ENGINEERING MAGAZINE dismissed motorcycling as a “form of entertainment that can appeal only to the most enthusiastic of mechanical eccentrics…we think it doubtful whether the motorcycle will, when the novelty has worn off, take a firm hold of public favour.”

IN THE USA George M Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedström trading as the Hendee Manufacturing Co of Springfield, Mass, built a chain-drive motorcycle with a 213cc/1¾hp engine made for them under licence by Aurora of Illinois. They called it the Indian. Like the 1900 Holley its engine was clamped to the saddle tube so it leaned backwards, setting a trend for US bikes. The curved fuel tank on the rear mudguard earned it the nickname ‘camelback’.

Arguable the greatest American marque, Indian got under way with the ‘Camelback’.

AN ORIENT IN the capable hands of factory rider Ralph Hamlin won the first West Coast motor-cycle race on the one-mile Los Angeles horse track. He beat three other bikes to win the 10-lap race in 18min 30sec (about 32 mph). The 2hp Orient went on to set an American one-mile record of 1min 10sec (though at the stage US records were not recognised in Europe). Orients sold well, leading Marsh to abandon bicycles to specialise in motor cycling, sensible chap—an Orient was the first motorcycle to be exported from the US to Europe. An Orient also won the first road race in the US, between Irvington and Milburn, New Jersey (a distance of 10 miles) at an average speed of 31mph. The company decided to concentrate on producing a ‘horseless carriage’;  founder Charles Metz left to set up the Metz Motorcycle Company. His friend and employee, Albert Champion, a champion French bicycle racer who had arrived in the US in 1899 to becoming one of the first professional motor cycle racers, went on to establish the spark plug company that still bears his name: Albert.

The Orient earned success on the track and was the first colonial mount to be exported to the motherland.
Ralph Hamlin clearly knew how to handle an Orient.

ALSO IN THE US, the Thomas Motor Company began to sell complete motor-assisted bikes and trikes under the name Auto-Bi and Auto-Tri. Before long it was advertising its bikes in Japan, with some success. That country’s first race, in Tokyo, featured an Auto-Bi, an Auto-Tri and a French-made Gladiator quad. They did 22mph, 15mph and 18mph respectively.

Two, three and four wheels in Japan’s first motor cycle race.


STOP ME AND buy one – the disc brake was patented by Frederick Lanchester though it would be decades before this technology became suitable for motor cycles.

CL HOROCK DEVELOPED a telescopic shock absorber, using a piston and cylinder inside a metal sleeve.

JOHN ALFRED PRESTWICH  would put Tottenham on the map with his world-beating JAP engines. He designed his first engine in 1901, but it wasn’t built until 1903.

THE STANLEY SHOW which was, of course, a cycling show, featured 105 motor cycles; most with French or Belgian engines. So it comes as no surprise that The Autocar reported: “Perhaps the feature of the year is the motor bicycle. This form of mount, although not taking to the eye, appears likely to be frequently met with on the road next season. Most of the leading cycle makers have taken up the manufacture of motor bicycles, and it is quite obvious that they have much to learn—or perhaps unlearn—before a mechanically perfect machine will be produced. The prevailing idea at present amongst makers is to take the safety free-wheel bicycle and clamp to one of the members of the frame a petrol motor of about 1.5 brake horse-power. From the shaft of this power is transmitted by means of either a chain or belt to a pulley or large chain wheel secured to the rear wheel; to another member of the frame is secured a tank for storing the petrol—usually about a gallon—and hidden away as far as possible under the saddle is a storage battery for igniting the mixture of gases in the cylinder of the engine. No change gearing is provided. When the rider wishes to go slowly he must stop his motor and pedal “for dear life. The weight of one of these machines is usually shout 70-80lb. Of course, there is a startling array of levers and taps, which appears to fascinate the unwary purchaser and gives him the idea that he is getting a good deal for his £50 or so. Altogether the result is not so satisfactory looked it through the engineer’s glasses. Makers would do well to discard some of the principles underlying the construction of the bicycle and build from the motor, or include it in their general scheme, as one or two firms have already done. Then smaller wheels than the standard bicycle wheels might be found advantageous, and give a more efficient ratio of gearing. With the type of motor for the purpose little fault can be found. Enthusiasts are not wanting who maintain that the motor bicycle will eventually become as common on the roads as the ordinary bicycle is to-day. Although we are not disposed to agree with this glowing prediction, this form of machine, we must admit, does certainly offer great facilities for travelling long distances in a short space of time, with slight effort and with a minimum of expense, a gallon of petrol being roughly sufficient to carry a person close upon one hundred miles on fairly good roads, and we shall watch its development with some interest.”

