1903

MORE THAN 80 new marques debuted during the year from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Sweden and the USA.

WOLVERHAMPTON-BASED Star fitted ZL engines in its first bikes and called then Griffons. They clearly ran well. When a V4 Clement won the Heavy Motor Cycle class at the Oostende road race, a contemporary report noted: “Despite the huge engine the machine did very little better than the Star-Griffon in the under-110lb class.”

1903 4pot clement ostend
A V4 Clement won the ‘heavy motor cycle’ class at the Oostende races.

THERE WAS GREAT international interest in the Paris-Madrid race though some enthusiasts wondered if motor cycles were really up to such a severe test. A number of Brits joined the fun, though it was reported: “The formalities to be gone through by the foreign riders were ridiculous and irksome, some of them occupying most part of the day before they could be discharged. They had to submit their machines for judgement as to whether they were bicycles that could be driven safely to the Department of the Engineers of Mines and then prove they as riders were also capable of directing them.” However not all the pre-race tests were so rigrous: “We were interested, and, it must be confessed, somewhat disgusted, while watching the weighing of the motor bicycles for the Paris-Madrid race, to observe the amount of perverted ingenuity that had been employed in reducing the weight of motor bicycles of from 4 to 5hp, so that they would pass the 50kg class. Readers will say it is impossible, seeing that an ordinary 2hp commercial motor cycle weighs 50kg and over, even without petrol, oil, or accumulators.

1903 wright ormonde
AE Wright was one of two Brith Ormonde riders in the Paris-Madrid; after dealing with endless punctures he dropped out with heat exhaustion.

On the other hand, this is very easy to explain, when we say that the above-mentioned motor bicycles were weighed for the Paris-Bordeaux race with ordinary track racing tyres on, half the usual bolts missing, no chain, no pedals, in many cases no cranks, sprockets, or chain wheels, and on one of the motor bicycles we even saw a seat-pillar made of wood painted with aluminium powder, tanks of only one litre capacity, handle-bars as thin as paper, and these perforated all over with holes for the purpose of lightening them. In addition, tyre lock nuts were non est, and circuit wires were made of thin electric bell wire. Many of the coils were actually only attached to the frames by pieces of leather, in some cases string even being used for this purpose. By these means the weights were brought down to 49kg 999g! But next day, when ready to start, the motor bicycles of which we are talking were totally different machines. Everything required for safety had been replaced. The general outline remained the same, and this naturally deceived the starter; but the details necessary for road racing had been replaced, which of course meant an increase in weight.” Riders started in pairs at one-minute intervals on the 345-mile run to Bordeaux. As they arrived they all complained  of nails thrown onto the road which had caused numerous punctures. There were stories of cars blocking the road and competitors brought to a halt by spectators wandering in front of them. More than one Brit pulled over with fatigue and heat exhaustion, the quickest competitors took nine hours to reach Bordeaux where the race was cancelled following a number of fatalities. “The impression caused by the accidents was so great that that the Prefect of the Department sent an order to prevent the racing machines from leaving the grounds where they were exhibited on the day following the race, without a special authority, and this was only given on condition that the vehicles were hauled away to the railway stations to be put upon waggons for their destinations.”

1903 griffon paris-madrid
This Griffon was among the 54 motor cycles and 170 cars in the chaotic Paris-Madrid race. More than 100,000 spectators at the start blocked roads for miles around; the race was stopped by the authorities after three spectators and five competitors were killed and dozens more were injured in a series of accidents.
1903 ARNOTT WERNER
EH Arnott, captain of the MCC was among the British contingent to head over to Paris for the big race. He’s pictured here on his Werner.

THE 1903 MOTOR Car Act (it came into force on 1 January 1904) required every motorised vehicle to be registered with the owner’s county council and fitted with number plates. It increased the national speed limit from 12 to 20mph with lower local limits, and driving licences were introduced. There was no driving test, just a five-bob (25p) fee with a minumim age of 17 for cars and 14 for motorcycles, which were defined as vehicles weighing up to 3cwt with up to three wheels. The offence of ‘reckless driving’ came in to control pioneer roadhogs. Horses still ruled the roost – noisy exhaust cut-outs were banned and drivers were required to “stop, and remain at a standstill, for as long as may be reasonably necessary” if a horse rider held up his hand. And riding side saddle on a motorcycle was banned.

