2023 Brough Superior Nefud Review
Dual-Purpose Desert Stormer
It’s exactly ten years on since the born-again Brough Superior brand’s first all-new model, a modern take on the legendary SS100 launched 100 years ago this year as the world’s first street-legal Superbike, was unveiled at the 2013 EICMA Milan Show.
Since then, while celebrating its Centenary in 2019, the nowadays French-based company has established an enviable reputation for excellence of design and leading edge engineering coupled with quality of manufacture, which has latterly resulted in its successful joint venture with the equally historic four-wheeled British brand, Aston Martin. This has seen all 100 examples of the turbocharged AMB 001 styled by Aston Martin and both engineered and built by Brough Superior sold out in a matter of weeks despite a €108,000 (US$119,000) price tag, while Brough’s own products have meantime acquired a healthy clientele of discerning owners across the globe, reportedly with a waiting list to join them.
For Brough Superior CEO Thierry Henriette and his colleague Albert Castaigne, who’s responsible for day-to-day operation of the company which now employs 25 full-time craftsmen in its ultra-modern 21,500 sq. ft factory in Toulouse, have successfully relaunched Brough Superior as a manufacturer of high-performance, high-quality, but inevitably high-priced motorcycles which, despite their hitherto retro styling, employ thoroughly modern advanced technology, high-class materials, and radical design.
The ever-growing range of Brough Superior V-Twin models conceived and made in France since the 2013 relaunch has now expanded further to include for the first time a dual-purpose model with potential offroad capability, the Nefud street scrambler which comes shod as standard with chunky Michelin Anakee Wild tires. It’s a derivative of the Lawrence two-seater roadster introduced in 2021 that’s turned out to be easily Brough Superior’s most popular current model, and in following in its tire tracks, the Nefud has now entered production in the Brough factory in Toulouse at the same price of € 68,800 (US$75,989) incl. 20% French tax. However, we should consider this as a two-wheeled version of the legendary Range Rover, another luxurious British mile-eater with off-road credentials whose owners rarely get its tires muddy, says Thierry Henriette. “The Nefud is fully off-road capable, with the correct tires and detailed revisions to the suspension,” he says. “But just as with other companies producing high-performance street scramblers with knobbly tires, we know that 95% of our customers will use them primarily in city boulevards as chic transportation. They could take them off-road, especially on gravel trails or hard-packed dirt roads – but we suspect very few will do so.”
The new Brough model is named after the An Nefud desert in what is today northern Saudi Arabia, which was the springboard for the 1917 capture by the Arabs of the Red Sea port of Aqaba, nowadays in Jordan. This was the greatest victory in the Arab Revolt of WW1 against the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and it was masterminded by Brough Superior fanatic (he owned seven such bikes in succession!) T.E. Lawrence – better known to movie fans the world over as Lawrence of Arabia, in whose memory Henriette conceived the Lawrence model two years ago. “We’re in the process of establishing three different families of motorcycles, all of which are 100% built in our own factory,” he says. “One family contains the ultra-high performance turbocharged models, which at present are all Aston Martins, while the second includes the normally aspirated high performance bikes with retro styling using the SS100 platform, like the Pendine Sand Racer and Anniversary. The third is the new generation family of everyday models which have a more modern appearance than the SS100 but less extreme than the AMB 001, which still give satisfying performance, but have a lower seat with room for a passenger, less extreme Beringer brakes, etc. The many orders we’ve received for the Lawrence since we launched it two years ago confirm it was correct to offer our customers this choice, and the Nefud is the latest addition to this new generation family of Brough Superior models.”
