’72 Rickman Metisse
What do you do when you wish your motorcycle handled better? Most of us throw on some new shocks, rework the front forks, different tires, maybe try some different handlebars. Some riders go a bit further and modify the frame, make it lighter or change the geometry. All these ideas work well, but if you’re a couple of brothers in England, not well enough.
I can see it now, the Rickman brothers sitting in the pub after a day of motocross racing complaining about how their BSA’s handled. Over a couple of pints they work out some new modifications, then over a couple more pints, new ideas come out. While delivering the fourth or fifth round of pints, the barmaid politely tells the brothers that she is sick and tired of every weekend listening to them bitch about their motorcycles, ” Why don’t you just shut up and build your own?” Everybody in the pub gave the young lady a round of applause, including the Rickmans.
In 1960 the first of the Rickman frames hit the market with immediate success, both on the track and in sales. Everyone saw how beautiful they were, the design features and…they worked!!! Here’s a few interesting things about the Rickman frames. The brothers knew it had to stand out so nickel plating the frames made sure everyone knew you had a Rickman. Next, function…Rickman frames put the engine oil in the frame. Why? For a couple of reasons; lighter overall weight and oil cooling. Your motorcycle handles better and runs longer…both good things in a scrambles race. The main benefit to having a Rickman framed bike was handling, the improvement over a stock framed motorcycle was amazing. I was lucky enough to, one time and one time only, hop off a stock framed Triumph desert sled in the middle of a race, and onto a Rickman framed Triumph ‘not a sled‘. Within one mile I started having delusions of granduer, I was transformed into Steve McQueen gliding across the Mojave as if I were in a movie.
There is a lot more to the Rickman story than I can put here. Companies that wouldn’t sell them motors so they could sell complete motorcycles, the addition of road bikes and the transition to roadracing, innovations like being the first builders to put disc brakes on a street bike (a Rickman framed Triumph Bonneville) in a joint project with Lockheed, their stunningly beautiful fibreglass work…what they did is truly timeless.
There is so much to write about the Rickman’s but, this is all about a 1972 Rickman Montessa I found on ebay today that needs your love. It’s a nice bike that has one big flaw…the Montessa 250 engine doesn’t turn over. Damn. Actually, that’s not a big deal, two stokes are easy to rebuild and don’t cost all that much to get you back on the track. This particular bike looks to me like a good vintage racer and not a museum piece. I’m not a fan of garage queens or museum pieces anyway. Buy this great bike, get the motor going, ride it in vintage events and you will have spent your money well. Click on the pics for more about this very cool vintage racer. I don’t know what the reserve price is on this bike, but if it’s anywhere in the real world, this is a good buy.
And, the last thing here..extra bonus points if you know what the word ‘metisse’ means…it’s Gallic for ‘mongrel’…I think that describes the brothers and their motorcycles quite well.