Mark Scott's 1927 Scott Flying Squirrel: Smooth running and very easy to ride, it's hard to believe this 498cc 2-stroke water-cooled twin was built 82 years ago.
Ever wonder what it’s like to ride a truly vintage motorcycle? How about an 82-year-old water-cooled 2-stroke twin? It’s amazing enough to discover anyone even built such a bike back in the 1920s; more amazing is riding one and discovering that except for the expected deficiencies in braking, it’s a remarkably user-friendly machine.
Sometimes life just goes your way – it certainly did for me at the recent Barber Vintage Festival at the famed Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, Ala., last month. While there, I was approached by Motorcycle Classics reader and ardent Scott motorcycle fan Mark Scott. No, I didn’t make that up; his name really is Scott, although he claims that has nothing to do with his affinity for the English 2-strokes.
Mark’s bike, a 1927 Flying Squirrel, is a well-maintained rider, not a polished trailer queen. Showing all the signs of regular use like oil and fuel stains on the cases, and reflecting the general aura of a daily rider, Mark’s Scott is a beauty. And he let me ride it. In the rain. Now there’s a dedicated – and trusting – owner.
Firing up the Scott is a pretty basic affair, and familiar to anyone used to “tickling” their carbs – essentially flooding the carb to give a rich shot of fuel on start up. After tickling the carb and flicking on the ignition, Mark swung out the kick-start lever (founder Alfred Scott introduced the first kick start to the motorcycling world in 1910), gave it one dedicated kick, and the Scott roared to life, popping and belching oil-rich exhaust through its single fishtail muffler, as the video below shows.
With the Scott running, I climbed on and Mark gave me a 10-second tutorial on riding the Scott. Hand controls are familiar to any rider, with the clutch on the left and front brake on the right. Shifting is a bit different, as the Scott uses a hand shift mounted on the right side of the tank to select one of three forward gears. The clutch has a light pull, and the tranny shifts easily into first. Torque isn’t exactly the engine’s forte, so it takes a little revving on the 498cc twin and a little slip of the clutch to pull away smoothly, but there’s not a hint of drama as the engine spools up and the bike pulls away cleanly.
The engine is remarkable for its smoothness, belying its age, and getting the revs up a bit once on the move cleans out the Scott’s throat, and it pulls strongly. In fact, once moving it’s almost hard to believe you’re riding a machine that was built two years before the start of the Great Depression. That is, until you go to stop, at which point you’re reminded that, well, this bike was built two years before the Great Depression!
There’s not much compression braking from the engine to help slow things down, but then again I doubt I ever got over 30mph on the Scott, so the lack of real pull-down from the brakes didn’t cause much concern, and I never had any trouble getting them to bite enough for my purposes.
Mark’s currently waiting for delivery of a “built” Scott engine from Roger Moss in England, the guru of Scott engines – I hope I get to ride it once that’s been installed, assuming, of course, Mark gets the brakes up to snuff! Special thanks to Mark Scott for the thrill of a lifetime! – Richard Backus