Problematic British bike industry may have a new champion in Langen
It does not matter that you cannot recall why sometime world-beating motorbikes were invariably British, highlights Iain Robertson, but they were and, despite several attempts to revive the industry, it remains in the doldrums, although that situation may change.
A brand-new British company, Langen Motorcycles, will soon break cover with an eagerly awaited new model, the Two Stroke, set to make its debut at Blenheim Palace (23rd-26th September 2020, at Salon Prive, a major, high-end classic car event). It will be the first time that the retrospective, road legal machine has been seen outside of its Wigan factory, an area in North-West England not regarded as central to the automotive scene, whether on four, more, or just two wheels.
From the outset, the Langen Two Stroke has been intended to stand out from the crowd visually, aurally and physically. For a start, it defies convention by being powered by a two-stroke, 250cc, V-twin engine; a power unit that was popular up to the early-1980s, by which time the flood of Japanese four-stroke engines proved unrelenting. Notionally ‘smelly’, frequently ‘smoky’ and potentially ‘messy’, through a need to mix oil and fuel to achieve a combustible cocktail (seldom done correctly!), its demands on the rider led to its demise.
However, anyone familiar with the ‘Ton-Up Boys’, or the ‘Café racers’ of the 1960s will recall the assault on the senses through the sound, smell and sheer thrill that only a lightweight, two-stroke is capable of delivering, all the way to its eardrum-shredding redline, at a heady 14,500rpm. It is a glorious racket, with which the two-wheeled racing, or classic bike scene, has been associated in more recent times.
At the Two Stroke’s heart is an engine produced for Langen by Vins, which is based in Maranello, Italy…home to Ferrari, with which stellar sportscar company exists more than tenuous links. The unit produces in excess of 75bhp (the equivalent of 300bhp/litre of capacity) and 33lb ft of torque, which demands engine revs to access the most significant level of in-gear punch. The project was born from an ‘extra-curricular’ passion displayed by members of Ferrari’s research and development department. Pretty much starting as a ‘Saturday Club’ around five years ago, the CNC-machined unit has been developed into a dependable engine that fits perfectly with the ethos of the Langen Two Stroke.
All of the traditional two-stroke problem areas have been dealt with by the use of modern fuel injection, an electronically controlled oil injection system, carbon fibre reed valves and electronically-actuated exhaust valves. Naturally, power-to-weight ratio is the key to the Langen Two Stroke’s impressive performance graph, amplified by a design philosophy of simplification and weight reduction. The motorbike tips the scales at a scarcely believable 114kg (251lbs), which results in a phenomenal power-to-weight ratio of 660bhp/ton, considerably more than the ‘Prancing Horse’ supercars from just a few hundred metres away from Vins HQ.
The Langen Two Stroke is a handmade, bespoke creation. The chassis is artisan welded, where it needs to be, using large-diameter, laser cut, aluminium tubing, complete with modern bonded and machined connection points. Light but sturdy Swedish Ohlins front forks and British K-Tech rear dampers control what is described from early development rides as a truly nimble machine. What there is of the bodywork, including the fuel tank, is produced from hand-laid carbon fibre, as is the final gold leaf detailing.
Speak with Langen’s Mancunian owner and you feel the sense of pride that arises from its humble origins of being designed, engineered and built in Wigan, Greater Manchester. The project has taken time to establish but solid partnerships have been made with only the finest British manufacturers, engaged to produce components of the bike that require specific expertise and experience, plus the confidence to keep a secret; firms such as Hel Performance brakes, Dunlop Tyres and K-tech suspension. Each element of the Two Stroke has been carefully considered, crafted and specified to uphold Langen’s intended values of high quality and build innovation, allied to the best aspects of tradition.
Each engine is built to order and numbered individually to match the customer’s motorcycle build sheet, with fully CNC machined casings and a custom interchangeable gearbox. Needless to say, personalisation can range from paint colours to chassis finish and suspension type to wheels, along with tailored ergonomics dependent on each rider’s individual specification.
Chris Ratcliffe is the creator of Langen and the designer of the Two Stroke. He has more than a decade’s worth of experience in reprofiling, engineering and designing various successful motorcycles. He states categorically: “My company has been founded with the aim of producing motorcycles that possess inherent simplicity and the relative purity of days past.”
He continues, “Those enthusiasts of more than sixty years ago pushed the envelope in their period. While gaining a ‘bad boy’ reputation, as much through the movies, as the ‘Mods and Rockers’ activities that hit headlines at a time of tremendous rebellion in a country emerging from post-WW2 austerity, they were innovators. All that we are doing is pushing the limits of modern technology during a not dissimilar era. My dream has always been to create a small piece of British motorcycling history. To be able to launch this special motorbike under a completely new brand is my dream come true. Our ultimate aim is to continue pushing the boundaries and creating more fascinating bikes that we hope will become genuine crowd-pleasers.”
Langen’s initial build will be restricted to just 100 individually numbered Two Strokes that will be road legal in the UK. Production will commence in summer 2021, with an additional 150 motorcycles intended for 2022, to be available in homologated form for road use in other countries around the world. The total number of builds will be strictly limited to 250 bikes, each of them built to order.
The price of the Two Stroke reflects its rarity, starting at £28,000 plus VAT, for a wealthy client base. Intriguingly, the response among ‘those in the know’ has been overwhelming. Pre-orders are being taken presently, with a £1,000 refundable deposit to secure an example of the first run of bikes.
Conclusion: Working from a philosophy that motorcycles should provide raw excitement to ride, yet also provide a visual treat, ‘form and function working in harmony’ could be Langen’s easily comprehended mission statement.