A friend (thanks Pete!) forwarded an email from a collector in Australia who needed to lighten his garage a bit; mostly he had pre-1916 bikes which needed vast amounts of work to finish or complete. But, nestled amongst the Veteran Triumphs and Rudges was a proper Vintage (pre-1930 according to the VMCC) Rudge, which looked most intriguing. Of course, this was the bike he really didn’t want to sell, but it attracted the most interest (it seems to be harder to sell the really old motorcycles nowadays, and the older collectors are passing on). I put in my bid, and the Rudge is headed to San Francisco.

The 1929 Rudge Ulster that caught my eye in a collection of vintage bikes housed in an Australian shed. [Paul d’Orleans]

The bike in question is a 1929 Rudge Ulster, their pukka Racing Replica, and a faithful copy of Graham Walker’s 1928 Rudge factory racer on which he won the Ulster TT at a ‘world’s first’ road race average of 80mph. The factory wisely sought to capitalize on Graham’s success by building a racer for sale, and the infamous Ulster model was born.  Rudge carried on building Ulsters as their top-line motorcycle until they ceased building bikes at the onset of WW2, and like many a soldier, did not return after.  The company did carry on though, but preferred to sell their wheel technology to automotive and motorcycle manufacturers, as they’d invented the splined knock-off wheel hub and the flanged aluminum rim for two and four wheels.  Ever notice those Rudge wheels on a Mercedes Gull-Wing 300SL?  Also, Borrani licensed the Rudge patent for flanged aluminum wheel rims, the first in the industry, introduced in the mid-1930s for both cars and motorcycles.

Graham Walker’s Ulster TT winning machine, on display at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, England. It was the first motorcycle to average 80mph in a road race, and began a period of Rudge dominance in GP and TT racing. [NMM]

The first-year Rudge Ulster (1929) was a unique beast, and was essentially a one-year model. The 500cc single-cylinder pushrod engine had 4 valves and 33hp, and a four-speed gearbox, while the rest of the industry still contended with 3-speed boxes.  Top speed was 105mph on an open exhaust pipe. The engine had a total-loss oiling system, meaning it had no oil pump per se, but rather an oil metering device, and the oil was allowed to burn off/drip out rather than being returned hot to the engine. ‘A constant supply of clean oil’ was the thought, but properly circulating oil really helps keep an engine cooler! There are other features of the bike which are unique to the year, such as the twin-filler gas and oil tanks and large diameter wheel rims (21″ and 20″ front and rear); the 8″ drum brakes were the biggest in the motorcycle industry for many years.

Graham Walker’s Rudge as spotted tacked to the shed wall, from a very old issue of The Classic Motorcycle. [Paul d’Orleans]

Regarding the poster of Graham Walker’s machine; the owner has it attached to his garage wall – a pinup! Let’s hope the Ulster looks as good as the calendar girl when it arrives in the USA.

The 1929 Rudge Ulster that caught my eye in a collection of vintage bikes housed in an Australian shed. [Paul d’Orleans]


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.

artoftime said…
Paul – it was such a pleasure to see your name over at the Sartorialist – I bought your 900GTS in something like 1990 – never forgot how cool you and Denise(?) were – rode the wheels off that bike, sold it, traded it back for a painting and now just looking it in mock up state. Don’t quite know where to go with it…anyway, now into vintage cars and a painting career. Would love to catch up – you even in NYC?
Gregory Johnston
APRIL 01, 2007

vintagent said…
Hi Gregory, can’t contact you via your artoftime handle for some reason; send me your email address! I was just in NYC, but will be back likely in early June. Send to vintagent1@aol.com
I was just thinking about ‘ARTMS’ when I was in NY actually, must have been psychic. What a great bike. If you want to sell it back, let me know. P
APRIL 11, 2007

Anonymous said…
Wonderful article, I own and ride a Rudge Special 500 1937. The bike is new to me, however, my father had a Rudge in his youth. I love vintage cars and motorcycles. Would you be able to recommend a source to acquire an owners manual and spare parts list?


George Murphy

Mar 27 2007

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