Though the Nefud is the first ever Brough Superior model fitted as stock with off-road tires, it’s not the first to be targeted at being used on the dirt. In 1925, after two years of production, the original SS100 evolved into an all-rounder version named the Alpine Grand Sports, fitted with a longer-stroke roller-bearing 995cc JAP engine. It earned this name after George Brough himself and F.P. Dickson rode two such prototypes in that year’s grueling eight-day Austrian Alpine Trial, which Brough won outright with Dickson also in the medals. Longer and lower than the standard SS100, the bike had two large Rexine panniers for overnight gear, two tool bags, was tuned for competition at altitude and fitted with a Bonniksen time and trip speedometer. Brough kept this bike for a year, also winning the 1925 London-to-Edinburgh Trial and the March 1926 Victory Cup Trial on it, before selling it to an Indian prince. Meantime, the Alpine Grand Sports replica had entered production as Brough Superior’s range-topper, and in 1928 was the company’s first model to be fitted with rear suspension, featuring a triangulated rear frame section and under-seat springing.
The Nefud is thus the heir to this model and is powered by the same liquid-cooled 88º V-twin eight-valve engine weighing 157 lb. as its SS100, Lawrence and Pendine Sand Racer sister models [see Engine sidebar]. The 997cc motor delivers a claimed 102 bhp/75 kW at 9,600 rpm at the crankshaft, with peak torque of 87 Nm/64 lb-ft available at 7,300 rpm, albeit with a wider spread throughout the rev range. This is transmitted via a six-speed extractable cassette-type gearbox made by CIMA in Italy, with an Adler APTC oil bath slipper clutch, whose progressive self-servo mechanism allows a reduction in the clutch spring rates, for a traffic-friendly lever action.
Deliveries of the ‘new generation’ of Brough Superior models kicked off in 2021 with the Lawrence as the first model in the Toulouse-built BS lineup to offer space for a passenger aboard the seat, which on the Nefud still looks like a solo affair with the pillion pad hidden beneath an aluminum cover – especially without a second set of footpegs on the prototype! Like all new-generation Brough Superiors, the Nefud employs several advanced engineering solutions and high-tech components. Most eye-catching of the avantgarde features on the rangy-looking new model (wheelbase is 60.6 in.) is the front suspension, which combines a retro appearance with ultra-modern design. Based on the Fior Design wishbone fork created by French engineer Claude Fior, who used it on his Marlboro-sponsored four-cylinder Fior 500GP racer in the late 1980s, this was later copied by BMW in creating the Duolever fork equipping its current K-series models. They were free to do this, since the race-focused Fior had omitted to patent the design after inventing it back in the late 1970s, some years before the similar Hossack design. He himself raced bikes fitted with it in several major Endurance races, culminating in third place in the 1980 Austrian 1000km FIM championship round on a Fior-Honda. Fior later went on to build several streetbikes for Thierry Henriette’s Boxer Design firm employing the same front suspension, an evolved version of which appears on all new Brough Superior models, as well as the Aston Martin AMB 001 made alongside them in the company’s Toulouse factory.
So, the Nefud’s ultra-lightweight adaptation of the Fior design has a billet wishbone fork milled from solid aluminum, with twin articulated titanium triangular links, controlled by a monoshock developed especially for Brough Superior by Donerre, a small, high-end French suspension manufacturer located 37 miles north of Toulouse, which is adjustable for preload and rebound damping in delivering 4.7 in. of wheel travel. At the rear, the CNC-machined aluminum swingarm pivots in the engine crankcases, with another Donerre monoshock which is fully adjustable for preload, as well as both compression and rebound damping in giving 5.1 in. of travel via a progressive rate link. Steering geometry is slightly rangier than on sportier SS100-based Brough models, with a 24.6º head angle and 4.25 in. of trail.
The Nefud’s Beringer brake package fitted with dual-channel Continental ABS comprises twin 320mm stainless steel front discs gripped by twin-piston radial calipers employing special sintered metal pads to stop a bike weighing 441 lbs. dry, split 50/50 front and rear. There’s another 230mm Beringer disc at the rear, also gripped by a two-piston caliper. The wire wheels fitted to the test bike carried knobby Michelin Anakee Wild tires on aluminum rims, a 120/70R19 up front on a 3.50-in. hoop, with a 170/60R17 rear on a 5.50-in. rim – that’s much narrower than the 200/55R17 rear tire on a 6.25 in. rim adorning the Lawrence with the same essential cycle parts. Brough-made CNC-machined forged aluminum wheels are also available.
