The Bikes

1915 Model 16TT

Richard is piloting a 1915 Norton Model 16TT (Norton Code Name: Tourist), it is the twelfth oldest known running Norton.

He bought the bike in February 2015 from Joe Seifert of Norton Motors ( Initially the rare bike wasn’t for sale, but Joe was intrigued with Richard’s plans to ride it in the Cannonball Run, and kindly allowed him to purchase the Norton.

77 Angle

Restoration and race modification of the bike was performed by Big D Cycle, Dallas, Texas.

The 490cc single, 3 1/2 hp, 3 speed engine had a period top speed of 60+ mph in its racing versions. The three-speed Sturmey Archer transmission is unique to the 1915 year – and is selected with a hand gear change lever.  The carburettor lacks a needle which is fundamental to later carbs like the one found on the 16H models below. The operator has both air and fuel control levers on the bars – meaning it is the operator that determines both mixture and throttle.

The 16TT and 16H models rely on total loss oiling and splash lubrication.  The operator pushes a spring loaded syringe mechanism on the flat tank – which suctions oil from the tank and delivers it into the base of the crankcase where the crank splashes the oil over the internals.  The oil eventually vents into the primary chain case and the magneto chain drive.  There is a vernier control on the tank so that the rider can meter the oil delivery.

While it can be seen that the flat tanks vary considerably between the bikes – they are all internally compartmented with separate tanks for fuel and oil.

Improvements to the Tourist for the Cannonball Race include: modern rims and tires, a drum brake for the rear hub, L.E.D. lighting run by a battery in a small pannier bag, and an auxiliary fuel tank mounted behind the seat.

This 16TT has crossed the continent twice – in the 2016 and 2018 Cannonball Races – and will now attempt the north-south in 2021.

1923 and 1924 Norton Model 16H

Both the 1923 and 1924 16H models use the same engine as the 16TT – a 490cc side-valve. The transmission – while still a Sturmey Archer three-speed with hand change – is a different model. The gear ratios do differ somewhat between all the bikes.

The quickest way of distinguishing between the 16H bikes are their race plates – #115 is the 1923 and both #114 and #116 are 1924.  As is typical for this era – details and parts can differ e.g. handlebars, foot pegs, even the flat tanks.

All have modern rims and tyres, and LED lights and a modern era rear drum brake – a notable improvement to #115 and #116 which completed the 3,700 miles of the 2018 Cannonball with period brakes (that is to say, effectively none!).

In addition to the flat tanks – additional fuel is carried in an auxiliary tank on the rear carrier to increase the effective range. There is also a stowage box for spares and foul weather gear if needed.  As with the 16TT, the bikes were prepped by Keith, Ryan and Grady of Big D Cycle.


1923 16H – ridden by Chris
1924 16H ridden by Stewart
1924 16H ridden by Keith

PS – fun fact – people (on average) were a fair bit smaller when these bikes were built! The seat saddle frames are stamped with a weight advisory of 10-12 stone (14 pounds in a stone). Since these are all rigid framed motorcycles – the saddle is the only suspension apart from the forks. So the saddles were modified with double springs to prevent them from <ahem> bottoming out.

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