From the Archive: Not just tiddlers

Arianne Davey
December 14, 2021

This photograph, which is marked having been taken in August 1921, shows James was not ‘just’ a small bike manufacturer. Seen at the Spa racetrack in Belgium some 28 years before the track held its first Grand Prix, this James looks like the 496cc V-twin model, built for racing at the TT and Grand Prix races.

The Motorcycle reviewed the model at the 1920 Olympia show and said of it: ‘Twin engines of 500cc are nowadays rare, but the popularity of the 3½hp V-twin James is little likely to suffer for that reason.

As a solo machine it has the merit of lightness combined with power, and with large footboards and a comfortable riding position it is a mount which can be ridden a considerable distance in the day without causing a feeling of fatigue to the rider.

The position of the magneto high up behind the rear cylinder ensures that it is protected from wet, and it is at the same time accessible.’

The bike boasted the company’s own design of engine, which ‘was capable of 60mph without further special tuning’. In 1922 James improved it further with longer exhausts, taper valve springs and better lubrication to help the sidevalve engine, and the frame was lightened.

James Sports, 1921: 3½ hp; 64x77mm (500cc); twin-cylinder four-stroke; side-by-side valves; drip feed lubrication; Amac carburettor; Thomson-Bennett chain-driven magneto; three-speed sliding gears; chain drive; 26x 2¼in tyres. Price £135.

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