Bob Tait 1935-2017, in Memoriam

Bob Tait. 1935-2017
in memoriam
Bob Tait, engineer and innovator, responsible for key developments of the 'double wishbone' hub centre steering system pioneered by Jack Difazio, died peacefully at home on the 16th July 2017.

He will be remembered not just of his insights and understanding of two wheeler front suspension but for his generosity of spirit and enthusiastic assistance to all who knew him, from his nephews and nieces (he had no children) to everyone involved in the Phazar and Voyager projects - he was one of the old FF campaigners - and motorcycling at large, as a member of both his local motorcycle club and the VMCC.

His most recent contribution was to the Angelic Bulldog record breaking project and several FF owners have benefited from his advice and assistance since the Phazar and Voyager projects. He designed and produced the hub centre system for Malcolm Newell's Phazars - known generally as the 'Tait HCS' - which incorporated his key innovation, a steering axis offset from the wheel centre. This provided a better balance between Rake and Trail and hence a more natural steering 'feel' than Jack Difazio's true 'hub centre' steering system. The Tait HCS system was the first 'post-Difazio' HCS system used on an FF two wheeler. The Voyager HCS also incorporated an offset steering axis, paying a royalty for the use of Bob's patent.

Bob was born in 1935 in Birmingham, moving to the village of South Brailes in Warwickshire at the outbreak of WW2. After Primary School there he went to High School in Stratford and then on to an engineering apprenticeship. He rose to Chief of Design at Norgren Engineering and finally worked until retirement at Turbine Blading in Shipston-on-Stour. They had proper apprenticeships in those days, and Bob was a proper engineer.

In his spare time he was an enthusiastic motorcycle engineer , owning, riding, rebuilding and designing, This included not just HCS development but an entire 3 cylinder engine for a trials bike - which put him over the handlebars enough times for him to park the engine for thirty years until a friend fitted it to a race bike and ran it in an Isle of Man parade lap in 2011.

Bob was married to Ann, moving into their house in Tredington in 1975, where they were to remain for the rest of their lives. Ann was seriously disabled in an accident at their home and Bob devoted his life to caring for her with an uncomplaining dedication which was entirely characteristic of him. Many of the people Bob gave unstinting assistance to were entirely unaware of his domestic tragedy.

When Bob discovered, late last year, that he was suffering from terminal cancer he set about putting his affairs in order in a down to earth and businesslike manner without complaint. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a caring, generous, talented and all round decent bloke.

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RIP Bob Tait

A fitting tribute to Bob from Royce. I can only echo the sentiments above. I last spoke to Bob a couple of years ago when he was happy to share with me his recollections of Keith Duckworth for the motorcycling section of the biography of Keith which I contributed; ('First Principles', by Norman Burr, ).
There's a great photo of Bob with Malcolm Newell in the 'Malcolm Newell's Creations' section of bikeweb here:
And Royce has recently added some fascinating facts behind the photo, and how Bob came to be in Wiltshire on that day, due to the engine failure of Royce's Thames van.
There's also a photo by Graham Robb of Bob visiting the FF stand at the 2011 Festival of 1,000 bikes, here: