CB hon­ours the am­bi­tion and fight­ing spirit of the man from Bolton who founded CCM and gave 1970s mo­tocross its thump­ing sound­track


CB re­mem­bers the skilled off-road rider and founder of CCM

Alan Clews, the man be­hind CCM, passed away at the start of May. He was 79 years old. It was his vi­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion that cre­ated world-beat­ing com­pe­ti­tion bikes from a small fac­tory in Bolton, and found success in Mo­tocross Grands Prix, Bri­tish tri­als and road race cham­pi­onships, and even at the TT.

A skilled rider, Alan worked for the newsagents owned by his wife’s fam­ily and com­peted in tri­als and scram­bles at the week­ends. In 1970 his re­quest to buy a works BSA mo­tocrosser was re­jected, so he built his own. With a mod­i­fied B50 mo­tor in a nickel-plated frame, the bike was im­me­di­ately bought off him, so Alan cre­ated an­other. And that was snapped up too. With ob­vi­ous de­mand, he founded Clews Com­pe­ti­tion Ma­chines in 1971.

Mo­tocross was dom­i­nated by light twostrokes in the mid-1970s, but Clews’ Bsaderived bikes proved there was life in the four-stroke thumper. In the hands of riders in­clud­ing John Banks, Vic Al­lan and Vic East­wood, the use­able grunt and high­qual­ity chas­sis parts of CCM’S 500, 580 and 600cc bikes em­bar­rassed stro­kers from Euro­pean and Ja­panese fac­to­ries. The ’80s and ’90s brought highs and lows. Arm­strong bought into the firm in the early ’80s, and two-strokes built by CCM (badged Arm­strong) won Bri­tish ti­tles on tar­mac and dirt. They built bikes for the mil­i­tary, too. Clews bought the firm back from Arm­strong in ’87, but a fire hit the fac­tory in ’91. Alan’s de­ter­mi­na­tion shone through and the com­pany moved to a new site, with fresh in­vest­ment, mak­ing Ro­tax and Suzuki-pow­ered su­per­mo­tos and trail bikes. The firm col­lapsed in 2004 but Clews again re­vived it, mov­ing to the site of the orig­i­nal fac­tory and launch­ing a range of flat track­ers and trailies.

Re­turn­ing to mo­tocross com­pe­ti­tion in 2008 us­ing a Yamaha en­gine in a bonded frame, CCM then ap­plied the tech to the GP450 ad­ven­ture bike launched in 2014. This was fol­lowed by the Spit­fire re­vealed in 2017, the sell-out success of which has seen CCM triple the size of its work­force.

Still play­ing an ac­tive role as he neared his 80th birthday, Alan was work­ing on a long-stroke ver­sion of the Spit­fire’s 600cc sin­gle-cylin­der en­gine when he was taken ill. The Bolton firm, in the hands of his sons Austin and Rus­sell and their broth­erin-law Gary Harth­ern, has vowed to com­plete the project in his hon­our.


RIGHT: Clews (left) with mo­tocross rider and Cam­bridge bike dealer, Andy Lee

ABOVE: The fi­nal few bikes in a batch of 54 CCMS built for the Sul­tan of Oman

LEFT: Clews in ac­tion him­self, 1964. He was a ca­pa­ble mo­tocross and tri­als rider

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