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1938 Rudge Race Bike


Nulli Secundus

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For those who read the Sussex Section survey in MPH you may remember Dick Sherwin mentioned that I had purchased a Rudge racer that has an illustrious history. Well it has won a BHR (Britain Historic Racing) championship although the machine is based on a 1938 500cc Rudge Special, which all said and done was the cooking model of the 500cc Rudge range.

It was built and ridden by Tony Perkin, who has since built a methanol burning sister machine and now races other bikes including a Manx Norton.

I entered and took the Rudge to the Mallory Park Test Day on Friday 24th March. I had some fun and dramas. The latter included the primary chain guard falling off during the first session, which was recovered, bashed straight, and refitted, plus a disconcerting front end wobble around Gerrards on most laps.

Not deterred I entered the Mallory Park BHR race meeting over the Easter weekend. I did not set the world alight, but came away satisfied with the results. I had even more dramas, including a rear brake rode clevis pin falling out on the fast aproach to the hairpin (the retaining clip had probably been dislodged, or damaged when the primary chain guard fell off at the test day) and a massive wobble near the exit to Gerrards. Not quite a full on speed wobble, but close.

I am not sure if I am allowed to fit a hydraulic steering damper, but may just do that without asking and see what happens. Not being able to go as fast as I liked around Gerrards, which is a long and fast corner, was hurting my lap times.

Any suggestions or advice?


Rudge next to the Stratfords 2.jpg


Rudge on Trailer crop.jpg



Mallory 1 cropped.jpg
 

Bill Thomas

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Hello Nulli, Looks Good, Have you checked front wheel balance and does the front wheel spin nice and round, Talk to Tony to see if he had a wobble. Cheers Bill.
 

BigEd

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For those who read the Sussex Section survey in MPH you may remember Dick Sherwin mentioned that I had purchased a Rudge racer that has an illustrious history. Well it has won a BHR (Britain Historic Racing) championship although the machine is based on a 1938 500cc Rudge Special, which all said and done was the cooking model of the 500cc Rudge range.
It was built and ridden by Tony Perkin, who has since built a methanol burning sister machine and now races other bikes including a Manx Norton.
I entered and took the Rudge to the Mallory Park Test Day on Friday 24th March. I had some fun and dramas. The latter included the primary chain guard falling off during the first session, which was recovered, bashed straight, and refitted, plus a disconcerting front end wobble around Gerrards on most laps.
Not deterred I entered the Mallory Park BHR race meeting over the Easter weekend. I did not set the world alight, but came away satisfied with the results. I had even more dramas, including a rear brake rode clevis pin falling out on the fast approach to the hairpin (the retaining clip had probably been dislodged, or damaged when the primary chain guard fell off at the test day) and a massive wobble near the exit to Gerards. Not quite a full on speed wobble, but close
I am not sure if I am allowed to fit a hydraulic steering damper, but may just do that without asking and see what happens. Not being able to go as fast as I liked around Gerards, which is a long and fast corner, was hurting my lap times.
Any suggestions or advice?
Hydraulic steering dampers were not eligible for BHR racing in the early days but I am pretty certain that they were made eligible at an AGM probably in the late 90's, can't remember more accurately. The machine specs are on the BHR website at: http://www.britishhistoricracingclub.co.uk/?page_id=111
but a quick scan didn't reveal any mention of hydraulic steering dampers. Maybe that has been changed as we stopped racing probably 20 years ago. Have a look at some of the other bikes and see what they have fitted.
Gerard's is so long and I found my Sunbeam used to shake its head all the way round. (Only a friction damper fitted.) Conversely my brother took it round as if it was on rails.:cool:
I asked him how he did it and he said something about gripping the tank hard with the knees and wedging elbows into knees to stop it shaking! I guess some have got what it takes to make the difference and some (me) don't.
Interesting to note that you lost your primary chain guard. When we first started Vintage racing in earnest the primary guard was one of the first things to fall off.:rolleyes: It took a few meeting to sort out which bits worked as they were and which bits needed some mods. We made a decision there and then that without reasonable reliability we were wasting our time. Once we were fairly confident we could finish a race we looked at trying to go faster. I guess the old adage applies. To finish first (or anywhere else including last) first you must finish.
The main thing was that we had loads of fun. I wish you the same and I will try to get to a few more meetings this year and maybe see you there.
 

davidd

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Lovely bike and photos.

