A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles



The DOT Vi-vi

Racers and Sports Mopeds.

The Harry Reed years (1903–1926). Dot Motorcycles were a northern manufacturer founded by Harry Reed in the pioneering days of motorcycling and the manufacture and sale of pedal cycles in Salford near Manchester. The first mention of Dot motorcycles was in 1907, by which time the company had relocated to larger premises in nearby Manchester. It was on a Dot motorcycle that Reed competed in the first motorcycle races at Brooklands in 1908 and, in September 1908, won the Twin Cylinder Class in the Isle of Man TT beating international competition from larger and better-established manufacturers. 

Although Dot never repeated that TT win, there was considerable success in the TT and other road racing events over the next 20 years. Reed actively rode in top level competition until 1924, when he took part in the sidecar event at the Isle of Man TT meeting. During the next incarnation of the company, Dot also put some effort into developing a lightweight road racing machine, again entering the TT and won the team award in the 1951 Ultra Lightweight 125 cc TT, the only such win by a British manufacturer.

Dot famously took the manufacturer’s team prize in the 1951 Ultra-Lightweight TT – and no wonder, with designers capable of ideas like this. The bike’s weight is kept as low down as possible thanks to an underframe petrol tank and the contorted angle of the Villiers engine.

Dot never stopped experimenting with off-road machines – and imagine the racket from the 350cc RCA two-stroke twin.

All the then state-of-the-art features were exercised on this Dot 31 road race machine. (Pictures OBM)

1957 and enter the Dot Vi-vi mopeds. These were not designed or built from scratch at the Manchester factory but were added to the catalogue to augment the DOT range of motorcycles when the Moped craze started to make itself felt in the late 50s early 60s.  

These were imports from a joint alliance venture between a German and Italian Company. They were sourced from Italy with cycles parts and assembly by the Italian factory Officine Viberti,  using the 2 speed Victoria 50cc engine from VICTORIA Werke AG. The Italian company was primarily a Trailer builder and fabricator of Bus and Coach bodies. (see footnote)

The Vitoria Avanti was a good sports moped and there were already some over here in the UK.  They competed in the market with the early ITOMs, NSU Quickly and other Italian bikes.  It was easy to see why DOT looked for a machine similar to this to bring into their range.  The engine was good but the frame needed a little more development to provide a good all-round ride.


A 50cc DOT Vi-vi 1962 - being given a good run at the 2012 Festival of 1000 Bikes by Pat Davy.

Enter the DOT Vi-Vi.  This had the engine and the Italian style and was seen by DOT to fill the gap in the market that was being made by the need for a first bike for the teenager or an easy and cheap transport for the 'get to work' brigade. It was also seen as a possible mount for the 50cc racing class that was gaining momentum in the UK.  

Gerard Periam wrote an article for the Motorcycle News after his visit to a race circuit to witness these little racing 'Wasps' and got the bug for 50cc racing..


March 21st 1962

WE'RE having the whole staff inoculated. This racing bug is sweeping through the office to such an extent that in less time than it takes sprinter Charlie Rous to cover a quarter mile we shall have no one left to write about the "flying fleas" we'll all be riding them.

Frankly, until I went to Oulton Park on Tuesday to watch a try-out of the prototype DOT fifty racer my enthusiasm for the little ones had not exactly reached fever heat.  But now 'I'm with it man'. One hundred per cent. 

Bert Foster, the Newton Heath, Manchester, engineer who has built the prototype Dot racer; not only brought the machine to the track but also his son Peter, who works with him, Dennis Holden who is to race the fifty, Harold Cosgrove, an experienced 50 cc racer, and Bob Howarth who, to add a little contrast to the proceedings, had his two-fifty M.V.

Spares service: One of the reasons for using the Avanti engine, Bert told me, is that there is an excellent spares service already in being, the Victoria moped having been marketed successfully for some years, and having a chain of established agents.

The Dot development job was suffering from plug trouble and was a little reluctant to start but it's no problem pushing an 80 pound lightweight!  Dennis got into his leathers and went off briskly through Cascades, Island Bend, Esso Bend and on to Knicker Brook.  This was his first ever ride on a 50cc race bike and as such a bit of an eye opener.

You will have guessed that Dennis found it a bit disconcerting on the little bike as it is a very different experience for riders who are used to heavier motorbikes.  Four of MCN's staff riders have ridden 50 cc racers and all of them agree that their overall reaction was similar to Dennis Holden's.

In use, the rear suspension was found to be on the soft side but this was lightweight Italian stuff and the production machines will have special Girling rear legs, Bert mentioned, incidentally that the bottom half of the Victoria engine has now been used for four years and has not had to be touched.

The barrel has been modified barrel by improving the inlet and exhaust ports. In production there will be an alloy head  and the fining on barrel and head will be larger than on this prototype. There will be a modified barrel, head and piston set together with a 'Cow Horn' megaphone exhaust pipe supplied with the 'Over the Counter' machine.

 Holden gives the DOT its first outing.


With the removal of the peddles,

 Footrests were welded to the Foster Frame

Bert Foster and Mary Cosgrove

These pictures are of Harold Cosgrove's Victoria Avanti racer


This is Harold Cosgrove with his Victoria/ DOT race bike at the 1961 Snetterton Enduro, with his co-rider Dave Clarke.  The little bike ran well and and finished the Enduro, even managing the inclines of the circuit with its limited 2 gears, that gave problems to some of the other bikes with three gears.

I had a run on Harold Cosgrove's much modified machine which began life as an early Dot-Vivi moped that Trevor Burgess (picture below) used to ride. It is only a two-speeder but nevertheless Harold finished 18th of 40 at a Bemsee meeting at Silverstone last season and also finished in the Snetterton Enduro.

Reliable engine?  The little engine bursts into full song as soon as it is paddled off and has proved utterly reliable. The frame was built by Bert Foster and is very similar to the one to be used for the Dot.  I thought it was a grand little job and I think the new Dots will be too.

Here's a tip then for two-stroke racing from Bert Foster, "If you get a good plug look after it—don't give it away and don't lend it. Plugs are like a thousand Japanese babies" “they may all look alike to use but they are not” 

Foot Note! A brief history on the alliance partnership:

Victoria was a bicycle manufacturer in Nürnberg Germany that made motorcycles from about 1901 until 1966. It should not be confused with the unrelated Victoria Motorcycle Company in Glasgow Scotland that made motorcycles between 1902 and 1928

Established in 1922 in Turin, VIBERTI built its reputation on an exceptionally complete and vast production of both civilian and military transport vehicles, supplied, among the others, during the bleak years of the second World War, to the Italian Armed Forces, and to almost all transport companies that were starting regular service in Italy and abroad. 

A few years after its establishment, VIBERTI forcefully became Italian market leader and in the aftermath of the World War, the company continued its growth until it achieved an absolute market leadership in Europe with their Viberti Monotral CV61. The cooperation with FIAT (now IVECO) started in the 20s constantly characterized the almost 80 years’ life of the historic brand VIBERTI. Since the very beginning, and still today, the company has been market leader in Italy. 

Viberti made the Vi-vi moped from 1955 until 1957 during their alliance with Victoria.

The Victoria 'Avanti' moped. The term moped originally referred to a type of small motorcycle with both a motorcycle engine and bicycle pedals, generally having a less stringent licensing requirement than full motorcycles or cars 

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