100 Miles Per Hour on a Gilera 500

Geoff Duke's brush with the ton aboard his TT machine.

Rider Geoff DukeMotorcyclist Archives

From the archives: August 1955, page 20

There's more to this photo of Geoff Duke at the 1955 Isle of Man TT than meets the eye. For one thing, Duke is airborne, not at Ballaugh Bridge, as you'd expect, but while leaned over in a fast left-hander with a mild rise at its apex. Which means he's really moving, just what you'd expect given his impressive win and new lap record of 99.97 mph—agonizingly close to the 100-mph mark that Bob McIntyre would break two years later.

Sidecar team.Motorcyclist Archives

Duke won the last of his six world titles in '55, the Isle of Man being the third of the eight-race Grand Prix series. Also interesting is the legendary Gilera 500 Duke is riding. That bike's inline-four would become the fiercest motorcycle-racing engine of the era and one of the most legendary engines of all time. How influential was it? Both MV Agusta and Honda copied the design in later years and dominated, just as Gilera did in the 1950s. Geoffrey Ernest Duke died May 1, 2015, at the age of 92. He will not soon be forgotten. —Mitch Boehm