FROM THE AUTOCAR: “Considering the growing popularity of the motor bicycle, and the rapidly increasing number of riders of these machines, I am strongly of opinion that the time has come when a club for motor bicyclists is needed. There can be no doubt that the motor bicyclist requires to be specially catered for. He is undoubtedly out of his element among riders of ordin­ary. cycles, and, as regards joining in runs with motor cars, he is looked upon as being very small fry in the motor world. Feeling sure that there is a great future for the motor cycle, I shall be glad to hear from any riders who are disposed to form a club, so as to arrange a meeting at an early date to discuss the pros and cons.
T Underwood, Bayswater, W.

A SMALL GROUP OF motor cycle enthusiasts got together at Frascati’s on Oxford Street and decided to form a club devoted to the new pastime of motor cycling. They formed a provisional committee and, presumably after much soul searching, decided on a name for the first motor cycling club: The Motor Cycling Club. Two thoughts. Primus, Frascatti’s was a popular watering hole among aristos and London glitterati, reminding us that, at its inception, at least, motor cycling was not the reserve of the hoi polloi. Secundus, following the tradition set by the British Army, in which the oldest regiments take precedence in line of march, every motor cycle clubman on the planet should defer to bikes ridden by members of ‘the’ MCC on the road.

Frascati’s opened, in London’s West End, in 1892: it hosted the first bike club meeting (which some sources claim was held “in a cafe”. Some cafe!).

GERMAN EMIGREE ALEXANDER LEITNER of Riga launched the Russian motorcycle industry by fitting 2hp Fafnir engines into reinforced bicycle frames, using a design licensed from the Werner Brothers. He marketed them as Rossiyas and claimed to have produced 350 within a year. According to a contemporary advert: “In view of Russia’s poor roads we have ensured that the frame is of extra strength, made using the best seamless tubes; it encloses the engine in a loop beneath the crankcase. Ignition by electric battery. Automatic belt tensioning. Free wheel with backpedal brake. Front wheel by stirrup brake. Low overall ratio for easy pedalling if engine has failed. Speed 6-40 versts per hour (4-26mph). Water-cooled engine optional.”

The Fafnir-engined Rossiya was built in Riga, which was then part of the Czarist Russian empire.

CLEMENT’S FIRST motorcycle was the 1¾hp Autocyclette.

THE MINERVA engine was enlarged to 211cc/1¾hp and was capable of propelling a bicycle at about 30mph with a consumption of 150mpg. It powered the first models from Royal Enfield, Coventry-Progress, Phoenix, Quadrant, OEC and Ivel.

The first Royal Enfield motor cycle sported a Minerva engine over the front wheel, a la Werner.

NSU LAUNCHED A motorcycle named after its Neckarsulm factory (Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union). Having evaluated Minerva and Werner engines NSU settled on the 234cc/1¾hp Swiss-made Zedel—in Nurenberg Victoria chose the same engine.

1901 NSU
The first NSU was powered by a Zedel engine.

OPEL JOINED THE rush to power with a 2hp model or, for a little extra, 2½hp.

NEW IMPERIAL motorised a bike. It flopped, but the marque would be back in 1910.

RALEIGH POWERED up with a German Schwan engine over the front wheel; FN powered a bike with its own 133cc/1¼hp engine.

