To quote a character from the brilliant television show Monty Python, “and now for something completely different”. I’ve gone and bought a 1950 Nimbus. What’s a Nimbus you say ? Well – it is a Danish 750cc, four-cylinder, over head cam, exposed valve spring, shaft drive, 3 speed motorcycle, with an archaic flat steel strip and riveted frame. I sometimes think of it as a sort of ‘James Watt meets Soichiro Honda’ collaborative effort, but to me it is much more than that as it oozes character and is most definitely unusual ! Below is a photo of how it looked when I first got it. (click on the image for a larger version).
Why did I buy this ? I have been asked that many times actually, and my flippant answer is that I bought it because I couldn’t afford a Henderson, Ace or an Indian 4 (just Google them if you don’t recognise the names), but of course that isn’t why at all. It comes down to perhaps three things I suppose:
- I was interested in having something in the stable older than myself.
- I wanted something different and out of the norm, but still somewhat usable in today’s world and with reasonable support for parts and service.
- I also wanted something metric, and with the gear shift on the left side as God intended.
In Canada, the Nimbus is quite rare – I can only confirm the existence of five others, although I suspect there must be a few more. Originally there were roughly 12,000 in total of this model built (it is a model ‘C’) between 1934 and 1960 by the Danish company ‘Fisker and Neilsen’. It is estimated that there are still in excess of 4000 of these machines in active use, mainly in Denmark, but also quite a few scattered about elsewhere in the world.
Parts availability from Denmark is quite good and there is a very strong and loyal owner community supporting them. And these bikes are tough – designed for hard daily usage, and used by the Danish Post Office, Military and Police in some cases through to 1975. In 2009, a pair of Norwegians rode two 1937 Nimbus machines around the globe, travelling a distance of roughly 70,000 km (see ‘The Dumb Way Round” web site at this link). While the trip was not without mishap or adventure, it certainly proved that in addition to the riders, these bikes were pretty rugged.
Getting back to this Nimbus – an older gentleman here in Alberta imported this machine from Denmark in 2001 and I had been discussing the possibility of buying it from him for very nearly the past 5 years. We finally reached agreement on a deal a few weeks ago. The bike is mostly original and in generally good shape. I do not intend to restore it – just conserve it doing only what needs to be done to keep it safe, healthy and road worthy. As with my other bikes, I will eventually post additional material on my web site located at this link.
It is often said with old machines such as this, that you don’t really own them – you just look after them till eventually handing them over to the next keeper, and I believe that completely. But you do get to keep the smiles !