Caterham motorcycles launched…

…But they’re not what you might have expected

WHEN British car firm Caterham announced in September that it was going to enter Moto2 in 2014 and become a bike manufacturer in its own right there was a level of scepticism.

Now it’s actually shown the bikes it’s planning to make, and we’re even more puzzled.

Now even the most car-ignorant of motorcyclists has probably got a vague idea of what a Caterham Seven is. Small, lightweight, minimalist and renowned for its giant-slaying performance and handling, albeit at the expense of practicality. So you’d be forgiven for expecting the firm to take those same ideas through to their motorcycle output, if it’s serious about becoming a motorcycle manufacturer.

Any ideas of a light, fast, simple road bike that’s also just as happy on a race track – ie a two-wheeled Seven – have gone out of the window with the firm’s unveiling of its planned production bikes.

First we have the Brutus, and if it’s familiar it’s because the very same machine was shown last year, then intended to be made simply under the Brutus name and created by Alessandro Tartarini (from the modern Lambretta concern). Basically half a quad bike, with a 750cc engine and CVT transmission (from a quad) and oversized tyres on 14-inch rims, it looked something of a joke when shown in red-and-white, and Caterham’s application of some green and yellow paint doesn’t do much to change that.

The firm’s press release makes claims that it’s ‘surprisingly nimble to ride’ – but then again it also makes the spurious statement that it’s the first motorcycle with an automatic transmission, which will come as a surprise to virtually every other motorcycle maker on the planet that offers a CVT scooter, not to mention Honda with it’s huge range of auto and semi-auto motorcycles (which stem back to the 1970s and the CB750 Hondamatic, of course).

Still, Caterham promises it will be on sale as early as Spring next year, at an ‘affordable’ price.

The Brutus isn’t the only offering. There’s also the ‘Classic E-Bike’ – a retro-styled push bike with electric motor assistance and a fake V-twin engine to house the batteries. Because of course it does. Again, it’s not really a ‘Caterham’ design – the very same machine was recently patented by a Slovakian firm going by the name White SRO, which has presumably sold the design to Caterham. A second electric bicycle, the ‘Carbon E-Bike’ was also shown.

Al-Ishsal Ishak, CEO of Caterham’s new bike division, said: “We are realistic and honest enough to know that we’re not in the business of rivalling the establishment; we’re here to offer an alternative that befits the spirit of Caterham.

“Just as the Caterham Seven is a motoring icon because of its unique design and engineering credibility, Caterham Bikes’ products will be aimed at a niche audience seeking exceptional quality, bespoke design flare and bikes easy enough for anyone to ride.”

We with them the best of luck, but can’t help wondering if something a little more conventional and in line with the brand’s road car and F1 racing ventures would have stood Caterham in better stead.