Initially the frame designs were for scrambles, and then for road racing. Later, in 1966, road bikes were produced as well. The first street legal bike used a Triumph Bonneville engine. Rickman initially supplied frame kits, as none of the major British motorcycle manufacturers would sell engines to them. The frame kits were built for many engines, including Triumph twins, BSA singles and Matchless. In the mid-1960s, Rickman also produced road-racing frames for AJS 7R singles, and in the 1970s they began selling chassis kits for Japanese bikes like the Honda CB750 and Kawasaki Z1. The road bikes were the first to use disc brakes both front and rear (a joint project with Lockheed).
Other innovations included the use of large diameter telescopic forks (1-5/8" or 41.2mm) and oil carried in the frame tubes to help dissipate heat and save weight. An eight valve cylinder head conversion (700cc) for Triumph 650cc twins was developed in the late 1960s which considerably increased power output (up to 60 bhp or more depending on state of tune) and showed up some weaknesses in the Triumph crankcases and conrods. Chain adjustment was via eccentric discs rather than drawbolts to avoid misalignment.
After the Royal Enfield factory closed, a little over 200 Series II Interceptor engines were stranded at the dock in 1970, originally on their way to Floyd Clymer (of Clymer repair manuals and Enfield "Indians" fame) in the United States, but unfortunately he had just died, and his export agents, Mitchell's of Birmingham, were left to dispose of them. They approached the Rickman brothers for frames, and as the Rickman brothers' main problem had always been engine supply, a limited run of 137 Rickman Interceptors were built.
In about 1971, Rickman began producing complete motorcycles in 3 displacements, 100 cc 125 cc and 250 cc. The 100's had Japanese Hodaka engines, the 125's had German Zundapp engines, while the 250's featured Spanish Montesa powerplants. Many of these little Motocross bikes were produced from 1971 to 1975, most being shipped to America.
In 1974, Rickman was awarded the "Queen's Award to Industry" for their export business, but it was the same year NVT collapsed. The Rickman brothers turned their attention to larger Japanese motorcycle engines, and produced Rickman Honda 750s, Rickman Kawasaki Z1/Z900s, Rickman Honda Bol d'Or 10th century, Rickman Kawasaki Z1000s, and Rickman Suzuki GS1000s.
The bikes or frame kits were known for their beautiful fiberglass work and nickel-plated frames and are often referred to as "Metisse" frames, a term used for their own first effort. The Rickmans had a sense of humour. Google translates the word politely as "mongrel".
The company stopped producing complete motorcycles in 1975, continuing to produce accessories. In the 1980s the Rickmans sold their parts to a company called MRD (Model, Replica & Design until then specialising in model aeroplanes). 'MRD Metisse' was born and run by Pat French, a Rickman Metisse enthusiast. Business was good throughout the late 80's but the early 90's saw a levelling off of the business. In 1999 a new enthusiast arrived on the scene and set up a new company (Métisse Motorcycles Ltd) and bought Pat French's business including some later parts and the rights to use the word 'Metisse'.
Throughout this period another Rickman enthusiast, successful scrambler and friend of the Rickman's Adrian Moss was the first to spot that the mark III would be the most popular model over time. Adrian was already building and racing Rickman bikes and spares. He set up the successful British Bike Bonanza in 1981, for pre-65 machines and enthusiasts, which is still going, and growing, to this day. The company name 'Rickman Motorcycles Limited' was also licenced to Adrian, and later passed to him, enabling the production of genuine Rickman Motorcycles to continue as they always had done.
By 1985, before retiring, Rickman Engineering Limited (now also owned by Adrian Moss) diversified into general engineering and into the production of four wheeled vehicles, namely the Rickman Ranger and the Metisse sportscar. Dave Gittens wrote a book in 2001 (now in great demand) called 'The Rickman Story' which documents the complete story. Derek and Don Rickman were inducted into the A.M.A. Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007.
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