BILLY AND HAROLD Williamson set up the Rex Motor Co, making final-drive V-belts and, before long, motor cycles.

PEUGEOT’S 198cc/1½hp MOTOBICYCLETTE debuted at the Paris Exhibition. Its engine was mounted nice and low in front of the pedals, but it wasn’t as successful as the New Werner.

While the New Werner sited the engine where the pedals used to be, Peugeot left the pedals in place and clipped the engine to the front of the frame.
In Belgium Sarolea, which had been making bicycles since 1892, fitted a bike with a 247cc 1½hp engine.

BEFORE THE BIRTH OF Motor Cycling, in 1902, or The Motor Cycle, in 1903, there was The Autocar. It appeared as early as 1895 when there were only a handful of cars in the kingdom and took an interest in two- as well as three- and four-wheelers. Under the heading “Land’s End To John-o’-Groat’s on a motor bicycle”, The Autocar reported: Mr Hubert Egerton, of Weston Rectory, Norwich, has successfully accomplished a ride from Land’s End to John-o’-Groat’s on a motor bicycle. This is the first time that the journey has been made upon this type of machine. The bicycle used was a Werner, of standard pattern, and of 1½hp. It was fitted with an extra large oil tank, and carried sufficient petrol to run 120 miles without replenishing. The start was made at five o’clock on Saturday morning, August 3rd, from the Land’s End Hotel. Exeter was reached after a capital run, and the journey continued via Bridgwater to Bristol, the last- named city being entered early in the evening. About twelve miles before reaching Bristol the inlet valve seat of the machine, which is rendered gas-tight by a copper washer, blew out, and Mr Egerton found, to his dismay, that he had no spare washers with him. He, therefore, had to ride his machine with the engine working at only a quarter of its power, he doing the rest of the work with the pedals, over about the most hilly ten miles of the whole course. At Bristol he experienced a delay of twelve hours before a supply of asbestos string could be obtained, with which he temporarily stopped the leak. Leaving Bristol at 10.10 on Sunday morn­ing, he ran through Gloucester, Worcester, Bridgnorth, and Wigan to Preston. Here he stayed a few hours, and, leaving early on Monday morning, rode via Shap Fell, Carlisle, Moffatt, and (over what is called the new road, but which has by no means so good a surface as the alternative route) to Edinburgh, where he took the last ferry boat at Granton at 7.15pm. Immediately after landing at Burntis­land rain fell heavily, and continued all the forty-one miles to Perth, this part of the journey being got through in darkness, and over very wet roads. Mr Egerton collided with the pavement just outside Perth, owing to his becoming dazed by the electric light, although going very slowly at the time. This collision carried away his brake lever and ad­vance sparking device. Next morning (Tuesday), having fixed up the brake, he departed and travelled to Blair Athol, ascending the famous pass of Killiecrankie at a fine speed. Up the ascent of the Grampians he had a most exciting race with a train on the Highland Railway. He headed the train unpedalled for the greater part, and beat it with ease with the aid of the pedals, until the summit of the pass was reached, when, of course, the train got away easily. Passing through Dalwhinnie and Inverness, Mr Egerton lost a good deal of time by availing himself of what he had hoped would have been the advantages of Kessock Ferry…After crossing this and the Michael Ferry he made for Golspie. Experiencing a severe gash in the back tyre of the machine two miles after leaving Golspie, he was forced, on account of impending darkness and the greasy nature of the roads, to abandon his intention of riding straight through to John-o’-Groat’s that night (Tuesday). On Wednesday morning, rising early, he rode over the Ord of Caithness, through Berridale and Lather­ton, to Wick, where he arrived at 9.30am. From Wick a telegram was despatched to the makers of the machine prophesying a speedy arrival at the journey’s end. However, Mr Egerton’s worst ad­venture was to come. Just after passing the second milestone beyond Wick, a cyclist, travelling on his wrong side, held his course too long, and, despite Mr Egerton’s attempt to avoid him, crashed into the motor machine, taking seven spokes out of the front wheel and cutting Mr. Egerton’s leg nearly to the bone in two places. A friendly cycle agent came along very opportunely and carried the motor cyclist and his machine, which was incapable even of being wheeled, back to Wick. Here Mr Egerton took the damaged wheel out, and, whilst it was being re-spoked, got his leg bound up. After this painful experience, he managed to mount his machine again, and safely reached John-o’-Groat’s, four days eight hours from the time he left the Land’s End Hotel. In addition to having accomplished this performance, which is a record of its kind, Mr Egerton was the first to traverse the journey on a steam car, and was also the first to attempt it in winter.” Hubert later gave a first-hand account of his adventures. You’ll find it, with some more pictures, in the 1911 Features section under the heading ‘On the run: End-to-End, six-day records and riding round the outside’. Enjoy.

