Top 9 British Motorcycle Brands

British Motorcycle Brands

In the eyes of motorcycling aficionados, the ideal motorcycle strikes a balance between performance and aesthetics.


Due to their dominance in racing and performance during their prime and ability to capture the mystery of the outsider, British motorcycle brands from the middle of the 20th century are seen by many as the epitome of polished power and flair. 

Also, the reckless rider’s seductive image was everywhere, from the legendary Isle of Man TT race to the rocker subculture’s café racers, who rode fast, bare-bones bikes.

Many of these motorcycles are in great demand today because of their effect on contemporary design. Therefore, we shall analyze various British motorcycle brands in this article:

1. Triumph

One of the most well-known British motorcycle brands is undoubtedly Triumph. Triumph was founded in 1902 and enjoyed unparalleled success in the 1950s and 1960s before seeing a decline (together with the rest of the British motorcycle industry) in the 1970s.

The Meriden factory ultimately shut its doors in 1983, but builder John Bloor purchased the brand and brought it back in the 1990s with various brand-new motorcycles.

The rest, as they say, is history, and Triumph, which has factories in Hinckley, Leicestershire, and Chonburi, Thailand, is by far the largest manufacturer in the nation.

Around 2000 people work for the firm, which produces slightly under 70,000 bikes a year, including recognizable models like the Speed Triple, Bonneville, and Rocket 3.

2. Norton

On our list of British motorcycle brands, Norton sits immediately after Triumph. With models like the Commando and Dominator, the Birmingham business was a key rival to Triumph during the heyday of the British motorcycle industry.

It was also a prominent player in the world of racing, enjoying success in the first 500cc Grand Prix season and at the Isle of Man TT.

The 1970s were a difficult decade for both Triumph and Norton. The two businesses briefly shared membership in the NVT (Norton Villiers Triumph) group, which was established by the government of the day to try to salvage the industry. As a result of such failure, the firm was dissolved in the middle of the 1970s.

Norton discovered itself in disarray. Despite racing success at the Isle of Man TT and in the British Superbike Championship, a rotary engine comeback in the 1980s proved a failure.

After some time under American hands, businessman and Norton aficionado Stuart Garner brought the brand home and established the business at Leicestershire’s Donington Park.

Today, Garner’s firm has brought back a number of the iconic nameplates that once adorned vintage-style bikes and even debuted a 1200cc V4 superbike.

Garner exhibits a great desire for the brand even though the firm continues to be exclusive, with tiny manufacturing runs and lengthy bike waiting times.

3. Metisse

Don and Derek Rickman built the world-beating Rickman Metisse motocrosser using British auxiliary engines. It was never a volume, mainstream brand Metisse, or even properly speaking.

In 1980, Rickman, who also manufactured fairings, luggage, and other items, stopped producing the Metisse, the rights were transferred, and production for historic racers went on. 

Today, spurred on even more by Gerry Lisi, Metisse produces frames, accessories, and a complete tribute vehicle called the Steve McQueen Desert Racer based on the vehicle the actor raced in 1966 and 1967, as well as an all-new 997cc twin cylinder cafe racer that was first unveiled in 2011 but has not yet been put into production.

4. Royal Enfield

With the capacity to produce over a million bikes annually, Royal Enfield is by far the largest of our five British brands and one of the largest bike brands worldwide.

Today, Enfield is mostly an Indian brand, yet its origins are firmly rooted in Britain. In Redditch, Worcestershire, the business produced its first bicycle, and in Madras, India, in 1955, the Royal Enfield Bullet was produced for the first time in India.

Due to its strength, dependability, and simplicity of maintenance, the Bullet enjoyed enormous popularity in India. Enfield manufacture remained in Madras even after the UK company went out of business in the 1970s.

Millions of Bullets have been produced and sold worldwide, and although the present Royal Enfield is mostly an Indian business, the name is still a well-known British one.

Royal Enfield recently relocated back to the UK and opened an R&D facility at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire. A new generation of Royal Enfield machines is being developed at the center, mostly manned by British engineers.

With straightforward air-cooled engines and classic styling, these motorcycles maintain their original look while solidly constructed and reliable.

With new models and a stronger dealer network, the Royal Enfield lineup is growing in the tradition of those renowned 1950s classic British motorcycle brands.

5. Matchless

The Plumstead-based company, formerly one of the top British motorcycle brands and a key component of the large AMC enterprise, basically went out of business in 1966 (although Les Harris did make a short-lived, Rotax-powered “Matchless G80” in 1987; see Triumph).