1903 liverpool mcc
The Liverpool MCC, pictured en masse at the Parbold hillclimb. The bikes are Humber, Werner, Bat, Rex, Werner, Royal Enfield, Humber and, the forecar, Humber Olympia,

IT WAS A NOTEWORTHY year for motor cycling in the USA. William Harley and Arthur Davidson produced a 3hp motorcycle and sold it to an old schoolmate; Indian chief engineer Oscar Hedstrom set a motorcycle speed record of 56mph at Daytona Beach; Reading-Standard made Thor-engined Indian clones. A year after making his first motor cycle Glenn Curtiss rode a Curtiss to victory in the first American hillclimb; then, at Providence, Rhode Island, he set a flying-mile single-cylinder record at 63.8 mph.And following ‘agitation’ by the New York MC and the Alpha MC, the Federation of American Motorcyclists (FAM) was established at a meeting in the Kings County Wheelmen clubhouse in Brooklyn. It recuited 70 enthusiasts as ‘charter members’, stating: “Any rider of good character is eligible for membership.” Applications could be endorsed by existing members or by “two reputable citizens of the town of his residence”.

1903 HEDSTROM
Oscar Hedstrom rode an Indian into the record books.
1903 first harley
Walter Davidson, first president of Harley Davidson, with the company’s first bike.

DE DION-BOUTON built a six-litre V8 car. They might have been surprised to know that a century later a V8 engine of comparable size would power a production motorcycle.

RIGHTLY PREDICTING that the car market would far outgrow the motorcycle market, Temple Press relaunched its new motor cycling magazine as The Motor (on 28 January). This left the growing band of motorised bicycle obsessives without a magazine of their own, but not for long.

THE FIRST ISSUE of The Motor Cycle, published by Illife Press, was datelined 31 March–its actual launch date was 1 April but April Fool’s Day was held to be an inauspicious launchpad. In later years a blue masthead was adopted which earned it the nickname The Blue ’Un. The magazine grew with the industry; like British motorcycles, it was a world-beater. For 60 years the pages of The Blue ’Un were graced by BH Davies, who used the nom de plume Ixion. In these days of media overload is hard to comprehend the esteem in which Ixion was held by generations of enthusiasts.

1903 motor cycle logo
The Motor Cycle was published for 80 years; later known as the Blue ‘Un when it adopted a blue masthead, it was at the heart of the British motor cycle industry.
1903 ixion
The Rev Basil H Davis, better known and loved as Ixion, wrote for The Motor Cycle for 60 years.

GEORGE WYMAN MADE the first motorised crossing of the USA on a 1¼hp 200cc California. The trip from San Francisco to New York took him 50 days, including a five-day break in Chicago while he waited for a replacement crank (he later wrote of Chicago’s “insect-infested hotels, drunken citizens and shady merchants”). Inevitably Wyman had to make running repairs; as he neared the end of the trip the California began to disintegrate. He later admitted that he “felt like shooting his mount full of holes and abandoning it”. Eventually the engine was beyond repair. Fortunately Wyman was a champion bicycle racer—his exploits included cycling round the coast of Australia—so, undeterred, he pedalled the last 150 miles in time to attend the innaugural meeting of the Federation of American Motorcyclists. For the full story of his epic trek have a look in  features list.

1903 wyman crossing
George Wyman’s achievement was almost forgotten for many years.
the mc mag oct 1903
Just as The Motor Cycle was getting under way in the UK, The Motorcycle Magazine was published in the USA in time to sponsor George Wyman’s epic trans-continental run, which it covered in its first four issues. Sadly, it only survived until 1906.

YOU CAN’T RUN a workshop without tea. Tea bags of a sort date back to 8th century China  but just a week after the first issue of the Blue ‘Un, over the pond a patent was issued to TG Lawson and M McLaren for ” a novel tea-holding pocket constructed of open-mesh woven fabric, inexpensively made of cotton thread”. So at a stroke chaps fettling his hogbus could take a break and, as well as a lungful of old navy shag, relax with a bike magazine and a cuppa. Truly, that week was the launch of the modern age.

1903 teabag
All hail the inventor of the teabag!

