BROUGH AND READY
The Brough Superior has been a long time coming, but it’s alive and kicking now and it’s a mightily impressive machine. MCN’S exclusive ride around stunning French roads revealed just how well thought-out the reborn SS100 is. The firm have already sold a
It’s easy to approach the Brough Superior SS100 with a large dose of scepticism. After all, we’ve seen so many small bike firms come and go, often leaving a trail of debt and upset suppliers in their wake. The trail of woe includes big names and lesser known brands brought back to life by poorly-financed and ill-researched duds that get no further than the concept stage or, should they make it into production, only make it into the hands of a few before the whole firm collapses. ‘How do you turn a big pile of money into a small pile?’ goes the old question. ‘Buy a motorcycle company,’ comes the answer.
Yet, here we are, standing on a highly polished floor inside an immaculate workshop on a very smart industrial park on the outskirts of Toulouse in southern France. There’s a quiet buzz of efficient activity and, centre stage, five actual bikes under Brough Superior covers alongside five other prototypes. Already the story feels very different to the norm.
We are shown the bike MCN will be riding today. It’s still at the prototype stage and certain elements will change when production of the first 300 limited edition models begins in June.
Changes will start with minor details such as the exhaust hangers, but also take in major elements including the coolant hoses which have been re-engineered to run up under the airbox and fuel tank for a neater look. The switchgear will be changed for cast alloy rather than the temporary Harley-davidson items in use today and the handlebar top yoke will be cut from billet. The sidestand, meanwhile, will get a far better design with a lug on the end to make raising or lowering it more straightforward. The Smiths clocks are gaining a backlit needle and clearer LCD information from the small integral screen and the tiny indicators on this bike aren’t production specification. All of these changes are in the final stages of being fixed before full production begins in June.
Our prototype is close, though, and pretty much bang-on what owners will be getting in summer. I take in the stunning, hand-crafted aluminium fuel tank, which is welded from five sections on site along with the sleek tailpiece. The cast aluminium Fior fork design is startlingly new, too, and a world away from the usual twin conventional forks, so too the diamondcut cast aluminium wheels, which are distinctive and different.
But it’s the 997cc water- cooled V-twin that really grabs my attention. While so many other small firms opt for an ‘off-the-shelf’ motor from one of the many global suppliers, Brough Superior insisted this bike could only exist if they developed their own motor. Work on the engine has been done by Akira Engineering, the same company that builds the factory Kawasaki engines for World Superbike champions Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea. And its moment of truth has arrived.
When I fire it up the V-twin settles to an even idle. The slick gearbox engages easily and the smooth clutch means getting off from a standstill is all as easy as it should be. This is already promising.
Heading out into the French countryside on this chilly but sunny morning reveals a bike that feels as if it has come from a major manufacturer. The motor is smooth – tractable yet still willing to rev out. The tacho on this prototype isn’t working so it’s impossible to know the actual revs at play but it’s only when I leave it in too high a gear that piston slap starts to become a problem.
Once the speed increases a little I have to keep myself from staring at the mesmerising way the front light and small windscreen are bobbing up and down with the front Fior fork as it deals with road imperfections. It’s something that is so out of the ordinary it takes my
‘Brough Superior insisted this machine could only exist if they developed their own engine’
mind off the ride for a few minutes. Out on flowing roads the Brough starts to get more into its stride and I’m already thinking the SS100 would be perfectly suited to a long blast across the British countryside on a lovely summer’s day. It’s very relaxing and, with 100bhp and a kerbweight of around 205kg, the performance is still potent enough for it to feel fast.
That unusual suspension system contributes to a flat, firm riding experience. Weirdly the front end rises when you accelerate but barely dives at all when you brake hard, which exacerbates the effect of perhaps the only major flaw on the bike, which is fiercely un-progressive front brakes. They are a little scary at first and it takes an unbelievably gentle touch to avoid over-braking. We mentioned this after the first outing and the Brough engineers changed the master cylinder and piston to soften the braking force and on a brief test ride the following morning it proved to be a lot better.
Cruising at 70mph is easy. The windblast is no worse than any other naked bike, and while there is noticeable weight thrown onto my wrists from the riding position, I remain pretty comfortable. I did have reservations about the shape of the seat when I first sat on the SS100 but once up and moving with my feet on the pegs the ride is comfortable and engaging.
There are going to be lots of people who will sniff at the thought of any bike being ‘worth’ £50,000, and while a relatively small percentage of riders will have the available cash to buy one of the new Broughs, I think that’s missing the point. The world is a better place for bikes like the Brough Superior SS100 existing. The historic brand is in British hands and from our ride on a prototype it would appear things are most certainly heading the in the right direction.
BRIT SPECIAL Celebrating the
best British bikes and
riders of 2016
Faithful to the old design and yet thoroughly modern – MCN tests the new SS100
Handsome light sits on the Fior-style front end Built by Beringer, the brakes are still being refined The finished top yoke will be machined from billet The tank holds 11 litres with five under the seat
THE LONG VIEW
Gorgeous fuel tank
Performance This isn’t about horsepower but the available 100bhp in fully road-legal spec is more than
enough to have fun
Hand crafted from five sections of aluminium on site in Toulouse by one man who does all of the welding, metal rolling and grinding before the completed tanks with a capacity of 11 litres are handed to another staff member who does the polishing. A secondary tank holding five litres sits under
Details Hand-built and bespoke parts can be seen all over this bike. The fuel tank is a
thing of beauty
There are three versions to choose from: Traditional, Full Black and Titanium. The Titanium version has a titanium frame which is welded on site in an argon gas environment to keep the welds clean. Local Toulouse company Airbus means the area is replete with suppliers able
to help. There are only going to be 300 of the first limited edition bike at
£60,000 each in the UK
The SS100 has passed Euro3 homologation regulations which will allow the company to sell the first 300 before the end of 2017. Development has already begun to get a re-worked version of the bike ready to pass much stricter Euro4 regulations.
Brough’s own engine
Effort by Akira Engineering over the past two years has been intense but the result is a lovely 997cc, watercooled 88 degree V-twin with 100bhp in fully homologated trim or 130bhp
in ‘ track’ setting. Internally the engine is thoroughly modern but the casings suit the overall
look of the Brough.
Prototype is wearing Harley switchgear Attention to detail is all you’d expect Yes it’s expensive but a few lucky folks will buy into something very special
5 Fior fork front suspension
The most stand-out element is the Fior style fork at the front which works with a pivoting system and an Öhlins shock absorber to give an usually flat ride and handling characteristic. The front end rises under acceleration but barely dives at all under
Stopping power The brakes have been designed and built by French company Beringer and were too fierce during our initial test ride. Brough are working to increase the initial progressive feel through the lever ready for when full production
begins in the summer.