The Post-Vintage Rudge

"Don't swank."

The fourth (1938) edition of The Book of the Rudge offers a host of useful information, but this is easily the most memorable. I used to be a swanker, but not anymore. Now when I ride along I repeat to myself: "Don't swank. Pride comes before a fall in motor-cycling more than in anything else."

If I had to choose a second favorite from the list of Rudge "don'ts" it would be: "Don't argue about road rights with a policeman. He knows the law better than you do, and he can enforce it."

Through the 1930s, the Rudge range increased in sophistication, so that by the time the last models appeared in 1939, they were little faster than those of 1930. The raunchy little 250 full radial had disappeared in favour of a two-valver - in fact the only radial valves to be seen were the exhaust valves on the Ulster. But the looks were there.

Coupled brakes on the 1939 Special

Coupled brakes remained until the end, but the lifting handle on the centre stand - even on the sporty Ulster - was an admission that middle age had caught up with the Rudge; and perhaps the Rudge rider.

1939 Rudge "Ulster" 1939 Rudge 250 cc "Sports"

Still it must have been nice to finally get full enclosure of the valves. I have not ridden a radial, but I guess the clatter of the six rocker arms required to open the valves must have been substantial when they were out in the air, not to mention the wear. And the initial cost. And the maintenance required. And the problem with enclosing all that stuff. Little wonder that the late 250s used a purposeful two valve Rudge motor, and the 500 cc four-valve Special had the parallel valve layout in use since 1924.

At the end: fully enclosed valves 1935-6 full radial 250

Anyway I'd quite like a 1939 Rudge, and if I had one I'd ride it carefully. I certainly wouldn't swank. Promise.

Copyrightę Leon Mitchell 2000

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