British engineers have often led the world in dreaming up innovative engineering concepts and creations. The steam engine, television, jet aircraft, hovercraft and the light bulb (nope, it wasn’t Edison!) are just some of the many good ideas first conceived in Britain. But where Britain has often come off poorly is the commercial application of those ideas.
A good instance of this is the shameful way that, in its 1950s heyday, the British motorcycle industry ignored the achievements of R.E. Geeson, better known as Bob, in creating the world’s first multi-cylinder 250cc motorcycle, the REG 250 — and racing it successfully for more than a decade.
Geeson did so with zero support from industry fat cats who, selling every bike they could squeeze out of their antiquated production machinery in the face of huge postwar demand, scorned the benefits of racing motorcycles in terms of enhancing their products’ image, and especially improving the breed. Time, and the Japanese and Italians, would prove them very wrong, but in the meantime, Geeson plowed a lonely furrow, creating and developing the REG racer with his own hands, with his own resources, in his spare hours from a demanding full-time job.
British manufacturers sat back and watched the nation’s future world champion on two wheels and four, John Surtees, win race after race with the REG 250, still content to produce the same old pushrod rubbish for what they perceived as a captive audience — until Mr. Honda disabused them of that notion the hard way. MC
Order the September/October 2011 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the REG-250, including riding impressions by Alan Cathcart. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.