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BAT No. 2 Classic Bike

1913 BAT classic bike1913 BAT vintage bike1913 BAT JAP engine

Among the early British pioneers, Bat was perhaps the first to make a serious effort to exploit the publicity available from racing and record-breaking. But their impact was much deeper than this, for the firm produced some of the most technically sophisticated bikes of the era, setting standards that others were soon to follow.

The company, based in Penge, South London, was founded in 1902 by a Mr Batson, after whom the bikes were named. The company's Model No. 1 was built using a 2 3/4hp De Dion engine and although it was basically a sound product, poor sales resulted in the founder selling the company within two years to Theodore Tessier, a very able rider. From the outset, Bat motorcycles showed their maker's desire to advance the state of motorcycle engineering, dispensing with the pedalling gear, fitting a clutch and patenting a fully sprung suspension system. The saddle and footrests were carried on the subframe, which was also suspended on springs.

Sales began to boom after Tessier took over, partly because of the quality of the products but also because Tessier was a skilled publicist. Launching a single cylinder 3 1/2hp model in his first year, he set about racking up a score of over two hundred wins and speed records. V-twin bikes using engines supplied by the Tottenham firm JAP followed with 650, 770, 964 and 980cc engines also fitted. Tessier rode a Bat in the very first Isle of Man TT in 1907 and although it failed to place, the next year's Bat entrant W H Bashall took a second in the twin-cylinder class. Bashall also scored the lap record of 42.25mph. Two years later, in 1910, H H Bowen upped this to 53.15mph - but although Bats were regularly entered prior to World War I, this would be the last time they entered the TT record book. Reliability was probably their great weakness for they were technically very competent and of proven high performance.

The year 1911 saw the introduction of the mountain section at the TT, in response to which manufacturers, including Bat, offered a two-speed bike as an alternative to the direct belt drive used previously. Both systems were then used in parallel for two years.

By 1913, Bat machines had become more conventional. The spring frame was dispensed with and models had a combination of gearbox and belt drive to the rear wheel. World War I then intervened and contrived to dent Bat's fortunes over some machines supplied to the Russian army, for which they were never paid. This left Bat in a poor position to fully exploit the post-war demand for cheap motorcycle transport.

Even so, Bat were in a much better position than the fledgling Martinsyde company, which built its first bikes in 1919, but foundered in 1923. Bat took over the company and started to sell Bat-Martinsydes for the next three years. Finally, underfunded and in the face of too much competition, Bat itself succembed to the inevitable in 1926, after almost 25 years in which they helped to establish the motorcycle in its modern-day form.

Bat No, 2 (1913)

  • Engine - V-twin side-valve four-stroke
  • Bore and Stroke - 72 x 78mm
  • Capacity - 770cc
  • Compression ratio - 5.5:1
  • Top speed - 75mph