Coolest Sportbikes of the ’90s: Britten V1000

This is Britten No. 5 (serial No. P002) on display at “The Art of the Motorcycle” at the Guggenheim in Las Vegas, in the early ’90s.

That is Britten No. 5 (serial No. P002) on show at “The Artwork of the Motorbike” on the Guggenheim in Las Vegas, within the early ’90s. (Blake Conner/)

You didn’t severely assume we had been going to speak in regards to the coolest sportbikes of the ‘90s and never speak about maybe the one most wonderful sportbike of all time, did you? That’s a powerful assertion, to make certain, however nothing earlier than it and nothing since is as spectacular because the bike that John Britten designed and inbuilt his small New Zealand storage. I’ll stand by these phrases. The primary-gen V1000, and later second-gen V1000/V1100 had been rolling experiments on which Britten’s concepts, and sensible options to issues are seen for all to see within the last kind the bikes took. Apart from a number of components that he sourced, equivalent to brakes, pistons, transmission, and clutch, the remainder he constructed from scratch in his workshop, with a small group of craftsmen. He was really a once-in-a-generation sort of man.

In the June 1992 issue of <i>Cycle World</i>, Kevin Cameron penned this story on Britten’s effort at Daytona that year.

Within the June 1992 subject of <i>Cycle World</i>, Kevin Cameron penned this story on Britten’s effort at Daytona that 12 months. (Cycle World Archives/)

Britten informed Kevin Cameron in a June 1992 story in Cycle World that he likes to “work from first rules” somewhat than to develop the designs of others. This one assertion explains a lot about how the bikes he designed and constructed got here to be. In whole, 10 bikes had been constructed, six previous to Britten’s dying from most cancers in 1995 and 4 posthumously, as he had promised to construct that quantity at minimal.

So a lot of Britten’s selections had been based mostly on discovering options to the bike’s effectivity. In the beginning had been the bike’s aerodynamics. The 60-degree V-twin engine was chosen due to its slim width, whereas so most of the related elements had been designed or positioned to perform these targets. At all times additional searching for options, as soon as his first-generation bike was three years previous, Britten began pursuing enhancements.

Cameron picks it up right here: “However the place ought to his effort go? Into a brand new four-valve cylinder head? Or a five-valve? Or possibly he ought to develop a novel aerodynamic and cooling idea? Main-link forks him; he felt none seen to date was a lot good, and he wished to attempt concepts of his personal. And Marvic magnesium wheels are costly; maybe he may lower your expenses and take a look at some concepts by making his personal wheels—in carbon fiber.

The Britten V1000 would still be considered a radical design today, it was earthshaking in 1992.

The Britten V1000 would nonetheless be thought of a radical design at this time, it was earthshaking in 1992. (Cycle World Archives/)

“Any engineer could be proud to reach simply a type of developments. Certainly, most of these ideas are clearly an excessive amount of for total factories, whose output of innovation is intimately enchancment, not nice leaps ahead. John Britten determined to deal with all of them: two new cylinder-head designs, recent aerodynamics, the fork, and the wheels.”

Beginning with the aerodynamics, he had discovered by means of testing on a 20-mile lengthy, straight highway that his totally faired bike was slower than the earlier half-faired bike. Cameron continued: “Britten’s reply had two components. One, by eliminating the large decrease fairing, he would scale back the realm of the wake. Two, he would fill what wake there was with fast-moving air from two sources. The primary supply could be air passing between the rider’s calves and the slim engine-gearbox unit; the second supply could be radiator-exit air, delivered from a totally ducted cooling system.

“On account of this method, Britten’s new racebike is constructed like a torpedo atop a knife blade,” Cameron stated. “The torpedo is the windscreen, and entrance fairing, the rider’s physique behind it, and the tapering seat again behind that. Under is the blade, consisting of the entrance and rear tires, plus the slim engine. Small ‘boot fairings’ present protection for the rider’s ft.”

The Britten graced the cover of <i>Cycle World</i> in June of 1992, and has to be one of the most memorable covers of all time.

