CLASSIC BIKES ON THE KOP
Photographs by Roger Cooper
Kop Hill is a short but steep climb up the Chiltern chalk downs just outside the small town of Princes Risborough in the heart of England’s rural Buckinghamshire and, in the first half of the 20th century, it was just a dirt track up the open escarpment. Rising over 300 feet in just over 1200 yards, its surface varied between loose and stony then hard and bumpy. It also had a hump that launched the faster cars and motorcycles into the air as well as a sting in its tail by way of a nasty rut at the top that had even been known to tear off the tyres of motorcycles competing in the early ‘pioneer’ days!
The climb was originally established in 1910 and soon became an important event on the British competition calendar. But due to a relatively minor accident that involved a spectator, the last competitive event was held on March 28th, 1925. The government then banned all motorsport on public roads, making the Kop Hill Climb the last of its kind to be run on the public highways in the UK.
The fastest-ever climb of the hill was made by a motorcycle in 1925 when TT and Brooklands star, Freddie Dixon, took his 736 Douglas up in a time of 22.8 seconds at an average speed of 81 mph. That was a full four seconds faster than the car record set in 1922 by Count Louis Zborowski driving a Ballot Grand Prix racer and Dixon’s time, therefore, will remain forever as the all-time hill record.
In the spirit of Freddie Dixon! Terry Wilson gets his 1928 Douglas off the Kop Hill start line.
The classic motorcycles have always been a popular inclusion in the programme and, in view of Freddie Dixon’s all-time record, it is not surprising that it is a particularly popular event with those riders still enthusiastically sprinting similar examples of the ‘fore and aft’ flat twins from Bristol.
A 1932 Scott ‘Flying Squirrel’ 500cc two-stroke twin howls away from the Kop Hill start line
Malcolm Wood ready to attack the hill on his 1926 490cc overhead valve Norton Model 18
Today Kop Hill has a smooth tarmac surface with lushly wooded verges - and both the hump and the tyre-tearing final rut have long gone. Since 1999 it has been the focus of an annual non-competitive revival that always attracts a big field of classic racing and sporting motorcycles and cars. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the corona virus pandemic but plans are already in hand for September 2021.
The Parilla was a neat little 250cc Italian racer from the early nineteen-sixties
Popular ‘Triton’ specials from the 1960s featured Triumph engines in Norton frames