“THE MOTOR CYCLE has been developing in France almost concurrently with the automobile. By 1895 there were several on the market, the first in date being the Millet with four cylinders revolving round the rear hub. Then came the Dalifol steam bicycle, which ran with wonderful smoothness; but the system was not altogether conducive to the comfort of the rider, whose feet rested on the furnace, and the chimney, into which he occasionally dropped pieces of coke, rose conveniently above the top tube right under his nose, while he had to stop every few miles to replenish the water tank…Mr HO Duncan introduced that equally wonderful Hildebrand and Wolfmuller bicycle…but very few seemed to have the acrobatic skill necessary to mount the machine. The desire for pacemaking bicycles induced Pingault to devise his electric two-wheeled machine, but batteries of accumulators did not prove satisfactory on bicycles, and electricity has gone the way of steam. The first practical bicycle was the Werner, originally with tube ignition; but the machine was looked at askance until electric ignition was adopted, when the machine took up the position which it has occupied ever since.”

1903 WERNER FACTORY
Werner opened a new motor cycle factory; this is part of the machine and fitting shops.

DOT WAS launched in Bradford; the initials stood for ‘Devoid Of Trouble’.

TRIUMPH SET up a German subsidiary, Orial TWN (Triumph Werke Nuremberg).

THE AUTO-CYCLE Club was established as the motorcycle committee of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. In its first year the ACC ran a two-week, 1,000-mile road trial to sort the wheat from the chaff.

1903 acc logo

1903 acu1000 start cryspal
Start of the ACC 1,000-mile trial at the Crystal Palace.
1903 acu1000
Covering 1,000 miles in a week proved that the motor cycle had been transformed from a novelty to a practicable vehicle.

THE MCC HELD its first  AGM; during the year membership rose from 20 to 109. Two competitions were held: a two-mile reliability trial, won by WJ Milligan on a Bradbury; and a passenger trial. The club also had a run to The Barn, Market Harborough, home of vice-president Edward Kennard JP, who gave them a damned fine lunch. “Most of the riders were splendidly mounted on high-powered machines. Werners were much in evidence. Mr Van Hooydonk bestrode one of his now celebrated bicycles, fitted with forecarriage and a 2½hp Minerva motor. The new Clyde, 2¾hp Simms engine, made a brave show at hills, and under the skilful guidance of the vice-president well maintained its reputation for speed and power.”

1903mccluncheon
Reliability trials improved the breed but there was still time for a good feed.
1903 kennard
“Mr Edward Kennard JP on his Clyde, demonstrating the ease with which a motor cycle may be ridden.” Or, to put it another way, Eddy showing off to his mates. (But let’s not forget that Mr K’s wife Mary introduced him to the pastime.)

“IT IS VERY probable that the experience of the motor cycle match at the Parc des Princes has put a nail in the coffin of professional racing,” the Blue ‘Un reported. And it looked so promising. Rigal had been undefeated all season when Fournier challenged him to a mid-summer head-to-head. The race was duly arranged as the main event of a race meeting; the arena was packed and excitement was at fever pitch. “The match, however, proved to be the biggest farce that has ever been perpetrated on the public. Both men led alternately as first one then the other cut out ignition to let his rival pass; and in the final lap Rigal, it is said, stopped his engine and allowed Fournier to win by about fifty yards. For a moment it looked as if the Parc des Princes track was going to see a revival of the good old days when the enraged public were in the habbit of pulling up the railings and seats to make a bonfire; but happily they contented themselves with yelling and howling and trying to get their money back.”

1903 paris fiasco
The Fournier-Rigal match promised much but delivered sweet FA.

“WE THINK THAT motor cycle manufacturers should be careful into whose hands they place their racing machines, and if they allow powerful engines to be taken on the road they should see that they are fitted with silencers. While out last week end in the suburbs we met more than one maker’s amateur in full career, whose method of progression and governing or control of the machine consisted of switching on and off. Four reports similar to those produced by railway fog signals were sufficient to carry one of them through a crowd of people coming out of church, and the audible remarks passed on motor cycling were not by any means calculated to improve the welfare of the sport. If these men must take path racers on the road their employers should see that before being used for such a purpose they are fitted with silencers. There is nothing particularly heroic in scattering a congregation by means of a succession of rapid reports, and then switching off and on again.”

A HOT TOPIC for debate was the virtues of automatic vs the mechanical inlet valves pioneered by Mercedes in 1901 (an ‘automatic’ was in essence a spring-loaded flap).

French engineers Edmond Fouché and Charles Picard developed oxygen-acetylene welding.

“Now that the surrey magistrates have decreed that six miles an hour is an illegal speed for a motor cycle drawing a trailer, it is not unlikely that they will next turn their attention to the pedestrian. Cases of ‘furious walking’, perhaps, may next figure on the charge streets.