The Britten graced the quilt of <i>Cycle World</i> in June of 1992, and must be one of the vital memorable covers of all time. (Cycle World Archives/)

Inserting the bike’s radiator beneath the seat helped scale back the bike’s frontal space as he didn’t need the drag. Air was ducted by a pair of slits within the entrance fairing to the radiator after which out into the low-pressure zone within the bike’s wake. Regardless of being pretty small, the radiator stored engine temps round 176 levels.

One other space he was eager to discover had been the cylinder heads. “A significant supply of impaired consumption circulate in cylinders heads is the masking of valves because of their closeness to the cylinder partitions,” Cameron stated. “Britten determined to scrap the thought of symmetry in favor of transferring the consumption valves nearer to the roomy center of the cylinder. This pushed the exhausts, and the spark plug with them, nearer to the entrance wall. He selected a 99mm bore, partly as a result of he may simply receive a contemporary Omega three-ring piston of amazingly mild weight in that dimension, designed initially for the Judd V-10 System One auto racing engine.”

With a purpose to shorten growth time and because of his restricted sources, Britten constructed his personal cylinder-head buck and experimented on the circulate bench, increase the consumption after which exhaust ports in clay and adjusting till he obtained what he wished. As soon as happy he made castings, cleaned them up and, growth, he had 170 hp at 9,500 rpm on the dyno. Consumption tracts on every cylinder had been positioned dealing with the within of the Vee, in order that they may simply be fed by the airbox and throttle our bodies that had been positioned there. Which meant that exhaust ports had been dealing with ahead on the entrance cylinder and rearward on the again. For the reason that main exhaust tubes had been tapered and wanted to be of equal size, and there was no straightforward technique to fabricate them, every exhaust system took round 60 hours to construct. Therefore their pile of spaghetti look.

It takes a special type of person to take on a project on the scale of the V1000. For it to actually outperform the competition on racetracks around the world is nothing short of astonishing.

It takes a particular sort of particular person to tackle a challenge on the dimensions of the V1000. For it to truly outperform the competitors on racetracks all over the world is nothing wanting astonishing. (Cycle World Archives/)

There have been two engine variations to stick to racing guidelines: 985cc with 99 x 64mm bore and stroke dimensions, and 1,108cc with 99 x 72mm measurements. It had double overhead cams that had been belt pushed, whereas the compression ratio was 11.3:1, valves had been titanium, as had been the connecting rods. Induction was from a pair of sequential injectors for every cylinder (at a time when just a few super-rare manufacturing bikes featured EFI, just like the Honda NR750 and Yamaha GTS1000).

One other important enterprise was the suspension, and specifically the girder fork, as Cameron defined: “Britten selected the fundamental girder idea utilized by Fior and Hossack due to the flexibility of its geometry. A pair of main hyperlinks initiatives ahead from the entrance of the bike at steering-head peak, every with a ball joint at its ahead finish. Connected to the 2 ball joints is a girder, every of whose two legs clamps to an finish of the entrance wheel’s 47mm tubular-aluminum axle. Steering management is thru a scissors-link from the girder to a set of handlebars pivoted within the common location. For Britten, the massive query was, what geometry ought to he select? Fixed-wheelbase? Zero-dive? Anti-dive?

The Britten’s frameless chassis is still futuristic by today’s standards. The girder fork, carbon fiber swingarm, pushrod rear shock and its front placement, radical aerodynamics, and so on are to this day unlike anything else in existence on a single machine.

The Britten’s frameless chassis continues to be futuristic by at this time’s requirements. The girder fork, carbon fiber swingarm, pushrod rear shock and its entrance placement, radical aerodynamics, and so forth are to this present day in contrast to the rest in existence on a single machine. (Cycle World Archives/)

Ultimately, he determined to “reject all of those—for social causes,” Cameron added. “Riders are accustomed to the cues they get from standard forks which, among the braking drive serves to compress the fork. Britten subsequently made his girder fork initially pro-dive, identical to a telescopic fork. Within the final 1.6 inches of the overall 4.7 inches of front-wheel journey, this modifications to a considerably anti-dive habits.”

