Norton Motorcycles 1950s

Today in Motorcycle History

Tickle Manx Nortons

Tickle motorcycles were produced from 1969 to 1973, by John Tickle, of Enesbury, St. Neots, later Peterborough. He and his wife Cathy were well known in the sport as a sidecar racing team.

Tickle bought the rights to build Manx Nortons from fellow sidecar racer Colin Seeley who had purchased them from AMC after the Norton firm ceased production.

John was already well established in the market making performance brakes, clip-ons and other sports accessories, and subsquently expanded the business to include Manx spare parts and complete DOHC motorcycles, the 350cc T3, the 500cc T5 and the 650cc T6. Some of these were very similar to the original Manx apart from the high-level exhaust and Tickle frame. Others bore only a remote resemblance to the originals with a (very) different tank, brakes, forks. They were also considerably lighter and faster.

The machines were built until 1973. In 1978 he sold the rights to the Manx name to Unity Equipe, who sold them to Andy Molnar in 1994.

John Tickle was a highly skilled designer, and later developed products for sailing and swimming. He ran a yachting business in the South of England (he sailed across to the IOM with his motorcycle aboard to race at the TT) and spent his retirement years on the west coast of Wales, at times flying model aircraft.

We came across this old photo of John Tickle calling at our house in Hornsey, north London, to enquire whether my older brother John Stevens was available to act as his mechanic for a trip to a race circuit in Spain. My brother was at work at the time but our Dad used this as an opportunity to practise his newfound retirement hobby of photography. John Tickle’s business career in later years is reasonably well documented but I thought it might be useful to fill in a little of the earlier years. I asked my brother for memories of the Tickle connection and this is how he recollects the events of 60 years ago, coupled with a little extra research.

John Tickle was born 1936 and the 1939 register shows the family in Sutton Road, Muswell Hill N10. He attended Tollington Grammar School and was in the school swimming set, as was my brother. John Tickle was so good that he was selected for the British swimming team at the 1952 Olympics but unfortunately a bout of influenza put paid to that. My brother didn’t get to know Tickle then, because they were in different year groups and of course a lower year wouldn’t presume to talk to a higher year and an upper year wouldn’t deign to converse with a lower year. It was only after schooldays were over that a mutual friend introduced them, because John Tickle needed a mechanic for his Manx Norton and brother John was an engineering apprentice with the Napier company that made the Deltic engines that the diesel railway locos got their name from.

Brother John helped Tickle out at various English circuits at weekends, then used a summer holiday to accompany Tickle to some continental circuits, Mouscron, Mettet and Zandvoort. Up till then, John Tickle had raced a solo bike but striking up a friendship with a Dutch sidecar racer converted him to chair racing, with his wife Cathy as passenger. In those days it was still mostly a matter of bolting a sidecar chassis onto a solo bike. The sleek purpose-built integral racing outfits were yet to appear on the scene.

Thereafter, John Stevens’s mechanicking tailed off, as he now had a fulltime job. John & Cathy Tickle became well known round the circuits, home and abroad, as a privateer. He developed a business supplying Manx Norton spare parts, initially from premises at 163 Potters Bar High Street and subsequently expanding to a factory in St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

~ Ken Stevens, March 2023

Sources: Graces Guide,,, Ken Stevens.

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