1903 CANNINGTOWN
Canning Town, after a hard day’s racing: Parry (Minerva), Brundall (Humber), Cissac (De Dion), Martin (Ecelsior), Therey (Buchet), Tessier (Bat) and Leonard (Humber). Harry Martin won the five-mile handicap, setting one- and five-mile records in the process.
1903 brundall canning humber
Crundall’s Humber was on winning form at Canning Town (the sloper engine was made under licence from P&M). The Motor Cycle proclaimed: “At the present moment JF Crundall is certainly the crack motor cyclist of the hour. His recent splendid performance at the Canning Town track is little short of marvellous. If the tyres on his racing motor cycle will last through an hour’s trial, Crundall, we feel sure, can put the record for the hour at over fifty miles at any moment.”
1903 HUMBER
Enthusiasts inspired by Crundall’s exploits on his record breaking P&M could live out their fantasies on the road-going version.

HARRY MARTIN (2¾hp Excelsior) did a one-minute mile at the Phoenix Speed Trials in Dublin. He did it again at the Gordon Bennett Speed Trials and then had a good day at the Canning Town track, with two longer distance world records including a standing-start mile record of 1min 24.4sec.

1903 MARTINRECORD
Harry Martin passes timekeeper Mr Ebblewaite, generally known as ‘Ebby’ en route to a standing mile record.

“MOTOR CYCLISTS have been considerably amused by an appeal made by a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons to the Secretary of State that he would take into consideration the desirability of establishing a force of motor cycle policemen, these men to be employed for restraining furious driving in crowded streets. It is evident that Mr Cathcart Watson, the member in question, is not a practical motor cyclist, and it would appear from the official reply that was given him that this fact was recognised, as it was simply stated that the matter would be left to the discretion of the police authorities. We would be the last to cavil at new uses for motor cycles, but we do not think any good purpose would be served by mounting police upon them in the way suggested, as it appears that the idea of Mr Watson is not so much the prevention of furious driving by horse drivers as the chasing of motor cars. In other words he would check one evil by substituting another, as it stands to reason if the alleged furious driver is to be caught the motor cycle policeman must ride at a higher speed still; and assuming the pace to be dangerous on the part of the motor cars, that of the policemen will be still more dangerous. As things are at present we do not think any good purpose would be served by the use of the motor cycle in crowded thoroughfares by policemen. On less frequented roads, of course, it has great possibilities, whether ridden by a police official or by any other person who is desirous of expeditiously getting over the ground.”

1903 REX MCC
The Rex MCC, an early example of a one-make club, at the Swan’s Nest Hotel, Stratford-on-Avon.
1903 jap ad
JAP launched a motorcycle, with a BSA frame, sprung forks and its own 3½ hp ohv engine. It also published a cheeky advert.

GOODYEAR PATENTED a tubeless tyre, but only for cars. A testimonial to Clincher A1 ‘self-sealing air-tubes’, claimed: “Nearly a thousand miles without a puncture!”

BAT FITTED rear springing; kits were offered to make rigid forks springy. The Sharp concern even offered air-springing for forks and frames.

1903 bat springer
The BAT was ahead of the pack with its patented spring frame.

HAROLD ‘OILY’ Karslake built his dream bike, sourcing bits from chums and adverts in The Motor Cycle. A few years later he named the beast after Britain’s  revolutionary battleship: Dreadnought. The frame was ex-Quadrant with a 3½hp MMC engine built to power a BAT trike. It dispensed with pedals; Oily later fitted a two-speed NSU transmission. Dreadnought had a successful career in verious competitions and was first bike away in the first London-Brighton Pioneer Run in 1930 ridden by George Brough. Oily bequeathed her to the Vintage MCC and she’s still ridden to Brighton every year by VMCC members.

1903 dreadnought
Dreadnought could cruise at 40mph. Oily Karslake rode her to victory in dozens of long-distance trials; by 1911 they’d done about 70,000 miles together; the old girl was still competing in the 1940s.

TOM SILVER made an end-to-end run on his 3hp Quadrant in 64hr 29min, knocking 1hr 16min of the time set by Edward Arnott the previous year. Raleigh staffer GP Mills designed and made a two-speed box and cut the record to 50hr 46min. [The full story of the End-toEnd run is covered in the 1911 features section].

