At first glance it's obvious that the 1949 Velocette KTT is one of the most unique motorcycles ever made. Even compared to the standards of the late 1940s and early 1950s, it doesn't even remotely look like anything else that was available at the time. As a matter of fact, you're probably going to think that it looks more like a racing bike than anything else as soon as you lay eyes on it. There's a good reason for this. The bike was indeed tested and proven on British race tracks for years and the version that was sold to the public was very similar to the racing version. As a matter of fact, it was almost impossible to tell the difference between the two by looks alone, unless you were fortunate enough to find one that still had the number plates attached to it specifically for racing purposes.
Remembering a Bike With Major Personality
There are a lot of different reasons that people fondly remember this bike, not the least of which includes the fact that it had some serious personality (in all the best ways possible). For starters, it had a massive engine that was more than capable of outrunning the competition, whether on the racetrack or on the street. It also incorporated a unique rear suspension that actually allowed the rear fork to move in concert with the shocks. The end result was a bike that was heavier in weight, but far more responsive in terms of control. As it turns out, it didn't just make the bike easier to control, either. It also made it more comfortable to ride while simultaneously making it more responsive to the rider’s input. All of that translated to better performance. As opposed to being forced to manhandle the bike in order to get it to go where the rider wanted it to go, it was very easy to simply point the front wheels in the desired direction and allow the rest of the bike to follow through on its own. Thanks to the fact that the rear suspension could move in multiple directions, potholes and other types of bumps were no big deal. Since the bike was capable of keeping better contact between the road and the tires, it was capable of outperforming just about anything else available at the time. This was a fact that remained true even with the added weight of the engine.
A lot has been discussed about the fact that the engine was bigger than most of the power plants available at the time. More specifically, the bike incorporated a 348 cc single-cylinder, four-stroke engine that was capable of producing 27 horsepower at 6500 RPM. Fuel was delivered to the engine through an overhead cam and the entire engine was married to a 4-speed manual transmission that helped deliver its immense power to the tires in the most efficient manner possible. This setup was impressive enough in its own right, there is no doubt about that. When you consider the fact that the engine and transmission were complimented by massively large front and rear drum brakes, it quickly became apparent that this bike was not created to take second place. It was also obvious that it was designed to be a top contender in racing from the very beginning. Like so many other motorcycles before and after this one, it was designed to succeed on the track first. The version that could be purchased by the public would come only slightly later. As previously mentioned, it would also be an almost exact replica of the racing version, something that was quite rare at the time. All things considered, it’s easy to understand why so many people immediately fell in love with this motorcycle. It was powerful, graceful and easy to maneuver at a time when such a combination was almost unheard of. Thanks to those enormous brakes, it was also capable of stopping at a moment’s notice. Virtually every motorcycle rider will tell you that stopping power is just as important as horsepower, as it doesn’t matter if you can go fast if you can’t stop when you need to. During the 1940s, motorcycles that had speed didn't tend to handle well at all. The overwhelming majority of them didn't stop worth a flip, either. Then came the Velocette KTT and all of that changed in an instant. As a result, both racers and everyday riders fell in love with the bike. Those feelings are still valid today, even all these years later.
A Collector’s Dream
These days, the bike is often seen in a very different environment from the one it dominated during the 1940s and 50s. Travel to a show dedicated to classic motorcycles and you’re likely to find at least a few good examples. As a matter of fact, the career of this particular motorcycle has been rejuvenated in this arena because it has become the epitome of many classic motorcycle collections throughout the world. There aren’t loads of them left, but when you find one, you can almost bet that it will be in pristine condition as if it has been lovingly doted on since the day it rolled off the manufacturer’s assembly line. Anyone who is fortunate enough to get their hands on one will undoubtedly be the envy of practically everyone else. The classic lines of this bike were impressive back in the 1940s and they are still just as impressive to this very day. When you look at it, it’s easy to envision it tearing around a race course somewhere in Europe as it eats up the competition. As it happens, it’s still outperforming the competition, albeit in a newfound way. Thanks to the collectors who maintain the remaining examples, everyone still has an opportunity to enjoy this magnificent feat of engineering for the piece of art that it truly is.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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