“The arrival at John-o’-Groat’s House.”

“IT IS NOT ONLY, IN THIS country that the motor bicycle is receiving increasing attention (The Autocar reported). “It is the same in America, where one firm of motor bicycle makers report that within sixty days they received upward of five thousand inquiries regarding their machine, a fair proportion of which developed into orders.”

“THE SINGER TRI-VOITURETTE AND CARRIER: We (The Autocar) had a short but enjoyable run the other day on one of the new ‘Tri-voiturettes’ which are being put on the market by the Singer Cycle Co. The machine is a clever adaptation of the Singer motor tricycle, and can be had either with a most comfortable seat at the back, or with a carrier, which can be used either for personal luggage or for travellers’ ‘samples’ up to 200lb in weight. It is also made, and this is a great point in its favour, so as to be convertible from one to the other, or for use as an ordinary Singer motor tricycle. It is the most easily convertible machine made. The steering wheel is also the driver, as it is fitted with the well-known Singer motor wheel. The machine has been well tested, and has come through several trying runs with­out a breakdown of any sort. We were very pleased with its speed and hill-climbing powers, and also with its freedom from vibration due to the comfortable seat and good distribution of the load. Its total weight is about 170lb with the chair, and 150lb with the carrier. We are informed that a commercial traveller has used one of these tricycles constantly for the past two months, during which time he has covered upwards of 1,500 miles, often carrying from 70lb to 80lb of samples, and reaching many out-of-the-way places in half the time that it would take to get to them by rail. Mr E Perks, the designer of the machine, gave us an account of an excellent run he made with his wife in the chair, and a little daughter perched up behind, as shown in the photograph. He started from Coventry to pay a visit to friends at Smethwick on a Saturday afternoon, and ran to Birming­ham without a stop. After oiling the engine he passed on to Smethwick. The next morning he went round Rowley, Halesowen, Hagley, Clent, Bromsgrove, and thence again to Smethwick, and from there back to Coventry later in the day. This district is one which is far from being free from hills and bad roads, but the motor went through without a hitch. The total weight of machine and riders was about 500lbs, but all gradients were taken with ease. This is the machine which a member of the Birmingham police force swore was travelling down Broad Street at from eighteen to twenty miles per hour on this particular occasion, when Mr Perks was coming through Birmingham back to Coventry.”

The Singer Voiturette was, possibly, the first dual-purpose trike.
The Wearwell-Stevens took to the Streets of Wolverhampton. It comprised a heavy-duty version of the Wearwell bicycle and a 2½hp engine made by the Stevens Motor Manufacturing Company. The Stevens engine was mounted above the front down tube; it featured accumulator ignition, a surface carb and a twisted leather belt drive.

THE AUTOCAR REPORTED: “THE MITCHELL is the name of a new motor bicycle of American construction which is being introduced into this country by Messrs Davis Allen and Co, of Singer Street, Tabernacle Street, London, EC. The motor is of 1¾hp, running at 1,800 revolutions. It is supported above the lower cross tube of the frame, and drives the rear wheel by means of a strap. The frame is specially strengthened for the work it has to do. The weight of the machine complete is 104lb. Over 150 of them are said to be already in use in the United States.”