Classic Bike Guide

KEN SPRAYSON 1927-2021


Frame wizard and welding guru

Ken Sprayson, who transforme­d the handling of many of the great British motorcycle­s, has passed away at the age of 94.

Ken joined Reynolds Tube Company in 1948 and kept working there for three decades. He worked on frame design for Norton, Royal Enfield, BSA and Triumph, his first groundbrea­king work being the refinement of the McCandless brother’s Featherbed frame for Norton.

He saved the Norton Commando from oblivion when he was asked to find out why the headstocks on early models were fracturing. This was threatenin­g the bike’s future until he redesigned the brackets and mountings. He made one-off racing frames for British racers, including a frame for Phil Read with Tom Arter in a short-lived partnershi­p with Weslake, and he worked with John Surtees and Jeff Smith.

He built chassis for foreign bikes, too, when he went to Italy with Geoff Duke in the 1950s. He had already built a frame for the Duke Reynolds Velocette KTT when Geoff had signed for Gilera and found the Italian bike didn’t handle, and Ken built a Featherbed-style frame for the DOHC four. He also built a frame for Arthur Wheeler’s Moto Guzzi 350 racer in the late 1950s. He made a special frame for Mike Hailwood’s 500 Honda in 1968 and another for Dave Simmonds’

1971 Kawasaki triple 500 cc Grand Prix race machine.

Ken ran a welding service at the Isle of Man TT from the 1950s into the 1990s. He was huge part of the TT Paddock and well respected by TT competitor­s, in demand for welding broken tanks, frames and exhausts free of charge for all competitor­s if they needed it.

After retirement, Ken continued to attend the TT Races, supporting the TT Riders’ Associatio­n. He also wrote a memoir, by hand, called The Frame Man.

Away from motorcycli­ng, he built the frame for Richard Noble’s record-breaking land-speed record car Thrust 2, which topped 650mph in the Nevada desert in 1983. He made the two 75ft flagpoles that adorn the top of the Shell Building on London’s South Bank and the steel cages used by engineers to work on cables between electricit­y pylons, among other creations.

We extend our sympathies to Ken’s family on the passing of a great hero of British motorcycli­ng.

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