Two of a kind

On paper it’s often hard to separate the British 650cc twins of the late 1950s/early 1960s, but on the road they can be very different animals.

Words: PHIL TURNER Photographs: GARY CHAPMAN

The B1107 in Norfolk wouldn’t have been my first choice of road for my first ever outing on two of the finest examples of the British 650cc twin – narrow, bumpy, busy – but the rasp from the exhausts of Mathhew Hilton’s Super Rocket echoing off the Thetford Forest pines that stood either side of us, goaded me to keep pace. I started to wish I could hear what the Norton 650SS (also Matthew’s) I was on sounded like from behind…

The taut and tense Slimline Featherbed frame leaves the rider feeling ‘perched’ on it.

It didn’t take long for my mind to start wandering and wondering how many other Brit-twin pilots I was following in the wheel tracks of, and how many of them had earned their café-racer stripes on these bends.

There’s a fair chance some of those would’ve been earned on the Rocket and SS. Although both enjoyed only a brief time in their respective range spotlights – the 650SS quickly overshadowed by the Atlas, the BSA by the Rocket Gold Star – it can still be argued that both represented a high point in the development of the British 650cc twin; doubtless they were both much more affordable for the budding road-racers of the early 1960s, compared to their poster boy, headline-grabbing siblings too.

Read more in the April issue of TCM – out now!

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