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Three-Part John Britten Biography Video Series – Incredible Story of a Motorcycle Genius

You could think of him as New Zealand’s Erik Buell, but they are different types of geniuses. Different, but similar. John Britten died too young at the age of 45 after a battle with cancer, but not before designing, and building by hand, one of the most incredible motorcycles ever, the Britten V1000.

The V1000 not only won at Daytona against Ducatis, it won races around the world. Typically, it obliterated the competition, because there was no competition. The bike was in a class of its own. In some ways, the Britten V1000 will always be a bike within a class of one.

I saw reference to the video biography below, started watching it, and couldn’t stop. It is long (three 15 minute segments), but it is fascinating and incredibly inspiring. Definitely worth your time.


  1. DesmoDerek says:

    Erik Buell is no John Britten.

  2. Gary says:

    I had the pleasure of watching the Britten race at Laguna. It was a truly remarkable machine, and made all other bikes, including the factory Ducati superbike, seem deathly slow and lethargic. Pity he died so young. I’d bet good money that motorcycle design would be several years more advanced if he had survived the cancer.

  3. uncle says:

    this is just another great example that I wasted my youth screwing off when I should have done my homework. The sad part is that when I daydream about going back in time to “do it right” I come to the realization that I’d do it all pretty much the same as I already did…Damn it.

  4. Bob J. says:

    Back in the day when I was racing at Laguna Seca I had the pleasure
    of watching John win his race in a very easy fashion.
    The V1000 was real eye-candy.
    The exhaust note of the Britten was pure noise-porn!
    It sounded something like my ’90 Ducati 851 but better.
    He gave me a Britten t-shirt that I still treasure.

  5. Mike says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for reminding us of John’s brilliance.

    He was an inspirational Kiwi

  6. Brinskee says:

    Wow. What a truly incredible, remarkable story. To think what this guy could have achieved had he lived even another 10 years. I’m shocked that more of his design innovations haven’t been adopted or used as inspiration. An 1100 kicking out 171 BHP in 1995? Astonishing.

  7. Jim says:

    John Britten was a very good friend of mine, and I have the great fortune to own the second Britten sold. If you we’re at the Isle of Man in ’94, or Daytona in’95-’98, or went to the Guggenheim Museum’s Art of the Motorcycle show, you’ve seen the bike.
    I agree that it is sad that the Britten brand and technology did not see a life after John’s passing, but there is a lot more to the story than most people know. Suffice it to say that it is a private, family matter. Just enjoy the story and the bike.
    The videos included in the MD article were from a one hour TV show done on NZ television. If you can find a copy, there is an excellent 90 minute film on John and the development of the bike called “One Man’s Dream”. It’ really quite extraordinary.

    • sherm says:

      A long time ago I read an article about John Britten and it said that Britten was basically non technical, and the the engineering of his bikes was done by others. Jim, is there any truth to this.

      • Jason says:

        While John didn’t have the qualifications, he was a natural born Engineer. Just as well really, as the normal rules didn’t seem to apply to him! He was also the visionary and driving force, without which the ‘team’ would have just been another group of enthusiasts (I was one of them).

  8. bikerrandy says:

    What a pity John Britten didn’t have a longer life.

  9. TimC says:

    Great/inspiring videos. Small caveat – too bad about all the collectivist Kiwi commentary/propaganda – but anyone watching can see through that. Britten’s life and accomplishments are a shining example of INDIVIDUAL drive and achievement.

  10. Norm G. says:

    hey, i’ve got nearly that same shot…!!!

    looks like the MCN test ride has stuck a cord. the almost greater tragedy here is not the premature loss of john (since we all have to go), but the fact that neither new zealand, nor any of the people associated with this project, nor any motorcycle company had taken to commercializing his work…? i did some checking on what exactly was going on prolly like 10 years ago, but i forget what the conclusions where. needless to say since were still doing nothing more than paying it “lip service” here in future year 2013, nothing occured and nothing was in the works. 🙁

    no slate to the storied norton or indian marques, but if ever there was a name worthy of resurrecting… it should have been BRITTEN…?!?! to me, even more important than the story of the bike, was the man left behind a wife and kids. they’ve been denied a MULTI-MILLION dollar legacy on top of whatever legacy he had left them. 20+ years on from the cycle world magazine cover, not even sure if any equity’s left…? the time has passed, the ball was dropped and THAT my friends is the real tragedy.

    • bikerrandy says:

      I recall reading his wife didn’t want see happen what you are proposing. Apparently it’s her call.

      • Norm G. says:

        yup. if true, gotta wonder what the kids think about that now that they’re grown…? post 6.0/7.0 quakes in christchurch, a world economy mired in recession, and faced with 21st century costs of education…? always uncertain the future.

  11. todder says:

    I remember seeing this bike at Barber, but not remembering the back story since Barber has so much two wheeled eye candy. What great videos, thank You for this piece!

  12. windy says:

    I’ve been riding for over fifty years,and interested in them even longer.The Britten is the most remarkable motorcycle created in my lifetime.In the seven or eight trips to Barber musuem I find myself drawn this fine motorcycle.The best experiance for me was the weekend in Daytona that the Britten was racing,I was in the pits and was in awe while the Britten raced.When I reeturn to Barber,I can almost hear it run again. What a genuis,and what a loss.Truly remarkable.

  13. Dave Russell says:

    It is unfair to John Britten to compare him with Eric Buell. John was a genius. Eric simply tinkers with the arcane.

    • Dave says:

      That’s an unfair, uninformed statement. They chose different paths that led to different accomplishments. Most motorcyclists know who Erik Buell is and what a Buell motorcycle is. The same cannot be said for John Britten. Erik always wanted to make bikes for people and even after being released from HD he works toward that goal.

    • stinkywheels says:

      Sad statement. I’ve no doubt about Brittens GREAT qualities. I get to sample Erics great qualities. I think their genius is only separated by the end goals. Eric has a desire to get his bikes into many riders hands, John built the bike for himself and didn’t care how many got to sample it.

    • I agree to a point. They shared a passion for motorcycles. They have different goals and different expertise. Britten was a genius. He was not motivated by money. if you take the time to learn about both men. The difference is clear. Can you imagine if John Britten and Earl Munro would have grown up at the same time?????

  14. jim says:

    britten is downstream of vincent and nobody else has a boat in the water. ducati is just now arriving. britten is the da vinci of motorcycles, and the bike is an unmitigated masterpiece.

    • Mark Pearson says:

      I also feel a connection from the Vincent to the Britten, if nothing else than to me they’re artistic expressions of motorcycle engineering.

  15. Dave says:

    When I visited Barber Motorsports Park, I spent close to half the total time I was in the museum studying this bike. Still one of the most incredible bikes ever built and will be for years to come. Why has nobody continued on with these designs?