The Automobile Club of St Petersburg staged a road race; three of the motor cycle classes were won by FNs leading one pundit to remark: “As the course over which the three races in question were run was on a Russian high road, we think that to those who know how bad the Russian roads are, this will speal volumes for the reliability and strength of this make of motor bicycle.”

The Phoenix surface carburettor incorporated baffle plates and a large surface area; the manufacturers claimed: “No amount of road bumping will upset or even alter the mixture…a constant level is maintained owing to the petrol tank being absolutely airtight, so that as soon as the petrol in the carburetter falls belopw the air pipe, a further supply from the tank is admitted,,,The silencer is placed close to the carburetter, and this keeps the petrol at a sufficiently warm temperature…[the carburettor] cannot choke, stick or flood.”

1903 bubbler
A rare insight into 1903 motor cycle technology; the Phoenix was state of the art.

FRED GRAHAM DESIGNED and patented a sidecar which was made for him by Mills & Fulford. The Motor Cycle later reported: “…we made our first trial trip on a sidecar built up by the inventor of this popular attachment, Mr Graham, of Enfield. We were so pleased with this method of carrying a passenger that very soon after we ordered a sidecar from the Ariel Co, who started to manufacture under licence from Mr Graham.” Other firms including Liberty, Montgomery and Trafalgar, also claimed to have built the first sidecars; the Liberty Sociable was the first to be widely advertised. In any case one Richard Tingey had built a chair-on-a-wheel for his bicycle some years earlier . The Motor Cycle reported: “Messrs Mills and Fulford, who were the pioneers of the motor cycle trailer attachment, and whose sidecarriages and forecars have been so popular during the last year or two, have lately turned their attention to the flexibility of the sidecar attachment. The novel point consists of connecting the sidecar wheel by means of steering rods to the front wheel of the bicycle. The inventors have so set out the steering levers that when the front wheel of the bicycle makes a certain curve, the angle of the sidecar wheel describes the exact radius required to follow it without putting any side drags upon the wheel. This is one of the most practical improvements in sidecar design which has yet been introduced.”

1903 millsfulford duacar
Mills and Fulford’s Duadcar was a dual-purpose sidecar/trailer.

CHARLES BINKS, who would be best remembered for carburettors, designed the first transverse four-cylinder engine, of 385cc, with final drive by enclosed chain.

A GP WROTE TO The Lancet: “The advantages of motorcycling as a means of locomotion for professional men are not sufficiently appreciated. In March last I purchased a motor bicycle and had no difficulty in familiarizing myself with its working…In the second week of April I was able to dispense with the services of one horse and in the first week of June with those of a second…The machine has given me a great deal of pressure, and I have been able to get over my work in much shorter time. My health is also much better as I am compelled to take more exercise…”

SPEEDING RIDERS were faced by a growing number of speed traps and unsympathetic courts. This prejudice was equally prevalent on the Continent (though the French seemed immune); some Swiss cantons banned all motorised vehicles.

1903 carmarthen race
Motor cycles were racing on the banked velodrome track at Carmarthen Park. A 2¾hp Riley lines up against a bike using a Perry Victor frame and forks and a 3hp Humber.
1903 lagonda
This 1903 Lagonda forecar is enjoying a gentle jaunt to Brighton but in its youth one of its stablemates was the first motorised vehicle to reach to Cape Wrath.

