Altberg has had a long association with the Royal Signals and the White Helmets motorcycle display team.
We made classic motorcycle boots for the team for almost 25 years until they were disbanded in 2017.
A couple of weeks ago a customer from Milton Keynes who had visited our factory shop and seen the iconic White Helmets Triumph Tiger motorcycle, on display there, sent us an old White Helmets programme from 1970.
It was a real nostalgic blast from a past now mostly forgotten, and for me, one of the most striking things were the adverts in the programme.
They were all for British companies — Britax, Champion Spark Plugs, Dunlop, BP, Amal carburettors, Harveys Bristol Cream, Haig Whiskyand, Pickfords Removals.
One of the most poignant for me personally was Britax, who in 1965 bought the Excelsior Motorcycle Co of Birmingham.
They say you never forget your first motorbike and my first motorcycle was a British Excelsior with a 98cc Villiers engine.
I bought it for £5 in 1960. I was just 13-years-old and I rode it illegally — life was different back then!
An Excelsior motorbike with 98cc villiers engine circa 1950.
Excelsior had been making motorbikes since 1896. During World War Two they made a collapsible bike to be dropped by parachute for use by troops around the battlefield.
Previous to that in 1914 they won a very large order to supply twin cylinder JAP powered motorcycles to the Russian Imperial government, but fate intervened, and along came Lenin and the revolution — and they ended up with a warehouse full of bikes and no customers!
I and others of my generation grew up an England where craft-based manufacturing was still highly valued. I left school in 1962 and I remember well that almost everybody I knew went to work in some form of craft manufacture.
Many of the companies in the 1970s White Helmets brochure are now sadly long gone.
We now have the programme on display in our factory shop alongside the White Helmets Triumph Tiger.
White Helmets training at Catterick Garrison in the early 1990s.
The White Helmets were formed in 1927 by dispatch riders from the Royal Corps of Signals. Every year the team would go on tour doing a range of motorcycle acrobatics and stunts whilst wearing traditional military uniforms and white “open face“ and “last but not least”
The team disbanded in 2017 after 90 years, and we were offered the chance to buy one of their iconic Triumph Tigers ... and of course we jumped at the chance.
We still take the bike out of the shop every couple of months and give it a blast just to make sure it’s running okay.
The White Helmets bike in the Altberg factory shop.
The bike has a 'straight through' exhaust pipes. There's no silencers so in every way it’s a real blast from the past, just like the programme we received a couple of weeks ago.
Genuine thanks to Tim James for the programme and some great memories.