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Neil Appleton


Neil Appleton had bikes in his blood, especially racing bikes. The MD at Bike Torque Racing, Frome, Somerset, asked for his KTM RC8 race bike to be brought to his bedside so that he could rev it up one last time (writes Brian Crichton). He died on 11 September aged 59 from bowel and stomach cancer.

Neil was in the office furniture business until redundancy in 1994. At the time he was racing a Suzuki GSX-R and fellow riders were lamenting the difficulty in obtaining spares and race parts. He recognised a business opportunity he could work at with a passion.

With little in the way of start-up capital he stripped his GSX-R race bike to sell as spares. It was a gamble, but it worked. He was able to buy another GSX-R and several more as the new business gained momentum specialising in the popular Suzuki sports model.

“It was nerve wracking at the time,” said Neil, who next began sourcing new parts to satisfy demand for fast moving items.

In 1999 he expanded the portfolio to cater for loyal customers who had moved on to other bikes. The racing dealer network also began to enquire about trade supply and BTR responded, thus making a significant step up to volume supply for trade and public.

In 2000 BTR took on sole UK distribution for Afam and NRC product. This led to further business development in terms of sole UK distribution and UK import for more brands, including Brembo, DID, JT, Pipercross, Newfren, OZ and HEL.

BTR under Neil’s direction began to further expand into hard parts for bikes for all purposes from mopeds to big capacity cruisers, underpinned by the interest in race and high-performance road bikes.

BTR maintained its profile by regularly exhibiting pre-Covid at Motorcycle Trade Expo, Motorcycle Live and various other shows including Manchester and Edinburgh.

“We believe in quality and customer service,” Neil had said, reflecting on his days as a 16-year-old on a Suzuki AP50 and learning that cheap replacement parts were false economy.

Moving on to bigger bikes, he toured Europe in his early 20s. Keen on bike sport he took up hill-climbing because he couldn’t afford to go road racing.

Eventually he hit the circuits, literally, on a Yamaha 350 YPVS crashing five times in six meetings. Undeterred he went on to win a North Gloucester MCC class championship on a Suzuki GSX-R750 in 1996.

In 2001 he moved up to world endurance (GSX-R1000) with respectable results on the continent.

Reverting to UK events because of costs, he suffered a head injury which side-lined him for a year. He next competed in the Sound of Thunder series (Ducati 1098S), followed by the European endurance classic series (Harris Suzuki) at tracks including Spa, Paul Ricard, Imola and Aragon until five years ago.

Away from racing and business Neil loved skiing and coarse fishing and was an avid Bath Rugby supporter.

“He was a big guy – very solid – larger than life, and a rugby player as a younger man,” says Geoff Stubbs who takes over as BTR managing director from interim MD Scott Appleton, Neil’s older brother.

“He was a work hard, play hard sort of character,” added Stubbs. “A very good businessman and a fair but firm boss.”

Neil’s funeral will take place at Haycombe Cemetery, Bath, Somerset, on Friday 7 October at 3.15pm. All welcome.

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