This 1968 Rickman-BSA 441 represents years of development. After years of racing motocross in the 1950s in England and Europe, brothers Don and Derek Rickman decided to design their own frame. At the time, most dirt bikes were simply stripped-down street bikes, which were too heavy and not ideal for racing in the dirt. They designed their first frame in 1959, the Rickman Metisse MkI (Mark 1). “Metisse” is a rather unsavory French word for mongrel, and refers to the Rickman frame’s ability to accept almost anyone’s engine. They made improvements and came out with the limited-production MkII Metisse in 1960, followed by the full production version, which is still with us today, the MkIII in 1962. By this time, they had perfected the frame’s ability to accept most common engines. From that point on, you might spot a Rickman Metisse with almost any engine (almost always British-built).
1968 Rickman-BSA 441 Engine
Our subject bike is a Rickman Metisse MkIII frame with a BSA 441 Victor single-cylinder engine installed. This particular engine received the “waffle-head”-treatment, done by machining every other cooling fin in an almost-check board-pattern. Originally done on racing bikes in the interest of light weight, today it’s done more for vanity. Virtually any engine would fit in a Metisse frame with the right mounting brackets, supplied by Rickman. Look at the beautiful welding beads on the frame. Everything about a Rickman was top-notch.
THE RICKMAN LEGACY
Don and Derek Rickman were motocross racers in the 50s, honing their skills not only as expert riders, but also as designer/fabricators constantly in pursuit of greater performance out of their motorcycles. However, at the time, the typical MX bike was something like a BSA Gold Star, with maybe 35 horsepower toting nearly 400 pounds of weight! And most of these bruisers were running frames that started out life as production street bike frames. The Rickman Brothers wanted far more for their bikes that these antiquated relics could offer. So in the winter of 1958-59, they built their first Rickman frame. It was light, rigid, and handled incredibly-well, so much so in fact that when they hit the 1959 racing circuit, they took win after win. No one had ever seen a frame like this before. It was all-welded, with no brazed lugs, it was made out of high-strength, lightweight chrome moly tubing, it was nickel-plated, and it was gorgeous! Soon they were producing the frames that buyers could drop almost any engine into, hence the name “Metisse”. Mettise is an unsavory French word for for “mongrel”, and refers to the Rickman frame mating with nearly anyone’s engine, Triumph, BSA, Matchless, you name it. This was their main stock in trade throughout the 1960s. By 1971 they were building entire MX motorcycles with Hodaka 100, Zundapp 125 and Montessa 250 engines, through 1975. By this time, they’d also moved into road racing and cafe racer frames. Rickmans have always been regarded as premium bikes, probably the best MX bike on the market in the 60s and early 70s.