THE SCOTTISH AUTO Club staged the Glasgow to London Non-Stop Trial and asked for motor cycle entries. Nine worthies answered the call; seven of them turned up: LB Tucker and Jas Paterson (2¼hp Triumphs); Bert Yates and JF Crundall (2¾hp Humbers); Thom Silver (2½hp Quadrant); E Herington (2hp Ariel); and FE Coles (2¾hp Brown). [To 21st century enthusiasts accustomed to horsepower in three-figure doses it’s interesting to see four models rated from 2-2¾hp!] According to a contemporary report: “Worse weather or nastier roads could hardly have obtained for motor cyclists; grease [mud] was everywhere and the atmosphere was charged with moisture. In addition, rain fell with frequency throughout the day, the wheels threw the road grit up terrible, and there were belt troubles in consequence. The ‘Quadrant’ and the ‘Ariel’ men did not look a bit as if they like it as we passed them on the outskirts of Glasgow; and getting further on when descending Beattock summit, we overtook the No 1 ‘Triumph’ worried by tyre troubles in that desolate region. Two miles south of Lockerbie we net the rider of No 6, the ‘Ariel’, walking back on his tracks, but though we shouted and asked him what ailed him he only waved his hand and passed. When four o’clock had struck in Leeds, only Bert Yates on the Humber was in the garage, and had been delayed six miles out by petrol famine, which was only relieved by some kindly sould in a car heaving him a canful. The next to arrive was the other Humber, ridden by Crundall. But for the petrol stop mentioned above, Bert Yates would have made a non-stop run, but Crundall is credited with a non-stop run—a very fine performance…a wire was recived from Paterson to the effect that he had stuck at Kirkby Lonsadale. There also came telegraphic news from Herington, who announced from Preston that he had abandoned the trial on account of some .725 petrol and that he was on the rail for home…just after Alconbury we passed the Brown and the two Humbers close together while the Quadrant was not far ahead…at Biggleswade, Crundall, who had up to that point made a non-stop run, was obliged to dismount to dig earth out of his carburetter. We only marvelled that all were not affected with similar troubles. Just before Eaton Socon, rising a hill, we passed Bert Yates doing some powerful pedalling and licking his lips in a particularly thirsty way. The cyclists had some difficulty i getting to the club in Picadilly to report in, as a huge crowd had gathered to watch the arrivals; but at 5:13 FE Coles on the 2¾hp Brown ran up, followed closely by the Quadrant ridden so pluckily right through by Silver. At 5.43 Bert Yates on his Humber was reported, and at 6.12 Crundall on the sister machine turned up, his run spoilt by his bad luck at Biggleswade.

1911 10YR 1903 BROWN
FE Coles with his 1903 2¾hp Brown at the end of the ACC London-Glasgow non-stop trial.
1903 TOM SILVER
Hard on Coles’ heels at Picadilly was Tom Silver on his Quadrant following the only ‘absolute non-stop’ run in the 402-mile trial. This was described as “the most remarkable demonstration of the reliability of the motor cycle that has ever been made”.
1903 YATES HUMBER
Fred Yates and his Humber were close behind…
1903 CRUNDALL HUMBER
…leaving record-breaking ‘crack’ JF Crundall as the final finisher, having been delayed by a blocked carb.
1903 norton energette
Norton expanded its range, offering Clement or Peugeot engines ranging from 1½-4½hp.

“WHEN THE new Motor Cars Bill was being discussed in the House of Commons an amendment was passed to the effect that no one under seventeen years of age should be permitted to drive a motor vehicle. To allay the anxiety of motor cyclists we wired the President of the Local Government Board as follows: ‘Does clause in Motor Cars Bill refer to motor cycles as well as cars? Presume it does not – The Editor, The Motor Cycle.’ The reply is as follows: ‘Age limit for motor cycle, fourteen.’”

HUSQVARNA GOT Sweden into the game by fitting Belgian FN engines into its bicycles. Like BSA, Husqvarna had its roots in guns; it had been supplying the Swedish army with longarms since 1689.

1903 husqvarna
Husqvarna took to Swedish roads with a Belgian engine.
1903 fn4
After two years of one-lungers FN launched the in-line four that would gain world-wide acclaim,

ALBERT CHAMPION set an American five-mile record of 5min 35sec on a 10hp four-pot Clement at the Empire City track in Yonkers, NY.

1903 CHAMPION
Champion by name, and nature.

THE CYCLISTS’ Touring Club arranged a spring tour for motor cyclists. They left Marble Arch at lunchtime for a run to Salisbury, via Basingstoke and Andover. The next day’s destination was Exeter, via Dorchester, Blandford and Bridport or Shaftesbury, Yeovil and Honiton. The third day’s run passed through Taunton and Bridgwater to Bristol. Day four, Worcester via Gloucster and, finally, back to London via Evesham and Oxford.

NEWCOMERS TO motor cycling were warned to take out a licence for 15 bob or risk a £20 fine.

“SCORCHING MOTOR cyclists, we are sorry to say, appear to be on the increase on some of the chief main roads out of London at the weekends. Riders of this class who adopt low bars and racing positions may perhaps create the sensation they desire, but they do the motor pastime no good. Were a collision to ensue between them and a pedestrian or a cyclist the consequences might prove very serious. Motor cyclists, favoured by a string of ‘hangers on’, are also becoming a nuisance along the Bath and one pr two other roads, though, as a rule, they do venture very far afield.”

1903 halesowen
The Haleson was built in Bristol with a parafin-fuelled flash boiler–a last gasp for steamers.

“THE NEW LOCOMOTION has fascinations and exhilarations all its own. The ability to attain and maintain speed of which they previously could but dream, to vary it at will, to dash uphill and dart down dale, to care not which way the wind blows nor how hotly the sun shines—to be almost literally as free as a bird and to skim the earth like the bird and with less effort and to do it seated man fashion astride a saddle, with ability to start or stop by merely twisting the wrist, to go faster or slower by touching a lever, and to pedal when, where and how long he will—these are the joys which only a motor bicyclist can experience; no three wheeler or four wheeler or no motorless bicycle permits of them; they defy ready description; they must be experienced to be appreciated. It is rare that once initial nervousness is overcome the experience does not make a convert and an enthusiast. The control of a motor bicycle is so simple, so instantaneous land so absolute that most of those who feared have remained to wonder why they feared.”

1903 factorytesters
Coventry was at the heart of the burgeoning motor cycle industry and the manufacturers generally used Stoneleigh Hill, five miles from the city, as their testing ground. No machines were sold until they had made the 450-yard 1:9 climb without pedalling in a ‘normal gear’. These factory testers, riding in a group for the Blu ‘Un’s camera, represented Excelsior, Humber, Rex and (the trike and tandem trike) Singer.
1903 FACTORY TESTERS
The same  group of factory testers at the foot of Stoneleigh Hill.

JR BEDFORD hosted a meeting for motor cyclists living in and around Birmingham. About 20 turned up; they formed the Birmingham MCC, based at the Colonnade Hotel in MNew Street. In its first year the club held a series of local social runs, a hillclimb and a 100-mile non-stop run.

THE FIRST motorcycle sold in Japan was a Mitchell.

AN ENTHUSIAST named Archie Barr made a prediction: “Personally, I have an idea that we shall find leather clothing recedes from favour for motor cyclists. It is not aesthetic, hygienic or smart. Some of the woollen materials being supplied by the specialists in that particular line are much more taking and equally serviceable.”

1903 aldershot signalling school
The Army was beginning to take an interest in motor cycles. This unit was set up at the Aldershot signalling school.
1903 VOLUNTEER CORPS
HF Trippel, an instructor at the Military College in Richmond, Surrey, added “instruction in motoring” to the curriculum: “Accordingly he is employing an automobile and several motor bicycles for the purpose.”

PASSENGERS WERE carried in forecars, trailers and most recently sidecars but pillion riding was definitely a novelty. As The Motor Cycle reported: “The two London riders who recently carried out a successful Continental tour on a motor bicycle converted into a tandem by the simple expedient of fitting a make-shift seat on the luggage-carrier over the rear wheel are to be commended for their enterprise. At the same time we do not in the least anticipate that this novel method of carrying an extra passenger is ever likely to seriously rival the trailer or forecar. In the first place there be but little spring in the luggage-carrier, and, secondly, there is always the chance that it may swing down and let the rider suddenly on to the road.” Rather than resorting to the carrier some pillion passengers were carried in luxury…

1903 sidepillion
“The above illustration is that of a detachable pillion seat for motor cycles which has been registered by Mr JH Rowse , of the Cycle Trade Supply Co. The designer claims that the lowness of the seat makes it specially suitable for a lady, and that there is no trouble in getting on or off.”
1903 sidepillion2
…and here’s the side-saddle pillion in use. A lady could not be expected to sit astride.

THERE WERE 247 motorcycles at the Crystal Palace show, 357 at the Stanley show and about 10,000 in Britain. Marques represented at the palace included: Alldays and Onions, Bat, Peerless, Bradbury, Kerry, Benz, FN, Ixion, Quadrant, Rex, Westfield, Phoenix, Trimo and Werner.

