Saracen Engineering... (Motorcycles.)



Photo Courtesy Chris Stevens.

Jon Bliss riding in the Eurocup series 2018 UK.

Jon Was one of the Saracen, works riders.


It is nice to see Jon Bliss once a works rider for Saracen motorcycles. Again riding one of these machines in the Eurocup trials series.

So I thought we would do a page on the make of motorcycle from the early seventies.


The brand Saracen was created by school lecturer Ronald Goodfellow and scrambler Frank Underwood.

With the cost of a new Bultaco at the time and with hefty mortgages apiece it was decided to try and make a cheaper alternative machine, a bit like we tried to do today with the “Mini Otter”.

The first machine built was for a BSA Bantam engine with the tank slung under the top tube.

If it had been today, that bike would have been a winner.

How times Change.

But BSA’s would not supply the engines, the same as they would not supply Eddie Dow with the Rocket Twin motors.


Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde ORR ©

Here the line up for the the 1970 SSDT.

Jack Galloway Steve Wilson , with the Vale Onslow sponsored  machine, and Jon Bliss with the works development machine.

Note: another link to Steve Wilson.


Anyway Frank and Ron trundled off to the Sach’s factory in Austria and got a deal for five engines that were promptly placed into the boot of their car.

And were the power unit for the first five bikes built.

This was the five speed steel barrelled engine.

The drawings for a new frame were done, and the T45 tube sent down to Technical Tubes in Wimbourn Dorset, to be bent to pattern.

Meanwhile back at South Cerney where Ron had now moved close to the agricultural college where he taught, a jig for the frames was built in the garage of the bungalow.

The first frames were built and Ron took a day off from his lecturing job and took one of the machines down to Comerfords for Bert Thorne to take a look at the new machine.

They decided to take three of the machines, and calling into Ken Heanes on the way home Ron sold the other two bikes to him.

They were now a manufacture of complete trials machines. And not kit manufacturers that was getting difficult because of the change in purchase tax laws.

A visit from John Olsson from the USA to Ken Heanes shop saw him order twenty of the machines and Saracen were on their way.

A factory was needed for production. And one was found at Stafford Mills Thrupp near Stroud in Gloucestershire.

Staff was required and Ron knowing the guy’s he rode with in trials took on Jon Bliss and Jack Galloway to not only build the machine but to ride and test them.

The company was on a roll, and most of its output was going to the USA.

 After a busy couple of years up until the early seventy one or two.

And then with  an order for another forty bikes started for delivery to the states,  Sachs had changed the engine design, and the new arrived engines were clad with Alloy barrels and six speed gearboxes.

Ron thought this to be an upgrade for the machines and the batch of forty bikes were built up loaded into a container to be sent off to the USA. But a phone call to the buyer about shipment changed the whole cource of Saracen Engineering LTD.

The buyer in the USA linked to a brand of their own machine, said they did not want the upgraded engines, but the forty steel barrelled machines they had ordered...

Saracen was stuck with forty units of trials bikes, and the bank was getting itchy for the over-draught to be cleared.

Forty  British built trials bikes trying to compete with the Spanish imports at the time was just to many on a flooded market place.

So the inevitable happened and a receiver was called in. And just because of an upgraded motor.

But perhaps the dealer in the USA already knew about the terrible six speed gearboxes fitted. A box full of neutrals.

David Brand bought the remains of what was left in the factory (1972) and re badged them Saracen Invaders.

But the flooded trials bike market could not move enough bikes to make the enterprise profitable. And Saracen slipped away like other brands of the time...




Photo Pintrest...

Just a nice looking little machine, Spares today 2018 are very difficult to  come by for the motor, But with Three Hundred machines built you would think a few bikes would still be around. Send me details of yours.

 Hoping to get a story from Jon later as well.


Machine specification was good. Frames were made of T45 tubing originally, but it was decided to compete on price the specification was later just the more pliable “Cold-Drawn-Seamless” tube.

Forks were Metal Profile hubs REH with Dunlop wm3 X18 steel rim on the rear and wm1X21 on the front. Red glass-fibre tank and side panels fitted that covered the Peco-Type. exhaust system.

Wheelbase 52” ground clearance 10 ½”, which some thought to low at the time. But it was the same as a Bultaco.


Photo Courtesy Alan Vines, and Deryk Wylde ORR.


 Here Jon riding in a wet and damp trial.


Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde ORR

Jack Galloway in the 1070 Scottish Six days trial.


Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde ORR.

Ron Goodfellow competing in a Sammy Miller round on his Saracen Royal Enfield with Indian motor.

Sadly Ron passed away in 2015, so we must keep his story going.


A Letter from Ron 2014.

Hi. My name is Ron Goodfellow and I designed and built the Saracen motorcycles in the late sixties. We built about three hundred in all of various types most of them being exported to the USA. We also exported to France and Sweden. Frank Underwood and I started the company which grew from a hobby and a lot of enthusiasm.

The original prototype was a BSA bantam engined version but we could not acquire British engines and opted for the Sachs motor, initially the Iron engine but later the aluminium engine.


Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde ORR.

Here is the Saracen BSA Bantam.

Think a Bantam Club Member owns this bike now.

We also built a few Triumph tiger cubs, I know one is still going.

We also designed a spine framed 100cc Hodaka engined trail bike. I can attach a few photographs.

My daughter found this web site TC and it is ironic that only this week I have finished rebuilding one of the trials bikes with alloy motor and reed valve, amazing improvement.

I still enjoy my motorcycling mostly touring but have competed in pre 65 trials until fairly recently on a 350cc Enfield/Saracen special.

Text Courtesy TC.

Photo Courtesy Deryk Wylde.ORR.

 Ron rides the Saracen Bantam to good tune.




 Sales information  Courtesy Mike.........


Thanks Mike...


We Have Deryk to thank for the following images from  "Motorcycles  Competition Reference Library, Part Two", I asked him if I could use them, he said with usual references.

 Thanks mate...

The nearside of the alloy engined bike that Ron took to the USA with money from a grant from the government at the time that wanted small business to invest in a future.


After years of trying to find the where-a-bouts  of Steve Wilson for other stories on the site...


Out of the blue Steve mailed me, long story but we can now update quite a few pages,and even strike off with a New one... When Steve has updated me with all the machines he has been involved with over the years, and Saracen was just one...



Photos Courtesy Deryk Wylde MCRL.


Thank's Deryk for all the effort you have put into getting the correct full stories, over the years, how it should always be done.


Again Courtesy MCRL.

This is the steel engined machine favoured by the States.

And you can see the Peco Type exhaust on this machine.



One of those cold winter trials, but Jon and the peppy little Sachs motor with 15 bhp

far more than any Villiers powered  machine, and with the added lightness suited Jon's style very well, always one to use the power available and not on the side of caution.


Jon Bliss again and proving with power turned on it also improves the ground clearance under the engine.




We will after an enquiry into dating and numbering the Saracen machines, look into trying to achieve this later watch this space...

But don't forget there were Three Hundred machines built and the bulk of them went to the USA ...Production ran from in my mind 1968 to the last David Brand Invader machine in 1974. And what I have found so far the frame numbers did not fit a pattern and were quite random... Here is one could it be a 1969 build bike? 696055... I am hoping Steve Wilson may have the answer.. or even Jon Bliss... So has I say watch this space...



You know how it works now.

Much More later.