Pre-War History Of the Cotton Motorcycle

The Triangulated Frame Era


The Cotton Motorcycle Company of Gloucester was founded in 1919 by Frank Willoughby Cotton at 11a Bristol Road, Gloucester. F.W. Cotton had competed in motorcycle hill climb and speed trials during 1912-13, and it is said that he took over from a Mr. A.H. Camery and developed further the motorcycle made by Mr. Camery known as the Sudbrook.


In 1913, Cotton devised a triangulated frame layout in order to cope with the alignment problems peculiar to the motorised cycle. Most early machines were really ordinary push cycle frames distorted almost out of recognition to accommodate engines, tanks, gearboxs, etc. Cotton chose not to use these diamond frames and instead utilised triangulation with its strength and lightness using straight tubes under compression and tension loading which avoided metal fatigue through flexing, and maintained wheel alignment under all conditions.Frank Cotton patented a triangulated motorcycle frame design in 1914. He persuaded the Levis Company to construct and test two frames. The First World War prevented marketing the company, but enabled the production design to be finalised. The first machine which, with its low centre of gravity making cornering easier, had a top speed of 60 mph and appeared in 1920. 




The success of Cotton owners in speed trials influenced the firm to enter those machines in the Isle of Man Junior T.T. in 1922 when Stanley Woods finished fifth. Woods Blackburne engined Cotton won in 1923, and the publicity increased sales sixfold. The led to the company moving to the larger Vulcan Works in Quay Street. T.T. success continued and in the 1926 Lightweight T.T., Cottons ("the Bobbins") took the first three places. Paddy Johnston also won the Brooklands 200 mile G.P.Sponsorship and increased sales resulted from the T.T. successes with production of vintage Blackburne models reaching 1000 a year. Bikes were regularly seen being pushed over Gloucester cross to the two city railway stations for distribution both nationally and overseas. Gloucestershire County Council had eight Cottons for their Divisional Road Foremen with a ninth machine as a spare.