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Tuesday 10 August 2021

Derek Rickman

Derek Rickman, 1933 - 2021

Motorcycle industry icon and AMA 'Hall of Famer' Derek Rickman passed away on July 3 after a short battle with cancer. He was 88.
Along with his younger brother Don, the Rickmans dominated British motocross in the 1960s and did much to shape the evolution of the sport, both in Europe and in the United States. They produced thousands of their own high-quality and lightweight motorcycle frames and helped manufacturers with various design improvements for decades.
Rickman-framed sport bikes, especially popular in America, were influential to the development of the sport from the late 1960s throughout the '70s. The brothers first rode in trials, then scrambles and eventually motocross.

Derek represented Britain in the Motocross des Nations in 1959, 1960, 1963, 1964 and 1966, with Don also on the team in 1963 and 1964. In the 1950s they modified standard BSAs and the term 'Metisse' entered the industry lexicon - it was a Gallic expression for a mongrel.
The modifications became more and more extensive until, in 1960, they produced their first frame and christened the complete motorcycle the Mark 3, which utilized either a Triumph or Matchless engine.
Rickman motocross bikes became highly prized, and the bulk of them were shipped to America to supply the burgeoning sport of motocross in the 1960s and 1970s. Rickman machines were 30 to 40 pounds lighter than the standard versions and also looked beautiful and compact with nickel-plated, high-quality, large-diameter Reynolds 531 tubing carrying the engine oil inside the frame itself.
BSA in America came to the Rickmans and commissioned them to build 125 and 250 cc motocross bikes. They found 250 Montesa and 125 Z├╝ndapp engines they could buy and produced prototypes - and BSA America decided to import them. At one point, Rickman was producing nearly 4,000 bikes a year that went mainly to America.
Later, Rickman Honda and Kawasaki, with nickel-plated frames, powerful disc brakes and Rickman-made fiberglass fairings, were some of the most beautiful and highly desirable motorcycles of the 1970s and found great success in competition.
Rickman developed a loyal following, but eventually the market changed with the Japanese manufacturers improving their motocross machines by adapting many of the concepts the Rickmans pioneered.
By the early 1980s, Japanese manufacturers had greatly improved their sport bike chassis designs, and although the Rickmans diversified, the brothers sold their business in the mid-1980s.