A living legend
Occasionally there are products which become synonymous with a sport. If you’re a speedway fan, Hagon Shocks is one of them. Preferred fitment on more bikes than one could realistically list. Not at all dissimilar in fact to NGK Spark Plugs! Except Hagon have a pedigree that even NGK would quite rightly tip their cap to, because behind that name lies a legend. A man who it seems might have been born on two wheels such was his ability on them. The fellow is question is Alf Hagon.
Born back in 1931, it took Alf a while for this talent on two wheels to emerge, but when he did, there was no holding him. Not only as a competitor, but also a builder and there aren’t too many of those you can list who were equally adept at both.
In the early part of his racing career, Alf’s interest seemed to be split between grass track and speedway with grasstrack bearing better results for him as he garnered 11 national titles. Perhaps more interesting than his talent as a rider was his ability as an engineer. Alf, using his knowledge and experience of the two forms of racing which where not dissimilar, started to design his own frame, the first to see the light of day was in 1957. That laid the foundation of a successful business which in its time built over 1,000 frames for customers worldwide.
In the building process, Alf’s shock absorber of choice was Girling who, when they were bought by Boge, lost interest in the product range and ceased manufacture, leaving Alf with an issue for his burgeoning frame business. So first he tried building shocks to his own design, but then when the opportunity arose to buy the Girling tooling, another business emerged and it’s the one that still bears the family name today, Hagon Shocks. Known worldwide and the preferred fitment not only on the speedway circuit but also road and race bikes.
But back to Alf and his racing. Whilst still heavily embroiled in both speedway and grass track racing, a chance encounter led him to be enticed to try his hand at drag racing. Now bearing in mind that being quick away from the lights was second nature to a man bred on speedway, drag racing was a challenge that seemed to have Alf’s name written all over it. And so it proved. At his first meeting he convincingly beat the then leader of the pack, George Brown, who rode “Super Nero”, a turbo charged Vincent.
Almost immediately the designer in Alf could see the potential for building a purpose built drag bike rather than using the adapted grass track racer he had started with…
Now one thing that defined the man was his ability to design down to a purpose. A bit like another famous designer Colin Chapman whose design philosophy was “add lightness”. And so it was with Alf. He looked at his drag bike and dispensed with anything that was deemed unnecessary. For instance who needs a seat when you sit on the frame? After all you’re only on the bike for a few seconds.
As Alf’s turn of speed started to gain attention and records started to come his way, once again the orders started to come in for him to recreate his winning bike design, this time for drag racers.
Alf onboard his own bike became the man to beat, but it was a feat rarely achieved because not only was his bike so quick, but also he was so fast off the line. So no surprise that the records would start to fall. He was the first to break through the 10-second barrier. He then went on to set the World record for the standing quarter mile at 9.28 seconds and a terminal speed of 157mph, a record that stood for several years.
But Alf wasn’t done yet. In 1967 he then set about another record breaking attempt and in doing so became the first Brit to break the 200mph barrier on a motorcycle achieving 206.54mph over the flying mile at RAF Honington.
Come 1970, Alf finally decided to hang up his helmet and concentrate on the demands of his ever growing business, but behind him he has left a legacy that, amongst others, has earned him a place in the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
So next time you see the legend Hagon Shocks, remember the man who made it all possible. ‘The Master’ Alf Hagon. Oh and when you look at the pictures in this article, check out the logo on Alf’s fairing. As we said at the beginning of this piece, there are some names that are synonymous with success.