PAGE 7. 1955 Norman Cyclemate
1955 NORMAN CYCLEMATE – the ‘mutt’ of the litter:
Many collectors hunt down the most successful racing machinery to give them pride of place in a centrally heated garage where they appreciate in value by the hour. That’s definitely not me. My storage facilities are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and what I like about the Cyclemate is that it was an abject failure in its day.
In 1954, in conjunction with Norman Motorcycles of Ashford, Kent, EMI Industries (the company behind Cyclemaster Ltd) unleashed the Cyclemate upon an unsuspecting world. The purpose-built Norman bicycle frame carried a slightly modified 32cc Cyclemaster engine in the traditional moped engine-mounting position.
Norman had a good reputation in the cycle industry, and had already produced a range of motorized two-wheelers, including the quite successful Norman Autocycle and several motorcycles.
However, in this most fiercely contested area of the 2-wheel market – under 50cc – cyclemotors had at last given way to mopeds. Completely new pressed-steel frames were now introduced on many models, with a choice of colours – and they even had gears!
…Whereas the Cyclemate was still a glorified bicycle, its only concession to ‘bodywork’ being an engine cover on one side. Even worse for Cyclemate sales – while mopeds used 50cc engines, the Cyclemate retained the 32cc Cyclemaster engine. It plodded along way behind the pack.
There’s nothing wrong the the Cyclemaster engine of course; it was a superb invention, and the convenience of an engine within a wheel that you could install into any bicycle was a stroke of brilliance. However, that same engine re-positioned and permanently fixed into a bicycle with pretensions of being a moped was a mistake. And not only was it underpowered, it was unreliable too.
Even its claim to be ‘the first all-British moped’ was contested – by the Her-cu-Motor, launched in the same year. See the photo above of my 1954 Hercules Grey Wolf, the first model of the Hercules Her-cu-Motor, a superbly styled machine powered by the impressive JAP engine (in due course, I’ll feature the Her-cu-Motor in http://www.Under50.cc). It gives you an idea of the kind of competition that the Cyclemate was up against.
So, from market dominance at the beginning of the 1950’s with the radical new German-designed Cyclemaster, within 5 years Cyclemaster Ltd was clutching at straws, and in 1955 they split from EMI, were sold to Britax in 1960, and by 1961 were finished. The Cyclemate was one of the final nails in the coffin. (The Britax Piatti Scooter totally guaranteed the demise of the company).
With a pedigree like that, no wonder it’s unusual to find a Norman Cyclemate like this one – on the road and running! We cyclemotor enthusiasts are a perverse bunch – particularly attracted to machines that defy the laws of nature – ie the motorcycle market – to become the ‘mutts’ of the litter.
Long live the underdog!
Like other cyclemotors in my collection that never had the opportunity to be fully developed and design faults corrected, this Norman Cyclemate will always be welcome at my house.