Wednesday, January 15, 2014

1925 Rudge 500 4 valve 4 speed

A big thank you to Gary for volunteering a ride on his 1925 Rudge Four Valve Four Speed. The bike is in fine working order and in very original condition including the correct Senspray carb and ML Maglita combined lighting and ignition set. The Maglita carries a somewhat negative reputation. Though the Rudge was a willing starter Gary reports that if used in conjunction with lights spark quality diminishes hugely so currently the lights are wired through a battery only with no charging and the Maglita is left to concentrate on keeping the engine alive.

Controls on the Rudge are conventional for a vintage mount with throttle and air levers on the right and ignition timing on the left. As is the vintage style the rear brake pedal is on the right rather than left. Originally the front and rear brakes were coupled, an idea pioneered by Rudge and taken up shortly after by BSA amongst others. More recently the system was championed by Moto Guzzi. All reports I've heard of coupled brakes are that they work well however almost every machine I've seen with them as original equipment has had the coupling detached. Perhaps folks just like to keep that extra level of control..

1925 500cc Rudge Four Valve Four Speed.

On the subject of brakes the Rudge has an unusual system. They are essentially 'dummy rim' brakes but in this case the braking surface is an extension of the rim. The rims are quite unique and would be a pig to replace on a restoration project missing them. Gary reports that the brakes are nigh on useless but I found them to be pretty good compared to most bikes I've ridden of the same era or earlier. They're certainly better than most dummy rim jobs. There's plenty of engine braking available too, use both brakes together along with engine braking and you come to a stop soon enough. Like all similar systems though they're liable to be feeble in the wet.

Rudge Sports engine detail.

The Rudge starts willingly enough and soon settles down to a nice slow beat. It is clear from the sound that this isn't the flying machine that later Ulsters are but a sophisticated gentleman's sporting tourer of the day. Despite the four valve four speed technology the bike didn't match the competition success of the earlier Multis and later Ulsters. On the road the bike has plenty of power, the large flywheels are very evident and a few vibes are passed on through the footboards. It is easy enough to settle down to a comfortable 40 to 45 mph cruising speed. At these sorts of speeds it feels like plenty is in reserve but in this case I'm riding someone else's bike and what's the point anyway? The Rudge mixes the sophistication of its four speed box and four valves with the vintage charm of footboards and open valves and pushrods. Overall a beautiful bike and one of the finest of its day. Very few of these flat tank Rudges are out and about on the road so a great privilege to have a go on one and thanks again Gary.

1925 Rudge Sports, Maglita ignition and unusual front rim visible.


  1. They are wonderful bikes. I've left the coupled brakes attached on mine, and haven't found any need to de-couple them. Stepping on the brake pedal has so little effect on the front (or the rear!) brake that I don't consider it a problem to have them linked. Luckily my left foot isn't too busy, as it ends up dragging on the tarmac sometimes! :)

  2. Hi, Not sure if this forum can help but I'll give it a try :-). Did Rudge use the same camshaft from 1925 into the 30's on their 500cc 4-valve's? Many thanks, Lennart