|From certain angles, there's a whole lot of the old Brough Superior in the new... (Bill Phelps photo)|
|Perched on the Corniche, on the Cote Basque, between Biarritz France, and San Sebastien, Spain. (Bill Phelps photo)|
|A thoroughly modern machine with antique visual cues (Bill Phelps photo)|
|The Brough was ridden to the ArtRide exhibition in San Sebastien, Spain, where it attracted considerable attention, as did my crazy one-off suit embroidered by Cody McElroy of Dirty Needle Embroidery (Bill Phelps photo)|
|The Brough was right at home in the swervery, and could be pushed as hard as one liked. Fast and fun! (Bill Phelps photo)|
|Posey-poseur...but if you can't pose on a Brough Superior... (Bill Phelps photo)|
|The Brough looks good even in an industrial void|
The SS100 is probably the lightest-looking literbike on the market, with lots of empty space around the engine and beneath the saddle. The dry weight is just under 400 lb., excellent for a 120-hp machine, and throwing the bike around corners is easy. It’s not razor sharp like a racer; it feels like a fast street machine, and real-world handling is totally intuitive. I stepped off a 1974 Norton Commando and onto the SS100, and the feeling was familiar at all speeds, except flat-out. At speeds over 100 mph, the Brough was still charging hard, and pushing the bike through the Corniche’s bends felt completely stable, predictable, and modern. The power is yeehaw-level good, but not insane—let’s just say passing traffic wasn’t even a thought, and clear roads offered breathtakingly fun motorcycling, with super secure handling, a great noise, and the stunning looks of the bike. Even a good squeeze on those crazy Behringer brakes in mid-corner felt perfectly safe; there’s no ABS yet, so it’s best to keep your right hand supple. An hour’s ride back and forth on the coast road left me with a big smile, and a desire to own an SS100—the “cheap” one that is. At £45,000 (about $60,000), the new SS100 is 10 percent the price of a 1920s model, and therefore a bargain! Well, any other bike is cheap by that metric.
|Drawing a crowd everywhere it lands|
The Boxer engine is a bit reminiscent in feel of a mid-1920s JAP 990cc OHV racing motor, which was the heart of the original SS100. It wasn’t meant for the street, and had a nervous disposition, which the new motor shares. There’s a slight harshness to the primary and camshaft drive of the Boxer motor; you can feel the sharp edges of gears whirring around, with not much cushioning effect present. It isn’t bad, and it runs dead smooth, but that slight harshness is the sort of thing a few years’ development will probably eliminate. For a small producer’s wholly new engine, it’s something of a miracle it works so damn well. The gearchange is firm and accurate, the clutch is progressive and strong, and the Öhlins suspension does its job unobtrusively. And the looks; love ’em or hate ’em, they’re distinctive, and telegraph the quality of the machine’s construction. My favorite model is all black, but my well used test bike harvested eyeballs everywhere it went—I haven’t attracted this much attention on two wheels since testing a Confederate Wraith. Everyone wants to know what it is, and non-bikers seem to love the design.
|Ready for a blast down the B-roads...|
I’ve spent more saddle time on vintage Brough Superiors than new sportbikes, having ridden a 1933 B-S across the States in the 2014 Cannonball. I’ve also been a B-S owner’s club member since the 1980s, having owned four models, back when they were semi-affordable to 99 percenters. Therefore, I’m the most likely candidate to make mouth-frothing accusations of “blasphemy!” for use of the Brough name, but I’ve known Mark Upham for years, and he’s also an arch enthusiast of the marque. That doesn’t mean he’ll make a decent new motorcycle, but when journalist Alan Cathcart introduced Upham to Boxer boss Thierry Henriette, he landed in the right hands. Henriette was excited by the project’s challenges, and has made an intriguing motorcycle that is totally up to date with terrific performance, a retro, classy vibe, and a totally unique look. It actually fills the vacant niche of the Gentleman’s Motorcycle. Would George have approved? I do believe he would.