Vale Onslow
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1900 – 1908

In the beginning

Since before the 1900s, the Vale-Onslow Family has shown a keen interest in motorbikes. Two brothers owned garages in Birmingham where they built their little brother Len his first motorbike.

Since before the 1900s, the Vale-Onslow Family has shown a keen interest in motorbikes. Two brothers owned garages in Birmingham where they built their little brother Len his first motorbike.

Len rode this bike across Sutton park from 8 years old and developed a love for all things two-wheeled.

Len’s two brothers also built an aeroplane and used Len as the test pilot. Successfully taking off into the skies Len came crashing down and fell into a two-week coma before waking determined as ever to ride bikes.

1926

Pioneering the way

By the time Len was 26, he built his first bike. He fabricated frames by a new process of oxy-acetylene welding, having first obtained permission from the Air Ministry to use special chrome-molybdenum tubular steel.

The Worcestershire village of Hallow became the home to the Super Onslow Special (SOS), boasting the first welded production motorcycle frame. The frame weighed 19 lb and cost 19 shillings.

Around this time Len also discovered the Red Marley hill which you can read about on the Red Marley website – Click here

1935

So Obviously Superior

Len sells S.O.S just before World War 2 to Tommy Mateen An acclaimed TT and endurance rider throughout the 20s.

Len saw Vale-Onslow’s future was in retail and focused on this part of the business with his wife.

They were a formidable business team, both workaholics and living above the shop. Taking the business from strength to strength growing in size and value. Vale-Onslow became a well-known and reliable brand name in the motorcycle industry. 

1999

Len Vale-Onslow MBE

Awarded an MBE for his life long services to the motorcycle industry and was recognised for being Britain’s oldest worker. Len was also Britain’s oldest motorcycle rider.

On his 100th birthday, Len rode one of his restored SOS machines down Pall Mall in London for the benefit of the camera. His last time on a bike was at 102 years of age.

2004

Born to be wild

Len’s incredible journey was played out to Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf and his hearse was followed by a massive entourage of motorcycles.

2017

The big move

After almost 90 years in Stratford Road the Vale-Onslow business makes the decision to move to a new site in Saltley, Birmingham, as the old building was falling down around them beyond repair. 

The mammoth task of moving the stock was headed up by the youngest Vale-Onslow in the business. It took almost 6 months to meticulously transport the 60,000 classical bike parts and allowed Vale-Onlows to reorganise and begin developing a larger online presence through eBay.