Obviously a chat with Tony can add a lot of information. I suspect you cannot use hydraulic steering dampers or they would be on the bike. I did not see them listed in the 2017 machine specs. (AHRMA allows them on all bikes for safety reasons.)

I would start with some data collection. Are the wheels aligned? Is there looseness anywhere? Keep checking the basics.

I did a lot of safety wiring on my bike mostly to avoid what happened to you with parts coming loose. It is a pain to be retrieving parts, or making field repairs when you are trying to race.

Good Luck!

David
 

Nulli Secundus

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Thank you for the replies and comments so far.

I spent a lot of time ensuring the wheels were aligned when I fitted a new rear tyre, but I will recheck this. The wheel bearings and head bearings all feel OK, but again I will recheck. Roy Robertson advised me to balance the front wheel. I will do this and check for roundness at the same time.

Tony said that there is a bump on Gerrards, that if you are pushing hard will set off a wobble. I do not think I found the bump, luckily, but I was experiencing the wobble even on early laps at the Test Day.

After practice on the race day Mervyn Stratford, who races an incredibly fast 250cc fully radial Rudge, adjusted my friction damper to make the steering movement much heavier. However, with misplaced confidence I probably went a little faster and experienced an even bigger wobble. I then wound the damper on some more.

I went a little slower in the next race, which was for Novice riders. I think this was due to the fact I was the only really old bike that made the grid in a field that was far more modern. They also set us of in pairs and I was in the second to last group with no time correction. I was set off 50 seconds behind the first group, which is most of the lap. I did out gun the XR500 Yamaha next to me to Gerrards, but he passed me there. I then resigned myself to just getting a signature on my licence.

I did go faster in my last race and set my best lap time of the day, however my clutch was beginning to slip (now rebuilt) which meant missing two more races.

I should add most of the other girder fork machines that I saw at Gerrards were wobbling. Inter Norton, Velos and Rudge. I did not see Mervyn Stratford's 250cc wobble though.

The BHR machine specifications seem to fail to mention hydraulic steering dampers.

The engine/gearbox plates on my bike are alloy and to me they look too thin, because they are the same thickness as steel ones. I would think they need to be at least as half as thick again. Perhaps this, combined with stickier tyres is causing, or part of, the problem.
 

vibrac

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We have raced the Comet for years and years with BHR with an hydraulic damper what is it the aussis say? 'No Worries'
as for advice on Rudges there can only be one 'Merve the Swerve'
I Raced a Bronze head Ulster I built a few times especially the day at Donnington when the zip of my leathers undid and I filled up like a balloon!
After next weekend when the Endurance Ledgends race at Donnington is over perhaps we can leave the flying brick and find time for the Comet I know Ben wants to do the Cadwell in September and if we can sort an aluminium version of that girdralic steering stem...
upload_2017-5-1_17-15-52.png
 

Nulli Secundus

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Thanks Tim. I will now look into buying a hydraulic steering damper and then try to work out how to fit it.

I too hope to do the September Cadwell Park meeting if the bike is still up for it. Unfortunately I have got to miss the July Cadwell.

I think I have already tried Merv's patience a bit with all the questions I was asking him.

Unfortunately, in Race 18 we had a red flag, due to a fallen Super Mono (YES a Super Mono !!!). We then had a restart and unfortunately Merv crashed into the back of a stationary Japanese bike with a Novice rider that failed to leave the grid. The race was abandoned and Merv broke his hip, pelvis and collar bone, plus no doubt other injuries. The Novice was walking wounded. The 250cc Rudge is probably in a worse state. It could only be carried and as an example of the impact a short section of the left hand exhaust pipe was sheared and separated from the head and the remainder of the pipe. I did not see the other bike.

This race was eventually rerun and was my last race for the day.

I hope to meet up with you and Ben then at Cadwell in September.
 

Bill Thomas

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Thank you for the replies and comments so far.

I spent a lot of time ensuring the wheels were aligned when I fitted a new rear tyre, but I will recheck this. The wheel bearings and head bearings all feel OK, but again I will recheck. Roy Robertson advised me to balance the front wheel. I will do this and check for roundness at the same time.

