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.
‘HE CREATED WORLDBEATING BIKES FROM A SMALL FACTORY’
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