Words & pics: Mark Boxer
What goes up must come down... yes.
Well, when it comes to gearboxes, in addition ot the ratios going up and down, there's also the issue of what goes in, must come out. And getting bee-haitch-pee from the crank into and out of the transmission - with minimal power loss and at the greatest of ease - is what Nova Racing are the experts at.
I don’t know about all of you lot, but I really enjoy watching clever people using machinery to turn a mundane piece of metal into an amazing part of a motorcycle. It’s like functional art or engineering masterpieces by lesser-known greats of the non-canvas or musical type art worlds. In the case of Nova Racing, it’s not just one part though, it’s a combined symphony of parts in the CNC museum. Making entire gearboxes, clutches and dry sumps is all in a day's work for them and, in combination with their very clever metal finishing processes that assist with oil adhesion, they’re not here to mess around, they make some seriously excellent stuff.
Located in the UK county of Sussex in an old industrial estate, I arrived on a typically glum British day and was greeted by their marketing and sales expert, Mick, who not only loves motorcycles and racing more than his own hands, but who also makes an excellent cup of tea. Now, given the fact that Nova isn’t based on a massive premises, the visit wasn’t a whole day affair, so I saw how most of the parts are designed and built, as well as getting to see how much the staff (most being motorbike riders and racers) love working there.
The company itself was started 27 years ago by Graham Dyson, who came from a background of building engine and transmission components. During this time he was part of the team that put together two very well-known engines, the Sparton and the Phoenix, both of which had a great deal of success at racetracks in the 1970s and '80s. In the late '80s Graham's passion for high-performance gearboxes led him to set up Nova Racing Transmissions in 1989. At this point in time the company was based in Peterborough, north of London, and before long gained a great reputation, some saying that he performed “manufacturing miracles”. As the company grew and expanded, Graham partnered Martin Ford-Dunn, a mechanical engineer who’d worked for 29 years across a number of companies heading up small engine projects, including motorcycle engines. From there things continued to grow and expand with Nova taking part in many large projects and developing numerous gearbox upgrades for popular motorcycles. With the unfortunate passing of Graham in 2012, the company was taken over by Martin who led the company through a decision-making period where new directors Jeff Claridge and Sean Whittaker were appointed adding more experience and passion for motorcycles to the company. A relocation plan was also made to move south to the current location in Sussex. Since then the company has moved in metaphorical leaps and bounds making room for new designs and CNC techniques, as well as expanding to a staff of fourteen full-time employees.
As far as where the company stands now, not only are Nova continuing to produce amazing gearboxes and upgrades for vintage motorcycles, but they also represent a great number of gearboxes used in British Superbikes and Supersport, WSBK as well helping to secure podiums at the Isle of Man TT every year across all of the classes. New designs and projects are always on the cards and they’re never shy about taking on a requested project no matter how big, small or crazy it might be.
Keen on a Nova box for your bike? Well that’s easy, just head to their website www.novaracing.co.uk and search via the manufacturer listings at the top of the page. If your bike isn’t listed don’t stress, just drop them a line and they should be able to come up with a solution to suit your needs.
0071-0075: The amazing lightweight 5th and 6th output gears which make up part of the Kawasaki ZX-10R LITA low inertia gearbox
0061-0063: Nova’s “Superfinishing” process is not so much a performance enhancement, it assists with the oil sticking to the gear. To achieve this finish the gears are vibrated in a rotating drum overnight until this shiny finish is achieved.
0056-0059: One of the coolest parts of Nova is the combination of brand new and old technology. This “Hobbing” machine is used for cutting splines in shafts and whilst it looks like it’s done it’s fair share of work is still incredibly accurate in the right hands and is used daily for making shafts to go in anything from classic bikes to the latest high powered superbikes.
0026-0028: Mountains of beautiful billet gears after their first machining process waiting for the dogs and gears to be cut into them.
0017-0020: Blank billets of the rare and incredibly tough steel used to make the Nova gears
0039: Inspiring words! “Racing is life, anything before or after that is just engineering”