The Nefud’s 4.5 gal. carbon fiber fuel cell shared with the Lawrence, but here painted Ochre Red to denote its desert connections and carrying a special lining to make it Euro 5 compliant, pays tribute to an earlier model in Thierry Henriette’s design portfolio. That’s the RSV1000-powered 2002 Aprilia Blue Marlin café racer he was commissioned to produce for the Italian firm, complete with the same raised “brows” – ridged upper contours to the fuel tank – and a similar super-clean straight-line sweep for the tank and seat combo, giving the appearance of their being mounted directly on top of the motor. The large round analogue speedo set into the Nefud’s upper fork link is another modern retro touch, with a small digital panel set into the face showing rpm, mileage, just a single trip, and water temp – though you’ll need a magnifying glass to read it accurately! Finally, the two small metal buttons on each handlebar operate the relevant turn signal, supplemented on the left by the headlight dip switch, and the right by the starter button.
I had two goes at riding the Nefud in something approaching anger, the first of them at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed where I took turn and turnabout with Brough Superior test rider Simon Pitelet to ride the prototype Nefud and the Aston Martin AMB 001 up the hill in front of 100,000 spectators. Yes, I know – spoilt for choice, wasn’t I! But then, a longer run along the country lanes of southern England later in the year when the bike was again visiting the UK gave me the chance to get to know it properly – even if I was requested not to go offroad on it! That’s because it was en route to yet another exclusive gathering of motoring cognoscenti, including what its escort Albert Castaigne hoped would be some potential customers.
Like the Lawrence, it essentially shares its cycle parts with (minus the narrower rear tire/wheel), throwing a leg over the Nefud’s two-up seat immediately showed how different a bike this new model is from Brough’s sporting models like the SS100. For said seat is two inches lower than on the SS100 at 30.7 in., with the result that you feel as if you’re seated more within the bike rather than perched atop it, as on its sporty sister, so despite its nominal offroad potential, there’s no problem for a 5’10” tall rider to put both feet on the ground at stop lights. The raised one-piece forged titanium handlebar that’s a metallurgical work of art – in fact produced by Beringer of the brake bods – has a quite different shape compared to the Lawrence’s. This one is taller and wider but with the fat grips pulled back, thus delivering together with slightly lower footrests, a more upright, more comfortable stance, which makes riding the Nefud in traffic easier, thanks to the leverage provided by tugging the handlebar. Indeed, the steering is really light, thanks to that 19-inch front wheel, though not to the point that you start oversteering into turns out in the country. It’s a very intuitive bike to ride and would be right up there for me with the Pendine as Brough’s most satisfying street ride – but with even more attitude. But I’m not convinced by the black-anodised metal grips, which have a propensity to slip in your gloved hands, and are frankly overdesigned, focusing more on form than function. Change them!
But the wider handlebar did make it easier to control the inevitable rear wheel drifts when I got too eager with the power at Goodwood, exiting tighter turns like Molecombe, where the otherwise surprisingly grippy Michelin dual-purpose rubber scrabbled for grip in the absence of any TC or similar digital riding aids on this old-style real world ride. And it’s none the worse for being just that, because you get a sense of fun layered with satisfaction in riding the Nefud as hard as its torquey, friendly yet seemingly quite potent V-twin motor invites you to do. But cruising at 100 mph with the engine turning over at 7,000 revs introduced me to Range Rover syndrome: this is a capable mileater with offroad potential that you may only use just once in a while – but at least, you know it’s OK to get the tires muddy on it off-road if you do indeed want to do so.
