Produced by one of Britain's foremost
makers, the Rudge Multi was not just a single motorcycle
but a new concept, which was an important stage in
the development of motorcycle transmission systems,
superseeding the equally influential Zenith Gradua.
Launched in 1912, after the 1911 TT had show the value
of its multiplicity of drive ratios, it remained in
production for 10 year.
Founded in the 1860s by Dan Rudge, a publican from
Wolverhampton and a keen racing cyclist, Rudge bicyces
had patented numerous technical advances and established
a name for quality by the time Rudge died in 1880.
The firm was kept going through various mergers and
by the end of the 19th century, after a merger with
the Whitworth company in 1894, was producing 400 bicycles
a day, under the guidance of Charles anf John Pugh.
Rudge Whitworth started by distributing Werner motorcycles
from Paris and it was 1909 before they undertook development
of their own motorcycles. They were soon making some
1500 machines a week and had the in-house resources
to undertake all the development.
The Rudge Multi prototype had several patented features
including a new fork shackle, enclosed fork spring
and a removable rear mudguard. The engine was a compromise
between a side-valve and an overhead-valve, known
as an F-head but the machine was otherwise conventional.
The first Rudge motorcycle was completed in 1910
in just under two weeks from drawing to metal. Following
many road tests and competitions the model went on
sale at the end of the year.
In 1911 four Rudges started at the Senior TT, the
first year in which the course included the climb
over the Mountain. By this time experiments with proprietary
variable gear pulleys made by Mabon had proved the
value of such a device on the demanding new course.
However, Rudge's first efforts at the TT were not
so promising, with two riders retiring and only a
21st and 22nd place.
Nevertheless, convinced of the value of a variable
gear, John Pugh continued development of what was
to be the Multi system. Rudge had already patented
a clutch that was attached to the engine shaft, outboard
of the pulley. To this was added a device that allowed
the pulley flanges to open and close. As it did so,
the belt would ride up the pulley, changing the effective
diameter of the drive.
To maintain belt tension, a linkage went to the rear
wheel pulley, or belt rim, which closed and opened
to balance the front. This gave ratios between 3.5
and 7.5:1 as well as in theory, continually variable
Fitted to the 499cc TT model the Multi was first
entered for the 1912 TT. Although Rudge failed to
place, the Multi gear achieved success at numerous
trials and speed events and was fitted to both the
3.5 and 5/6hp models. In 1913 a Rudge Multi took second
place at the TT, losing only by a narrow margin and
in 1914, Cyril Pullin won the event. During World
War I, Rudge built a few machines for military use
but the main part of the factory was turned over to
work on munitions. When peace returned, so did motorcycles,
starting with the 499cc Multi in Roadster or TT form.
In 1920, the first Rudge to use a three-speed gearbox
appeared but the Multi was in production until 1923,
its cheap, simplicity and lightness appealing long
after the technical superiority of chain drive and
a countershaft gearbox had been proven.
Rudge Multi (1913)
- Years in production - 1912-23
- Engine - single cylinder inlet over exhaust four-stroke
- Bore and Stroke - 85 x 88mm (3.5hp) 85 x 132mm
- Capacity - 499cc, 750cc
- Carburettot - Senspray
- Tyres (front/rear) - 2.25in x 26in/2.25in x 26in
- Top speed (racing model) - 83mph