Brough Superior SS100
Faster than a speeding Camel!
The Brough Superior SS100 is the best known of the motorbikes designed by George Brough, with production running from 1924 to 1940. Its various claims to fame include an impressive top speed and a world-famous rider - Lawrence of Arabia.
TE Lawrence died behind - or, to be exact, as a result of being thrown over - the sometimes unusual handlebars of an SS100, though not until after he had raced one against a Sopwith Camel, the First World War fighter plane capable of 115 mph. Given that the SS100 was ridden by its designer at over 130 mph, it’s a safe bet that the bike won. While the number in the bikes’ name derives from the fact every bike would exceed 100 mph, it was widely known that the standard brakes were so useless that it could take you the better part of a mile to stop again.
The handlebars of the SS100 varied from machine to machine, as did many aspects of the bike. The final product could depend on anything from the specifications of the customer to what day of the week it was. Accordingly, some of the SS100s had brake levers which pivoted at the end of the handlebars rather than close to the centre.
This model was one of the first custom motorbikes, assembled from different components from different sources. It continually evolved over the duration of its production run. From the first vehicle out of the Nottingham factory to 1936, the engine was a twin-cam KTOR JAP V twin - produced by JA Prestwich (Matchless engines were fitted after that time); four-stud, three-speed gearboxes were provided by Sturmey-Archer; the girder front forks were developed by Castle Fork and Accessories Company and even the frame was assembled by an outside contractor. The SS100 used a ‘lug and tube’ design, which involved lengths of tube with malleable lugs being pushed together, pinned and braised up.
The SS100 saw great successes in competition, but was not a particularly popular model with everyday riders. It was no more difficult to run and maintain than any other bike of its era. However, while it was certainly quick, it was also expensive.