There are the usual innumerable neat detail touches on the Nefud as on all today’s Broughs, like the classy-looking brake and clutch master cylinders, or the badging at the ends of the handlebar, or the elegant three-dimensional curves on the wishbone fork strut, or – well, just gaze at the bike, and every five seconds you’ll find something else to admire, that all adds to the sense of quality. Even the key is a visual work of art – though inserting it in the left-side lock that’s quite far forward ahead of the cylinder head is difficult if you’re already sitting on the bike. However, if you do it from the side before hopping aboard you’ll notice the little plaque next to it on the wishbone fork signed by the guy who built the engine in-house at BS – same as on the other side there’s one autographed by the man who assembled the complete motorcycle. Nice.
Thumb the red kill switch-cum-starter, and the 88º V-twin motor lights up instantly with a delicious muted roar from those twin pipes – this bike sounds how the looks say it’s meant to. In creating the Nefud, Henriette & Co. have subtly revamped the engine tune compared to SS100 spec – it still has lots of poke and enough power to thrill, but it’s the way it’s delivered that’s more accessible than before. There’s an even wider spread of torque lower down than on other Brough models I’ve ridden, which makes it even more flexible, allowing you to cut down on gear shifts if you wish. In a way that’s a pity, though, because despite all the torque it has to harness the Adler slipper clutch’s lever action on the Nefud is extremely light, smooth and very precise in action, so this is an ideal bike to ride in city traffic thanks also to the slick-shifting CIMA six-speed transmission. That made up for not having even a one-way quickshifter on it, let alone a clutchless two-way system, which was a bit of a surprise for a bike with this level of performance, as well as its price tag – but Thierry Henriette says this is a deliberate move. “Of course, we could incorporate that in our Synerject engine management ECU, but I don’t want to deprive the owner of any personal involvement in riding the bike,” he says. “This is a motorcycle which offers a purity in the riding experience, which I believe excessive electronic intervention would destroy.” He could be right, you know….
Though it still has an old-style cable throttle – and will for the foreseeable future, so at present, there’s still no choice of riding modes as would come with RBW – the low down mapping of the Synerject ECU on the Nefud was really excellent, with ideal fuelling delivering a smooth pickup from a closed throttle, and a linear power delivery as revs mount. So when you trailbrake into a turn as the Fior fork will allow you to do perfectly safely, the transition point at which you open the throttle to start accelerating out of the bend doesn’t betray any jerky or over-aggressive response which might cause the rear tire any extra grief, just a smooth, almost syrupy pickup. There’s loads of torque from as low as 2,000 rpm on the hard-to-see tacho reading in the small digital panel set in the large round speedo parked in the center of the handlebar casting. This also shows engine temp and mileage/trip if you thumb your way through it, but there’s still no gear selected reading, which would really be useful on such a torquey bike, where it’s all too easy to lose track of which gear you’re in. As I’ve said before, if an entry-level KTM 125 Duke can have this, a Brough Superior should, too. There's also still no fuel gauge incorporated in the speedo – just a warning light. And while I’m complaining, the starter button and direction signals are still way too small and awkward to use with gloves on. But the sidestand is easier to find at rest on the Nefud than on other Broughs I’ve ridden before with the exception of the Lawrence, so that’s a welcome improvement.
As any BMW K-series owner will tell you, there are several benefits of the Fior-type wishbone fork design, including the separation of steering and suspension functions, so that the front suspension doesn't freeze when you trailbrake into a turn, on the angle. There’s also superior suspension compliance, thanks to a fully-adjustable shock eliminating the stiction problems of any tele fork, plus inherent anti-dive, so reducing weight transfer and maintaining constant steering geometry, since the rigid upright only permits the wheel to travel up and down in a true vertical plane, even under the heaviest braking possible. It also delivers the Nefud’s excellent steering lock, plus zero fork deflection under braking, so no risk of the front wheel touching the engine. And there’s reduced unsprung weight, too, leading to enhanced suspension compliance, and clean, uncluttered aesthetics. The wishbone fork also potentially offers immediate and subtle adjustment of all chassis geometry – trail, head angle, wheelbase, ride height and weight distribution, as well as easier fine tuning of suspension settings than is possible on even the most sophisticated telescopic fork. Add in the enhanced stiffness to weight ratio of a wishbone front end compared to a tele fork, and you can appreciate the reasons for the fanatical belief Claude Fior possessed in the worth of his design, which BMW engineers later recognized, and Henriette has now incorporated successfully in the new Brough Superiors.