Tony said that there is a bump on Gerrards, that if you are pushing hard will set off a wobble. I do not think I found the bump, luckily, but I was experiencing the wobble even on early laps at the Test Day.

After practice on the race day Mervyn Stratford, who races an incredibly fast 250cc fully radial Rudge, adjusted my friction damper to make the steering movement much heavier. However, with misplaced confidence I probably went a little faster and experienced an even bigger wobble. I then wound the damper on some more.

I went a little slower in the next race, which was for Novice riders. I think this was due to the fact I was the only really old bike that made the grid in a field that was far more modern. They also set us of in pairs and I was in the second to last group with no time correction. I was set off 50 seconds behind the first group, which is most of the lap. I did out gun the XR500 Yamaha next to me to Gerrards, but he passed me there. I then resigned myself to just getting a signature on my licence.

I did go faster in my last race and set my best lap time of the day, however my clutch was beginning to slip (now rebuilt) which meant missing two more races.

I should add most of the other girder fork machines that I saw at Gerrards were wobbling. Inter Norton, Velos and Rudge. I did not see Mervyn Stratford's 250cc wobble though.

The BHR machine specifications seem to fail to mention hydraulic steering dampers.

The engine/gearbox plates on my bike are alloy and to me they look too thin, because they are the same thickness as steel ones. I would think they need to be at least as half as thick again. Perhaps this, combined with stickier tyres is causing, or part of, the problem.
What tyre pressures are you running ?, The bike looks light, I would not run more than 24 lb, My bikes get skittish if too high.
I played the same game with the standard damper, Had a laugh with a friend, Did it up a bit more, Same place !!, I won't tell you what happened next, Gulp !!.
Cheers Bill.
 

Nulli Secundus

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What tyre pressures are you running ?, The bike looks light, I would not run more than 24 lb, My bikes get skittish if too high.
I played the same game with the standard damper, Had a laugh with a friend, Did it up a bit more, Same place !!, I won't tell you what happened next, Gulp !!.
Cheers Bill.
24 front (it is skinny) and 26 rear. Although the head and barrel are heavy, the bike is really light.

Not sure I can ride it like Eddie's brother rode the Sunbeam with elbows and knees locked together on the tank.
 

Bill Thomas

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Ron Kemp told me how to fit, Taper Roller steering head bearings on a Vin', Would it be poss' on yours ?. He said you can get away with just the lower one, Because the weight of the bike is is pushing it up, I found that made the steering a bit better. Cheers Bill.
 

BigEd

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24 front (it is skinny) and 26 rear. Although the head and barrel are heavy, the bike is really light.

Not sure I can ride it like Eddie's brother rode the Sunbeam with elbows and knees locked together on the tank.
You will need to experiment to find what works for you and your Rudge. e.g. Tyre pressures. On my Sunbeam we used 20 psi front and 19 psi rear. Avon said they would recommend a minimum of 26 psi. The Sunbeam, like many late 20's motorcycles, is minimalist and quite light compared with later machines. It was run as a virtually rigid bike, Druid girder forks with the friction dampers tightened so that there was virtually no movement and the rear end has no suspension anyway. What suspension there was came mostly from the tyres so we found the pressures that worked for us. I'm not suggesting that this kind of setup will work for you but it just goes to show that sometimes you have to try different things however unlikely. Trying to work within what is allowed can be very difficult and you often end up with what you can have rather than what you would like and keep within the rules.
 
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vibrac

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I am so sorry to hear that about Merv, when I was a young apprentice of 16 riding to work on my Norman B3 along White lion road Amersham a young Merv would flash by in the traffic on that same 250 Rudge!. I have seen him blow Yammaha stink wheels in the dust in a straight 250 race and win. You speak on alignment I remember telling him that his wheels on one of his 250 Rudges were out of line, his reply was 'thats my cadwell club circuit bike there is only one lefthander'. Merve was never a guy to take silly risks, years ago when Ben stated racing on his BSA C15 his ambition was to beat Merve in the upto 58 250 class. Finaly in his last year on the BSA he did come first in a race and Merve was second, Ben was over the moon! I saw Merve later in the day and he said (and I belive him) 'I could have overtaken him but he looked a bit to hairy and unstable'.
 

chankly bore

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VOC Member
For those who read the Sussex Section survey in MPH you may remember Dick Sherwin mentioned that I had purchased a Rudge racer that has an illustrious history. Well it has won a BHR (Britain Historic Racing) championship although the machine is based on a 1938 500cc Rudge Special, which all said and done was the cooking model of the 500cc Rudge range.

