Phil Aynsley takes a look at this little Spanish gem
I seem to be on a bit of a Spanish bike theme recently so I may as well continue!
Along with Montesa, Bultaco, Ossa and Mototrans, Derbi was the other major player in the Spanish market. First established in 1922 as a bicycle repair shop near Barcelona by Simón Rabasa i Singla, he then went onto manufacturing bicycles then in 1946 a moped. This proved to be so successful that in 1950 proper motorcycle production began.
Both road and off road bikes were made and the company soon became involved racing. In 1960 their first 50cc road racer entered competition, with designer Franciso Tombas introducing a disc-valve design the following year. It made 11.5hp at 12,000rpm and used an 8-speed gearbox.
With the World Championships being opened to 50cc bikes in 1962 Derbi entered the first race of year, at Barcelona, finishing a close 2nd. While they did not enter any other World Championship events that year they did win the Spanish and French National Championships.
A new water-cooled 50 appeared in 1965 (14.5hp at 14,000rpm) but it wasn’t until 1968 that Aussie Barry Smith gave the company its first major international win in the Austrian GP (a non-championship race) then a win at the IOM TT. He finished 3rd in the championship with team mate Angel Nieto 4th. The following year Nieto won the title with Smith 3rd.
By 1972 the works bikes were making 18hp and had a top speed of over 195kph. Nieto won three 50cc World Championships for Derbi and the company also won four consecutive 80cc titles before the tiddler class was discontinued after 1989.
This bike was raced by Benjamin Grau in the Spanish Championship circa 1975.
Derbi also released a Angel Nieto Replica privateer racer in 1973 – the 50 RAN. The air-cooled, disc-valve single made 15.5hp at 15,000rpm. Most were heavily modified over the years so it is unusual to find one in original condition as photo
Phil Aynsley sadly passed away in 2023 after a life spent travelling the world photographing many of the rarest and most beautiful motorcycles ever made. We are proud to continue showcasing his catalogue of work on MCNews.com.au.
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