You can experience these benefits very quickly on the Nefud, by the way it soon becomes second nature to trail brake hard and late into a turn without fear of the fork freezing. You can see the plexiglass flyscreen on top of the headlight moving up and down to tell you that the suspension’s still working to damp out irregularities in the road surface, though you really don’t feel it physically since the Donerre shock – adjustable for preload and rebound damping – is dialed in so well, with excellent compliance over unkempt road surfaces. Moreover, Henriette has retained just sufficient front end dive – as you can – in the system to give someone unfamiliar with alternative front ends the sense that the bike is actually slowing when you squeeze the front brake lever hard. Which it does, for that Beringer brake package is truly effective at stopping what is a reasonably light real world bike at 440 lb. dry, especially if you also work the rear hard in a panic stop.
Despite the 19-inch front wheel now fitted, the Nefud’s steering not only didn’t appear to have been slowed up unduly because of fitting the bigger wheel compared to the SS100’s 18-incher, but also seemed more precise and pinpoint correct than before on the SS100, probably because of my more upright stance, and the better leverage delivered via that wide handlebar. The fully-adjustable Donerre rear monoshock has the same progressive rate link as the SS100 in delivering a similar 5.1 inches of wheel travel which isn’t however enough for any serious off-roading, although it was much more compliant than the over-sprung Pendine’s direct-action cantilever rear end. Ride quality was pretty good, too.
Yet again, Thierry Henriette and his team at Brough Superior look to have come up with another winner in the new Nefud, although once again it’s a pity that ownership of such a good-looking bike that’s so enjoyable to ride will inevitably be restricted only to the well-heeled few. In relaunching the Brough Superior marque after 85 years of hibernation, they can be proud of ensuring the legend lives again, thanks to producing yet another appealing – and this time super practical variant – of one of the most individual modern-day motorcycles that money can buy.
A Twin for Two
The Brough Superior Nefud is powered by the same liquid-cooled 88º V-Twin eight-valve engine weighing 156.5 pounds as its SS100, Lawrence and Pendine Sand Racer sister models. This was specially-developed for Brough by Akira Engineering in Bayonne, France, builders of the factory Kawasaki ZX-10R motors which powered Jonathan Rea to six successive World Superbike titles in recent years. However, complete assembly of the motor is now conducted in-house at the Brough Superior factory in Toulouse.
This 997cc engine measures 94 x 71.8 mm, and functions as a fully load-bearing chassis component, with a small titanium upper spaceframe bolted to the cylinder heads to locate the front suspension, and the swingarm rotating in the horizontally-split crankcases, which incorporate the cylinders cast into the upper half. Running 11:1 compression, this eight-valve motor has its forged steel conrods sitting side-by-side on a shared crankpin, with the forged crankshaft running on plain bearings. These conrods carry forged three-ring pistons running in Nikasil-coated cylinder bores, with a two-stage oil pump chain-driven directly off the crank, and incorporating secondary drive to the water pump. There’s a discrete-looking Italian-made radiator, plus a small heat exchanger to cool the oil.
The composite drive to the pair of DOHC four-valve cylinder heads comprises a Morse chain for each cylinder employing blade tensioners which is driven directly off the crank, before running to an intermediate pinion (situated immediately beneath the twin overhead camshafts in each cylinder head) which the chain drives directly. The paired steel valves (35mm inlets and 31mm exhausts), each fitted with a single valve spring, sit at a 26º total included angle to each other, and are directly operated via buckets. There’s a single injector per cylinder, and the 50mm Synerject throttle bodies, incorporating a stepper motor for idling and low throttle aperture regulation, are directly controlled by cables. An RBW digital throttle is envisaged, but further down the line, so for the foreseeable future there won’t be any choice of riding modes or electronic rider aids on what is very much a traditional real-world ride that’s still only Euro 4 compliant.
