A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


The 50cc NSU Quickly - Launched in 1953

Mopeds, essentially bicycles with engines, provided cheap personal transport for many in the 1950s and 1960s. NSU, famous for its racing and record breaking bikes, introduced the Quickly in 1953. Over the next ten years more than a million were built to various specifications. The pressed steel frame was both sturdy and easy to mass produce. Quicklys went on sale in Britain in late 1954, distributed at first by NSU’s UK partner Vincent Motorcycles. One of Vincents sub-distributors was EMB Motorcycles of Watford, England.

The original and most basic version of the Quickly was the Quickly N. It used the original version of the engine, with a 5.5:1 compression ratio, which produced 1.4 bhp (1.0 kW) at 4600 rpm. The N had a two-speed transmission that was operated from the handlebar. It ran on 26" x 2.00" wheels front and rear. 539,793 Quickly N mopeds were manufactured from 1953 to 1962.

NSU Quickly Standard - One of the worlds best known - mopeds tested in its latest 1958 form

Mention mopeds to the man in the street and wo to one he will reply, ”Oh yes. One of those little NSUs!” It is a testimonial to the efficiency of the "NSU Quickly” that, within five years of its introduction, it has become, in the public mind, the very embodiment and symbol of a whole class of machine's, many of them quite dissimilar in conception from the “Quickly” itself.

There are, many reasons for this, of course. The “Quickly,” a two-speed, pressed-frame type of moped, has lines which do not date, and which make it an “eye-catcher even now, when one is thoroughly familiar with it. It has had some notable sporting successes and is backed by efficient service organisations.

Given all this, however, one still needs a machine of more than average calibre to make its mark as surely as the “Quickly” has done, and that is just what this NSU is a mass-production moped which, in some respects, equals or surpasses far more costly mounts.

 First and foremost, the NSU is equipped with a superb engine unit. It is difficult to believe that this motor is produced at the rate of 1,000 per day, for it has all the characteristics of a unit built for a smaller and more fastidious market than the moped public is commonly supposed to provide.

The very existence of the “Quickly” itself disposes of that fallacy. It is smooth, powerful, and quiet. Its top-gear pulling power is remarkably good - equal to that of several of the sports-class units l have tried - and as a result its hill-climbing is above average.’

Additionally. the gearbox is sweet and slick in operation; the ratios seem nicely spaced, and the clutch is free from either drag or snatch. All of which makes for a moped which is a delight to drive, whether on the open road, where‘ its tireless “upper 20s” cruise is reinforced by excellent handling characteristics, or in crowding traffic, where its slick acceleration helps, to keep it up with the leaders.

It is a pity, then, that a fine engine and frame are somewhat spoiled by detail work which leaves the gingerbread devoid of guilt. The saddle, for instance, has no adjustment for tilt, and a heavy rider tends to compress the springs so much that he is in constant danger of sliding backwards.

The front forks on the test model developed an annoying squeak after 50 miles running and appeared to have springs which were too soft for the job, though the newly added rebound buffers were a welcome improvement over the earlier models.

Then there was a fuel tap which persisted in seeping; and the rather flimsy stand. But worst of all is the inadequacy of the brakes. On a machine of the “Quicklys” potential, they are just not good enough. Less sprightly mopeds can get by with “below average” brakes - the “Quickly’s” own manifest virtues demand that its stopping needs to be as reliable as its performance in other ways. The front brake, in this case, was weak, and the rear one, though effective, demanded an uncomfortably high pressure on the back-pedalling mechanism to achieve results.

One can welcome the extra weather-proofing applied to the 1958 front brake, however. It should materially enhance wet-road safety. With one major reservation, then, I can sum up the “ Quickly ” as being, deservedly the acknowledged leader in its own field. capable of improvement, but none the less a good business proposition and a sound investment for the average rider. 

Some of this research material is taken from an article, written by 'CENTAUR' for a motorcycle magazine. Photographs are from the internet.

With the 'Quickly' Being introduced in 1953 and having 2 gears, similar to the Ducati Cucciolo, it attracted the attention of some of the people who wanted to race small engined, 50cc bikes. at the time there were no races for them on the calendar but they could pit them against the 125cc big brothers. 

Two riders who saw their potential were Bill Peden and a chap called J Morrow. They started their racing by entering their 'Quicklys' into the larger lasses and and used the experience to improve the performance of the engine. The NSU factory equipped the Quickly with a hard chrome plated cylinder and the pistons were highly sturdy and durable. this made the cylinder and piston are starting points for any tuning.

Bill Peden entered his machine in he first 50cc class race to take place in Great Britain at the Blandford Circuit during 1955. It completed the race but was not up to the then tuned Cucciolo engine of the Britax Hurricane or the winners sleeved down NSU Fox. Bill carried on his development of the bike and entered many more races. Pictures: Motorcycle racing wasn't just about high performance exotica as this archive picture of Bill Peden, No.55  shows. Bill was caught practising on his 50cc NSU at the Crystal Palace circuit in London prior to a British Motor Cycle Racing Club (Bemsee) meeting In 0ctobor 1966 where he was to ride in the 'up to 125cc' class

No.9 J Morrow. on his much modified 50cc NSU 'Quickly' which powered him to the up-to-200cc winners award. negotiates the hairpin in fine style in the Temple '100' meeting at Saintfield, Co. Down, Northern Ireland.

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