A primer to the Veloce project.
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.
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