His first iteration of the carbon fiber fork failed on the bike’s maiden take a look at on the Ruapuna racetrack, sending take a look at rider Chris Haldane to the bottom with a damaged collarbone; this was simply eight weeks earlier than they meant to race at Daytona. His redesign was carried onto all of the remaining bikes and by no means failed once more. The carbon fiber swingarm was so forward of its time that solely in recent times have MotoGP groups began to undertake them.

Just like the bodywork, fork, and swingarm, which he crafted by increase a skeleton of aluminum welding wire held along with sizzling glue to create the form, then protecting it in foam to create the molds, he used the identical technique to make his personal carbon fiber wheels. As soon as he had created his prototype wheel, he took it and a manufacturing magnesium racing wheel to a testing heart, the place it was examined for deflection and energy. His first batch solely had 60 p.c of the deflection of the manufacturing wheel and handed the destruction checks with flying colours. He was then happy sufficient to make up 5 fronts and rears every.

It’s all about the details. There are literally so many amazing details to the V1000 that you could stand and stare all day.

It’s all in regards to the particulars. There are actually so many wonderful particulars to the V1000 that you could possibly stand and stare all day. (Tim White/)

Success might be measured in some ways, and for certain, the Brittens had achieved wonderful acclaim just by their existence. He had actually conceived and constructed issues that nobody had seen earlier than. Take into consideration just some of the unconventional options, like the truth that the bike didn’t have a standard body, the unconventional girder entrance finish, the carbon fiber wheels and bodywork, the rear shock that was positioned in entrance of the engine and actuated by an under-engine pushrod, the underseat radiator, an engine that he forged after which baked in his spouse Kirsteen’s pottery kiln then quenched with swimming pool water in a bucket, and most blatant was his consideration to aerodynamics like nobody had seen earlier than. This listing may go on and on. However keep in mind this was additionally the early ‘90s. It was radical. And it labored, fairly nicely.

The racer who will always be remembered for the Britten’s racing successes is New Zealander Andrew Stroud. Not only did Stroud win a lot of races on the V1000, he competed in 41 WSBK, 20 500 Grand Prix, and eight Suzuka 8 Hours races, among others.

The racer who will all the time be remembered for the Britten’s racing successes is New Zealander Andrew Stroud. Not solely did Stroud win plenty of races on the V1000, he competed in 41 WSBK, 20 500 Grand Prix, and eight Suzuka 8 Hours races, amongst others. (Cycle World Archives/)

If you happen to’re going to construct a racebike, nothing earns you kudos like on-track outcomes. From the very starting, the Britten was meant purely as a racebike, with little or no curiosity paid to the rest (he had scrapped the thought of supplying Bimota with engines). With solely a handful of bikes ever being constructed, it was the rarest of birds, however the bike achieved wonderful leads to the lessons it was eligible in. On the time, many of the worldwide lessons it was allowed into had been for twin-powered machines, like AHRMA Battle of the Twins, AMA SuperTwins, the British European American Racing and Supporters (BEARS) World Championship which Britten helped create, Professional Twins, the New Zealand Nationwide Superbike collection, and on the Isle of Man TT’s System One and Senior TT races.

Proper out of the gate, the bike raised some critical eyebrows. At Daytona in 1992 within the AMA SuperTwins race—after the crew stayed up all night time repairing a cracked cylinder, attributable to leaking coolant—fellow New Zealander Andrew Strowd rapidly moved from twelfth to battling Ducati-mounted Canadian Pascal Picotte on the manufacturing unit Quick by Ferracci Ducati for the lead, solely to have an incorrectly put in battery die with the end in sight. However regardless of the frustration, David had given Goliath a critical run. Through the race Stroud was pulling up alongside Picotte on the rear wheel and clearly had the quicker bike. Stroud informed Cycle Information’ Henny Ray Abrams after the race: “Just a few occasions down the straight I used to be solely three-quarters throttle. John’s fairly intelligent. A lot of the issues he does work.”

The March 22, 1995, issue of <i>Cycle News</i> documented Andrew Stroud’s win in the BEARS event, which he followed up with a second place in the AHRMA Battle of the Twins race, with <i>CW</i> contributor Nick Ienatsch hot on his heels in third.

