6 October 2014

Determined to build buzz about Nimbus bike

Danish owner’s interest interrupted by greater demand for vacuums and VW Beetles

Despite only living three traffic lights away from the Russ Baker Way McDonald’s Restaurant in Richmond, where the Richmond Street Rodders hold their weekly Thursday evening gatherings, my hectic schedule rarely allows me the opportunity to attend.

But during one rare visit over the summer, something caught my eye. It was a Danish motorcycle called a Nimbus, a bike I had written about in this pace in 2007 and it’s prompted me to update that column.

Denmark is not a country that comes to mind when you think about motorcycle manufacturers.

The company that built it dates back to 1906, when partners Fisker and Nielsen founded the firm. The company would go on to build the world’s first portable canister electric vacuum cleaner in 1910.

Nilfisk vacuum cleaners’ lucrative door-to-door sales allowed Peter Fisker to dabble with his interest in motorcycles. He decided to design and build his dream model, and in 1919 that became a reality in the form of Nimbus.

That first series of bikes was nicknamed the “stovepipe” and were built up until 1928. Over 2,000 were built before production ceased due to an increased demand for vacuum cleaners.

However, Fisker was anxious to resume motorcycle production, and in 1934 a new factory was built to separate the two company products.

The second-generation Nimbus was named the model “C,” but quickly gained the nickname “Bumblebee” due to its rumbling and humming engine.

The Nimbus is unique with its longitudinal, 750-cc, in-line four-cylinder, overhead-camshaft engine using an automobile-type clutch. Power is delivered to the rear wheel through a three-speed gearbox via a shaft rather than the more traditional chain.

Other than BMW, it was the first bike to have telescopic front forks.

This ingenious package was housed in a flat-steel frame — even the handlebars were pressed out of sheet steel.

Lacking any rear spring or shock absorbing equipment all of the road shock was taken up in the rubber-mounted seats.

Like a number of motorcycle and micro-car manufacturers, the mass production of small cars such as the Volkswagen Beetle put Nimbus out of business.

Of the 12,715 examples built, 4,000 are still in use.

The Nimbus name enjoyed a renaissance of sorts recently thanks to the Harry Potter series of books in the form of the Nimbus 2000 Quidditch broom.

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