Bikes & Customs: Profiles

2019 Speed Twin: Keeping tradition alive

Two generations hail Brooklands icon’s modern-day ride

“My Dad would have been fascinated by the new Speed Twin. He still would have looked for ways to improve it, but I think even he may have struggled.”

This are the words of Mike Wicksteed, eight decades after his father Ivan lapped the Brooklands circuit at 118.02mph on the modern-day bike’s ancestor. And five minutes after his first outing on the 2019 model.

Mike, who also owns a 1956 500cc Triumph Tiger 100, admits the new Speed Twin is a far cry from the Triumphs he grew up around in Ivan’s workshop.

Mike Wicksteed, son of record breaker Ivan, at the launch of the new Speed Twin

A rare breed

“The 500c twin cylinder bike he modified had no front brake, a very ineffectual rear drum brake, no rear suspension, girder front forks with less than two inches travel. According to Dad, the track was as rough as hell, so to hit the kind of speeds he did was incredible,” he says: “He and his like were a very rare breed who were always competitive and always trying to push the boundaries like Triumph still does today.”

Incredible courage

At the launch of the Factory Visitor Experience Speed Twin Legends Exhibition, Mike was given the immense privilege of riding the recently restored record-breaking original bike. He says the difference between the two is enormous… but insists the DNA is still there.

Ivan Wicksteed on Titch Allen’s replica Speed Twin in 1985

Mike was also lucky enough to ride the original replica bike built by Titch Allen and his son Roger in several ‘demonstration’ rides at Mallory Park: “The brakes were virtually non-existent with very narrow bars and negligible suspension, it was a real fight to get it round the circuit, a million miles from today’s bike. My father and his peers must have been unbelievably courageous because they frequently ignored advice from the specialists of the time in that insatiable quest for speed,” he says.

Mike with his son Ben test riding the new 2019 Speed Twin

A leap of faith

Mike was joined on the test ride into history past by his son. Ben is a fellow engineer and is also a engine design manager with Land Rover Jaguar. He recalls long childhood conversations with his grandad about the fundamentals of engineering.

“He was fascinating to listen to,  he told me how improving performance used to be all about trial and error. It was a leap of faith and very time-consuming. Each adjustment required a day’s trip down to Brooklands to test its effectiveness. He obviously had a hunch for what would work and what wouldn’t.”

Ivan’s achievements are immortalised on the Avenue of Legends

No stopping them

Development hurdles for Ivan and his partner Marius Winslow included scrapped cylinder heads, piston seizures and broken cylinder base. Not to mention being snubbed by the-then Triumph Managing Director Edward Turner when they asked him for the company’s radical 500cc vertical twin to use at Brooklands.

Winslow then bought the bike and financed the project himself and the rest is, well you know…

Mike adds: “The next year after they broke the record, Triumph offered all the help that was needed and took out adverts in the newspapers congratulating them for their magnificent achievement. I’ve still got copies of the papers at home.

David at the Triumph Factory Visitor Experience

“Because of the big part Triumph has played in our lives as a family, getting on the new bike definitely feels very nostalgic for me. It’s the polar opposite of Dad’s bike, with rider modes, superb counterbalance and suspension he could have only dreamed of.”

The Speed Twin’s DNA lives on…

Breaking records and pushing the limits was a serious business for Ivan Wicksteed. His passion for speed started at 14 and saw him first race at Brooklands aged 18 after requesting the day off school for a dental appointment.

Mike adds: “The new Speed Twin bike is fun and designed deliberately to be retro looking. I’m thrilled the team made sure the DNA lives on.