The Italian Malenotti family, who had previously revived then sold the British Belstaff clothing line, bought the rights to the brand in 2012. 

Then Matchless was reintroduced as a similar apparel line that Kate Moss was known for modeling. Model X Reloaded, the first brand-new Matchless motorcycle, was introduced in November 2014 and was modeled by the original Model X created 80 years earlier.

6. Brough Superior

When it comes to British motorcycle brands, Brough Superior is the one to choose if you’re a motorcycle aficionado between the wars.

Brough Superior, which George Brough founded in Nottingham in 1919, took delight in being known as “the Rolls Royce of Motorcycles.”

Brough Higher was a distinct firm founded by George to provide superior quality, high-performance bikes for the ultra-wealthy. George’s father, William, produced Brough Motorcycles.

Lawrence of Arabia is known for using the Brough Superior; nevertheless, he tragically perished in 1935 after colliding with his vehicle.

The SS100, the most well-known type, earned its moniker for having a peak speed of 100 mph, although all Brough Superiors were quite pricey.

Before manufacturing on the Brough Superior was halted in 1940 because of World War Two, just over 3000 were produced.

After the war, production was never restarted, which in many ways added to the brand’s mystique. When Mark Upham, a skilled Brough Superior restoration, unveiled a contemporary SS100 in 2013, the brand was reborn (pictured).

The present machine, which costs £60,000 new, is exotic and uncommon, just like George Brough’s original.

7. Francis Barnett

Another one of the British motorcycle brands, “Franny-B ” gained notoriety for its light, inexpensive commuters built around Villiers and later AMC two-stroke engines.

The company was started in Coventry in 1919 by Gordon Inglesby Francis and Arthur Barnett. After being acquired by Associated Motor Cycles (see Matchless) in 1947, the company continued to operate until 1966.

Also, they produced vehicles with bird-related names such as the Falcon, Hawk, Plover, and Snipe. A new firm providing two motorcycles, the trials-style Merlin and the retro-roadster Kestral, based on the Chinese-built HMC Classic, was formed in 2015 after Coventry engineer and bike enthusiast Andy Longfield purchased the rights to the moniker in 2011.

8. BSA

Many great British motorcycle brands have faded into obscurity. Three come to mind right away. Ariel (revived in more recent years with a selection of gorgeous Honda VFR1200 powered models), Matchless, and Vincent. BSA has long stood out as one of the most important brands we have in the world.

Birmingham Small Arms is the company’s name. The main firm first produced weapons before expanding into the manufacture of bicycles, motorcycles, and even vehicles.

The BSA Gold Star, one of the most well-known racing motorcycles ever, made the firm renowned. It was a prominent player in road racing and off-road scrambling.

With over 250,000 units produced, the BSA Bantam commuter bike’s tiny capacity was one of the most well-liked models available. 

In truth, Triumph bought BSA in 1951, and the united company at the time was the largest. In the turbulent 1970s, BSA struggled and ultimately went out of business, like so many other iconic British bike firms.

Despite the debut of the BSA Rocket 3 superbike in 1968, the British industry’s heyday had passed, and the manufacture of the brand’s products ended in 1978.

The company had been incorporated into the government-sponsored Norton Villiers Triumph conglomerate. 

Although the brand has been largely dormant for more than 40 years, new owners did briefly produce a range of BSA mopeds in the early 1980s.

However, Mahindra, a large Indian company that currently owns the rights to the name, has hinted that the name may return at some point in the not too distant future.


Hesketh Motorcycles was first established in 1980 by the flamboyant Lord Hesketh at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire.

This replaces the vacuum of the F1 racing team made famous by James Hunt. It is possible that Hesketh Motorcycles has a shorter history than some of the other British motorcycle brands. 

Even though the V1000 had attractive aesthetics, bad reviews and engineering issues caused the company to collapse twice after only producing 139 of them.

Since 1984, Mick Broom of Broom Engineering has maintained the marque. In 2010, he sold it to Paul Sleeman. Hesketh Motorcycles relocated to Redhill, Surrey.

In 2014, its first brand-new handcrafted motorcycle, the “24,” was modeled after Hunt’s F1 vehicle and powered by an American S&S V-twin.


The British automotive sector is heavily influenced by motorcycles. A tangle of acronyms, gentlemen’s agreements, and arrangements that saw brands combine and support one another more frequently than they could create a new model make up the history of brands and models.

This list of British motorcycle brands may be useful if you’re researching or are simply interested in the different motorcycle brands.

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