1903 bat
The Blue ‘Un gushed: “Perhaps no motor bicycle has so rapidly made an excellent name for itself as the Bat. It is designed with the one idea of making the machine thoroughly reliable, strong, and powerful, and its speed properties are such as to cause it to stand out conspicuously by reason of ita wonderful performances on the track. The machines does not require pedals, as by means of the Bat pulley slipping is overcome, and the machine will carry the rider up very steep hills. The machine can also be had with a patent spring frame.”
1903 aeolus
The Aeolus, designed by EH Owen of the London-based Motor Transport Co, boasted a ‘free-engine’ clutch allowing the engine to be run at a standstill. The marque only survived for a couple of years, but its 492cc one-lunger deserves a mention for being a pioneer of shaft drive.
1903 ormonde
Still looking very much a powered bicycle, the 2¾hp Ormonde boasted a petrol gauge, ‘sight-feed lubricator’ and ‘gas throttle’.
1903 alldays
Alldays and Onions could trace its history back to 1650; the firm’s latest motor cycle featured its own 2¼hp engie with a detachable head.
1903 rover
The Rover Cycle Co came up with a 2¼hp motor cycle with a state-of-the-art float-fed spray carburettor. The back-pedal rear band brake was complemented by a front rim brake.
1903 EJ POWER HAMILTON
Dr EJ Power on the 4½hp Hamilton made by the Hamilton Motor Co of Coventry.
1903 wright
S Wright of Coventry with his Excelsior racer and the cups he won at Canning Town, Southport, Barrow, Birmingham and Manchester.

THIS IS ONE of the the first ‘new products’ stories to be published in The Motor Cycle:  “A good, resonant, sweet-sounding bell is certainly a far preferable method of giving warning of approach than the somewhat raucous, nerve-distracting horn; and we are pleased to notice that Messrs Markt and Co, of 21, Chapel Street, EC, have been quick to notice the necessity by marketing a special bell for motor cyclists’ use. It clips to the handle-bar in the ordinary way, but is made just about double the usual bell size. The domes are made to revolve so that a very sweet flowing sound is produced, which can be graduated from a single stroke to a continuous volume of sound sufficient to penetrate the ear of even the deafest pedestrian or driver. We have had one of these bells in use on our motor cycle for some weeks past now, and it has certainly given every satisfaction, whilst at the same time gaining the encomiums of our pedestrian friends, who are rabid haters of the motor horn.”

1903 bell
The Liberty bell:  melifluous enough to earn plenty of encomiums
1903 MODELS
A selection of 1903 models…
1903 MODELS2
…and more of the same. A growing proportion had the engine in the ‘right place’.
1903 BACK ENGINE
Some manufacturers still had their own ideas of where to fit the motive power. The South Hants Motor Co of The Floating Bridge Works, Portsmouth produced a Humber bicycle with a 2½hp Minerva engine mounted begind the rear wheel. The makers claimed that “all vibration is taken from the rider, and that actual vibration from the motor assists in the propulsion in the machine”. The Blue ‘Un commented: “We must admit at the mioment we cannot see how this is effected.”

HERE’S A WHIMSICAL reminisence that offers an insight into club life: “On tour and in club runs it has always been legitimate to penalise a rider who knows too much and talks too much by putting his machine temporarily out of commission. A fussy and self-important motor cyclist can be amazingly funny when his tank has been secretly filled with paraffin, or his magneto points separated by a tiny disc of paper, or the plug wires of his twin crossed, or his air wire coupled to his throttle or vice versa. Perhaps the best trick of this sort on record was perpetuated on a dark night when Binks was refreshing himself inside an inn. One of his pals wedged a billet of wood between the back tyre and the mudguard. After lengthy potations Binks came our and attempted to start his single-geared bus. He dosed his apprently seized engine repeatedly with paraffin. We were all very helpful, and with five or six of us pushing Binks at last got away in clouds of blue smoke and proceeded at about 8mph, sooting a plug every mile or so. He naturally needed further refreshment at the next town, and while he was obtaining it we removed the billet of wood. We have never dared to tell Binks the facts; he still muses over the queer conduct of that engine. I am all against any real mechanical interference with a pal’s machine. But in the case of a frightful bounder who needs a real lesson it may occasionally be permissible to retime his magneto. This should not be overdone, substituting full retard for full advance being far better than transferring the spark to the exhaust stroke, or to solder up the passage connecting the float chamber to the jet chamber. In one priceless case of this sort an unspeakable person was despatched to Scotland for a whole week by his firm, and for his soul’s good, his riding associates took his engine entirely to pieces and substituted a new connecting rod considerably shorter than the original part. The resultant engine symptoms baffled several experts, who were not in the know, for quite a time.”

PRACTICAL JOKES
“A fussy and self-important motor cyclist can be amazingly funny…”

HERE’S A SELECTION of adverts from the colonial side of the pond.

1903 AURORA AD

1903 AUTO-BI AD

1903 CLEMENT AD

1903 ELECTRICS AD

1903 INDIAN AD

1903 MERKEL AD

1903 SUBSCRIPTION AD

…And here’s a couple from Blighty:

1903 PHOENIX AD

1903 SWIFT AD