The March 22, 1995, subject of <i>Cycle Information</i> documented Andrew Stroud’s win within the BEARS occasion, which he adopted up with a second place within the AHRMA Battle of the Twins race, with <i>CW</i> contributor Nick Ienatsch sizzling on his heels in third. (Cycle Information Archives/)

However from that time ahead, with fixed tinkering and growth, the bike began profitable races. After Stroud took a second-place end at Laguna Seca within the AMA SuperTwins race a number of months later (albeit 16 seconds arrears of Picotte), it went on to win a trio of races that 12 months in BEARS and Battle of the Twins competitors. The next 12 months the bikes mainly cleaned up within the NZ Grand Prix collection and took first and second within the New Zealand Nationwide Superbike Championship the next 12 months.

Britten’s first stab on the Isle of Man TT was in 1993 the place Shaun Harris rode the Cardinal Britten within the Senior TT. After electrical points in qualifying, Harris began approach again within the area, and finally had an oil-filter failure finish his race, however he did document the quickest prime velocity of the race at 164 mph. For the subsequent try, the next 12 months, Britten put collectively a star-studded lineup that included Nick Jefferies, and Mark Farmer on Roberto Crepaldi’s buyer Britten. However the try resulted in tragedy when Farmer was killed in follow on the ultra-quick Black Dub part.

With only 10 Brittens in existence, this pair includes the first customer bike (bike four) No. P001 that was originally purchased by Italian businessman Roberto Crepaldi.

With solely 10 Brittens in existence, this pair consists of the primary buyer bike (bike 4) No. P001 that was initially bought by Italian businessman Roberto Crepaldi. (Tim White/)

Nevertheless there have been successes in 1994 with extra wins and a bunch of land-speed information. However in ‘95, the 12 months John Britten succumbed to most cancers, the bike had arguably its most dominating season. Profitable the European Professional Twins race at Assen, then Stroud and teammate Stephen Briggs dominated the BEARS World Championship, ending one, two within the collection and profitable all however one race. You may watch the Manufacturers Hatch spherical right here. Stroud received the AHRMA Battle of the Twins at Daytona in 1994 (additionally recording the fastest-ever prime velocity by a motorbike on the speedway at 189 mph), after which once more 1995, 1996, and 1997. After John’s dying, the bikes continued to rack up wins. Eight extra wins each in ‘96 and ‘97, after which a pair extra to shut out the millennium.

If there’s one time period to explain John Britten and his bikes, it must be world beaters. The quantity of success that was achieved is really wonderful, particularly when you think about the entire innovation that was on show, and the truth that these improvements weren’t simply novel concepts however truly carried out on the highest degree attainable the place the bike competed. His free-thinking creativity will ceaselessly stay on within the machines that bear his title.

If you happen to’ve by no means seen a Britten in particular person, go to the Barber Classic Motorsport Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, the place Britten No. 7 (serial No. P004) resides. Or you too can go to the Solvang Motorbike Museum in Solvang, California, the place the ultimate and tenth Britten (serial No. P008) is on show.

1992–1995 Britten V1000/1100 Specs

MSRP: $100,000 (1992 Value for Buyer Bikes)
Engine: DOHC, liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin; 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement: 998cc / 1,108cc
Bore x Stroke: 99.0 x 64.0mm / 99.0 x 72.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Transmission/Remaining Drive: 5-speed/chain
Claimed Horsepower: 170.0 hp @ 9,500 rpm
Claimed Torque: N/A
Gas System: Sequential gas injection, 2 injectors/cyl.
Clutch: Dry clutch
Engine Administration/Ignition: Programmable engine administration
Body: Full harassed engine/frameless
Entrance Suspension: Double wishbone w/ girder w/ Öhlins shock
Rear Suspension: Carbon fiber swingarm w/ front-mounted, pushrod-actuated Öhlins shock
Entrance Brake: 4-piston Brembo calipers, twin 320mm cast-iron discs
Rear Brake: Brembo caliper, 220mm disc
Wheels, Entrance/Rear: carbon fiber; 17 x 3.5 in. / 17 x 6.0 in.
Rake/Path: Adjustable/adjustable
Wheelbase: 55.9 in.
Floor Clearance: N/A
Seat Top: N/A
Gas Capability: 6.3 gal.
Claimed Dry Weight: 304 lb.