“A vintage motorbike that only an engineer should own”, is how one British magazine described the Velocette Venom. I don’t why he said that because the Velocette isn’t all that complicated, yeah its your typical British single…finnicky, requires very regular service (the old addage of ‘ride it for one day, work on it for two’ comes into play here) and parts aren’t all that easy to come by. Owning a motorcycle like the Velocette is truly love…or insanity, perhaps both.
In 1905 Veloce Ltd built its first motorbike then in 1913 built its first 250cc two stroke and called it the Velocette (‘Little Velo’) and the name stuck.
In the late 1950’s while other British bike builders were concentrating on twin cylinder bikes, Velocette continued developing the single, and why not? They could build a single that was as fast as many twins, handled better, lighter weight, cheaper to build and sell and for the owner, easier to maintain.
The Venom put out around 34 horsepower which was quite respectable at the time and just squeek over ‘the ton’, as a matter of fact, in 1961 a Venom set a world record of averaging over 100mph (just over) for a full twenty four hours. That record has yet to be broken for a motorcycle of its size.
Capitalizing on the Venom’s success in club racing, Velocette developed a higher performance version, the Thruxton. They also built an off-road model the ‘Scrambler’ which was mainly aimed at the U.S market. The Thruxton featured a full race designed head, a different carb and valve arrangement. The Thruxton is probably the motorbike people think of when they hear the name Velocette, but it was the Venom that was actually the backbone of the Velocette company.
The Venom was built from 1955 until 1970 and Velocette closed it’s doors in 1971. The days of the single cylinder bike were over. Velocette hung in there and built their singles long after every other manufacturer had moved on. Today a Velocette is one of the most treasured motorcycles to have. I found a really nice 1961 model on ebay this morning that would take so little to get it roadworthy.
The Venom I found is in really nice condition, it shows it’s age but in a very graceful way. This is a bike that is not a museum or ‘collection’ piece, it is a rider. The motor was rebuilt a few years ago but has hardly been ridden since then, it needs new tyres and it’s got a typical oil drip under the primary cover (what do you expect…it’s English?!). There are a couple of really cool things I love about the Velocette, first is the ‘fishtail’ muffler…how can you not dig that!!?? and the other thing is how to adjust the rear suspension, you loosen the top bolt and then slide the shock up or down along the curved mounting bracket, so simple and so effective. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. It ain’t cheap but it’s also not out of the ballpark of reality.