But there are dual lambda oxygen sensors, one in each exhaust, with a dedicated ECU from Synerject, a subsidiary of the Continental Tyre Co. with a French office in Toulouse, not far from the Brough Superior factory. The twin high-rise exhausts are surprisingly quiet but still sound distinctive, and each incorporates its own catalyst at the entrance to the silencer. In this guise the Nefud’s motor delivers a claimed 101 hp at 9,600 rpm at the crankshaft, with peak torque of 64 lb-ft. available at 7,300 rpm. This is transmitted via a six-speed extractable cassette-type gearbox made by CIMA in Italy, and an Adler APTC oil bath slipper clutch, whose progressive self-servo mechanism presses the plates together when under drive from the engine, enabling a reduction in the clutch spring rates for a traffic-friendly lighter lever action.
The 88º V-twin motor sees the cylinder angle reduced by two degrees at the crankcase from the more normal 90º format which delivers perfect primary balance, so as to allow 30mm to be saved in terms of space between the cylinder heads, without having to use a counterbalancer to smooth out undue vibration. Moto Morini’s 87º V-twin CorsaCorta engine follows a similar strategy. This allows the motor to be installed slightly more compactly as a fully stressed component of the composite frame weighing 9.9 lbs., with the swingarm pivoting in the crankcases. Machined titanium plates comprise the upper spaceframe wrapped around the carbon fiber airbox measuring 6.5 litres in capacity, and the engine is solidly mounted at six points in the chassis, with a titanium subframe locating the seat, and providing an upper mounting point for the cantilever rear monoshock. This subframe also incorporates the rearward part of the dual-section 4.5-gallon carbon fiber fuel tank which contains the fuel pump.
2023 Brough Superior Nefud Specifications
Liquid-cooled DOHC 88° V-twin four-stroke with four valves per cylinder, and composite chain/gear cam drive
94 x 71.8 mm
101 hp at 9,600 rpm (claimed)
64 lb-ft. at 7,300 rpm (claimed)
Electronic fuel injection with Synerject ECU and 2 x 50mm Synerject throttle bodies, each with a single injector
6-speed with multiplate oil-bath APTC slipper clutch with hydraulic operation
CNC machined titanium frame with fabricated tubular steel subframe
Fior-type billet aluminum wishbone fork with 2 x articulated titanium triangular links, and Donerre monoshock adjustable for preload and rebound damping, with 4.7 inches of wheel travel
CNC machined aluminum swingarm pivoting in engine crankcases, with Donerre monoshock fully adjustable for preload and both compression and rebound damping, and progressive rate link with 5.1 inches of wheel travel
2 x 320 mm Beringer 4D stainless steel discs with 2 x two-piston Beringer radial calipers and Continental MK100MAB ABS
1 x 230mm Beringer 4D stainless steel disc with two-piston Beringer radial caliper and Continental MK100MAB ABS
120/70R19 Michelin Anakee Wild on wire-laced 3.50 in. aluminium rim (CNC-machined forged aluminum wheel also available)
170/60R17 Michelin Anakee Wild on wire-laced 5.50 in. aluminium rim (CNC-machined forged aluminum wheel also available)
24.60 degrees/4.25 inches of trail via 1.5 inch fork offset
441 pounds dry (claimed), split 50/50 %
Is that an alternative version of the union jack on Cathcart's helmet, sans Northern Ireland?
There's some things to like here-the engine being basically the entire frame is cool, and a company hallmark. The attention to detail is great, too, but it's just too much money for no reason and I can't get into it. I'd rather have the new Katana, a Z900RS Café, a new motor and suspension for my Street Bob and a Nightster for all that money!