Looking at Alan Clews, John Banks and CCM’s impact on motocross racing.
Journalist Frank Melling aboard a 1973 CCM 608cc trail bike.
By 1971, the European and Japanese 2-stroke motocross bikes had developed a clear power and weight advantage over earlier 4-stroke bikes, but there were those who still believed a purpose-built 4-stroke single could be competitive. Though powerful, the 2-strokes developed their torque over a narrow rev range, while many riders preferred the stump-pulling grunt and broad power bands of the 4-stroke singles. Among those were privateer rider Alan Clews and former BSA works rider “Big” John Banks.
After BSA’s factory motocross team folded in 1971, Banks went to ride for motorcycle designer and builder Eric Cheney, whose BSA-powered thumpers were proving competitive in the British championship. Clews, meanwhile, had developed his 490cc “Clews Stroka” motocrosser around a long-stroke B44 engine of 79mm x 100mm — mainly because works B50 engines were still unavailable from BSA. When this situation eased in 1972, Clews began development on 500cc (82mm x 88mm) and 608cc (88mm x 100mm) Strokas, offering them for sale from his new workshop in Shiffnall Street, Bolton, Lancashire. Clews Competition Machines Ltd., or CCM, was born.
CCM achieved its greatest success in 1974 and 1975 after signing Banks and long-time campaigner Vic Eastwood to the team. Because of his size and weight, Banks was better suited to the torquey CCM, but success eluded him — often because his punishing riding style simply broke the bike. In 1974 and 1975 the British championship went to Vic Allan on a Bultaco. Banks was third in 1974 and fourth in 1975, while Eastwood came second in 1975. Banks also placed five times in the top five in the FIM World Championship through the mid-1970s. CCM was acquired by the Armstrong company in 1980, but is now back in Clews family hands. MC