 2:33 am

    I have just found your site, I must congratulate you on its contents. I am near to finishing the restoration of a 1919 D1 Velo’. I look forward to reading about your 1913 project.

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