Historic Motorcycle Brands

Derbi

 

Derbi has been a manufacturer of motorcycles, scooters and mopeds since 1944, but Derbi’s origins began back in 1922, with a little bicycle workshop in the village of Mollet, near Barcelona.

 

Now known as Nacional Motor SAU, a Spanish subsidiary of Piaggio & Co. SpA, Derbi was founded in 1922 by Simeó Rabasa i Singla, who lived from 1901 until 1988. 

The brand name derbi came from the Spanish derivado de bicicleta – literally derived from bicycle.

Rabasa’s initial focus was on the repair and hire of bicycles, but after the Spanish Civil War he began producing frames for mopeds and small motorcycles. In May 1944, after the Allied liberation of Italy, he and his brother, Jose, formed a limited liability company named Bicycletas Rabasa, with the aim of manufacturing bicycles.

 

Derbi 50cc engine – 50factory.com

 

Over time, his passion led him deeper into this world and in 1949 he  created his first motorcycle, the legendary Derbi SRS (Simeón Rabasa i Singla)

The venture proved very successful and in 1946, supported by its profits, work began on a motorised version. 

More moped than motorcycle, this first model, the 48cc SRS – his initials –  developed 1.5bhp at 4500rpm, had a two-speed gearbox and was capable of 45km/h. It featured telescopic front forks, plunger rear suspension, drum brakes and a motorcycle-type gas tank and exhaust system.

The SRS success prompted a change in the company’s direction and on November 7, 1950, the company changed its name to the Nacional Motor SA. At that summer’s Barcelona Trade Fair, the company unveiled its first real motorcycle, the 9bhp Derbi 250.

 

1957 Derbi 250cc

 

In 1955, the Derbi 125 Super was introduced and two years later came the 350 twin-cylinder, 16bhp bike that could reach 120km/h.

For 1961 the new Derbi models were the 49 Sport and Gran Sport: both 48.7cc bikes with 1.5bhp at 5000 rpm, three gears, drum brakes, pedal gear change and hydraulic suspension.

 

1960s Derbi 50cc

 

In 1962, Derbi made its debut in the World Moto Championship with a single-cylinder, two-stroke 50cc bike, ridden by Spain’s José Maria Busquets, who notched up a second place in the Spanish GP and finished 10th in the Championship. 

In 1964 came the 49 Junior and the 74 GS sports bike that could better 100 km/h.

 

 

Derbi entered the road racing scene and had its first win in 1968, with Barry Smith at a TT race. He finished third in the 1969 50cc World Championship that was won by Ángel Nieto on another Derbi. Smith’s third place in the 50cc category helped Derbi win its first constructor title. 

Also in 1969 came the Derbimatic, a small city bike with automatic transmission and touring look, along with the Scootmatic, small motorised bike that could be ridden without a driving licence.

In 1970, Derbi entered the enduro segment with the Coyote 49 and 75, the Correlaminos and the Cross 50 that later spawned 74 and 74TT versions. Nieto won his second rider title in the 50cc GP category and was runner-up in the 125cc class. Derbi picked up its second constructor title.

Nieto, on his Derbi, won the 125 World Championship in 1971 and Derbi also won the constructor title.

 

Derbi Angel Nieto replica- Phil Aynsley

 

The Carreras Cliente 50cc racing bike was introduced in 1972 and Nieto became a double champion, in 50cc and 125cc classes. Derbi was once again winner of the constructor title in the 125 class.

In 1980 came the new Diablo 80 CX and Variant Caballero, alongside the Sport Coppa 80, the 125 Cross, the 1001-74 Sport Coppa and the 2.5bhp at 8000rpm SC50.

The 50cc class was increased to 80cc displacement in 1984 and in 1986, 1987 and 1988 Jorge Martínez was crowned World Champion and Derbi won the constructor title in the 80cc category. In 1989, Manuel Herreros won the 125cc class of the World Championships on his Derbi.

In 1987, Derbi became the Spanish importer for Kawasaki.

Simeó Rabasa i Singla died in 1988 but the company remained independent until 2001, when it was bought out by the Piaggio group.

 

Stay informed and receive our updates

From Jim Gibson & Allan Whiting directly to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!