It was built and ridden by Tony Perkin, who has since built a methanol burning sister machine and now races other bikes including a Manx Norton.

I entered and took the Rudge to the Mallory Park Test Day on Friday 24th March. I had some fun and dramas. The latter included the primary chain guard falling off during the first session, which was recovered, bashed straight, and refitted, plus a disconcerting front end wobble around Gerrards on most laps.

Not deterred I entered the Mallory Park BHR race meeting over the Easter weekend. I did not set the world alight, but came away satisfied with the results. I had even more dramas, including a rear brake rode clevis pin falling out on the fast aproach to the hairpin (the retaining clip had probably been dislodged, or damaged when the primary chain guard fell off at the test day) and a massive wobble near the exit to Gerrards. Not quite a full on speed wobble, but close.

I am not sure if I am allowed to fit a hydraulic steering damper, but may just do that without asking and see what happens. Not being able to go as fast as I liked around Gerrards, which is a long and fast corner, was hurting my lap times.

Any suggestions or advice?
I would try handlebars that bring your hands back in line, or slightly behind, the steering head. I think Davidd remarked on this problem. Just a thought from a non-racer and non-engineer; I have had three tank-slappers, though!

View attachment 16313


View attachment 16314



View attachment 16315
 

greg brillus

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I do wonder with some of these odd suspension issues that it is parts of the frame, forks that are flexing under those load conditions. Especially with modern tires being more sticky than the tires of yesteryear. I've seen pictures of close modern day racing of early 70's Honda four's and the like where on very hard cornering you can see the rear end bucking and weaving. To me this must be the rear swing arm flexing, and when I was racing the twin others would ask of the bike was bucking and weaving on the corners. I replied that "No it wasn't" and they replied "Oh well you can't be pushing it hard enough" but this would lead me to believe that parts of the bike are flexing enough to cause this issue. I had automatically assumed that the rear swing arm on a Triton or similar would flex quite readily when the bike is pushed hard, and that the rear frame on a Vincent would not suffer from this due to it's huge strength over a conventional swing arm which is quite weak by comparison. I know it is a front end wobble you are concerned about, but it can start at the rear unknowingly.
 

Mike 40M

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When I raced speedway, I found that the JAWA bikes was way better handling than the JAP-engined bike I rode before. On a practice, me and a friend changed bikes. His was way better behaving than mine. So two identical looking JAWA frames can differ much in handling. This was in the sixties, so I guess that the prewar frames can differ more in handling. A rigid frame is not (and shall not be) rigid. What matters is how much and in what directions it flexes.
 

chankly bore

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Try something simple first. Handlebars that bring your hands back to about the line of the steering head. I think Davidd mentioned this in another post. I had a mate who production raced a 750 Kawasaki triple in the 70's. He welded 10mm. square bar along the underside of the swingarms where the scrutineers couldn't see it. Improved the handling and the aroma of his leathers no end!
 

Bill Thomas

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Try something simple first. Handlebars that bring your hands back to about the line of the steering head. I think Davidd mentioned this in another post. I had a mate who production raced a 750 Kawasaki triple in the 70's. He welded 10mm. square bar along the underside of the swingarms where the scrutineers couldn't see it. Improved the handling and the aroma of his leathers no end!
Handle bars are funny things !, When I was having a bad time, I always liked short one's, Then thought I didn't have enough control, So I went to standard type, I remember Silverstone, It made it Worse !!, I found I was putting too much action into the bars, It made it a bit too nervous, Or was it me !!. Cheers Bill.
 

vibrac

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If you want to see flexing follow a ridged back end 650 Triumph sorted for racing round Cadwell, that is a sight to behold!
Note the rigid velo racers (MAC MSS & KSS_TT) varients often fitted external tubular braces from the front engine plates to the rear bolted assembly.
 
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