THE FIRST TT races were held on the Isle of Man, where the authorities had a more enlightened attitude towards road racing than their mainland counterparts. The single-cylinder class was won by Charlie Collier on the 500cc JAP-powered Matchless built by him and his brothers. It averaged 38.5mph and 94.5mpg over 158 miles (10 laps of the St Johns circuit – bikes weren’t ready for the mountain circuit). Twin-cylinder honours went to Rem Fowler on his Peugeot-engined Norton at 36.2mph. Getting away from the odd Continental 55kg limit on racing machines, the name of the Tourist Trophy said it all. This was a race to encourage advances in real motorcycles – no weight limit, full-size saddle and mudguards and at least 5lb of tools to be carried. Fuel was limited, demanding 90mpg from the singles and 75mpg from the twins. So the fastest bikes on the road were required to run more economically than a 21st century commuter bike. What price progress? You’ll find the story of how the TT was conceived (in a railway carriage) the background, a race report, loads of background gossip and Rem Fowler’s description of the race in the 1907 Features section. The legend starts here.

1907 tt collierfowler
The winners: Charley Collier (left) with the Matchless his family made, and Rem Fowler with his Peugeot Norton.
1907 AYTON
Of the 17 one-lungers that started the first TT eight finished; Robert Ayton finished in seventh place on a bike he built himself with a 3½hp Riley engine.

WITHIN A fortnight of the TT Fowler and Marshall were wheel to wheel again, at the Coventry MCC’s gymkhana where Marshall did well at the jousting for rings competition, making the fastest run but missing 11 out of 24 rings. Muriel Hind also competed in the joust and was widely praised for her control of a brand new 5hp Rex. And the Lytham motor gymkhana featured an event that would be a favourite at motor cycle rallies over the years: a “tortoise race for motor bicycles”.

1907 hind gymkhana
Muriel Hind was among the competitors at the Coventry MC gymkhana, tilting for rings on her 5hp Rex.

IMPORTS, PRIMARILY  FROM France, Belgium and Germany, rose to 1,770 from 1,755 in 1906 and 1,700 in 1905. Exports also rose, to 799 from 739 in 1906 and 688 in 1905. Registrations fell from 11,039 in 1906 to 8,142; total registrations totalled 53,877 at year’s end. Britain’s  leading export markets were South Africa, Australia (which imposed a 30% import duty on motor cycles) ‘British India’ and New Zealand. Triumphs were appearing on American roads but they were produced in Chicago.

THERE WERE 19,573 motor cycles in Germany, up 3,800 on 1906. In the first half of the year Germany exported 1,585 machines and imported only 261. Its four biggest markets were Holland, Britain, Denmark and Russia. NSU sent a director to the USA to set up an agency in New York.

THE UK, WHICH now boasted well over 50,000 motor cycles, started the year with more than 80 bike clubs. Advertising for members, the Birmingham MCC stressed that it “has no riding season, but is composed of all-weather riders, and runs are arranged throughout the year.”

THE GENERAL Steam Navigation Co offered a twice-weekly service to Ostend from St Katherine’s Bridge, near Tower Bridge, to Ostend. A first-class ticket costs 10s 6d, plus five bob for your bike.

RUSHWORTH BROS of Halifax launched a 503cc ohv single rated at 2.5hp, It had a 60in wheelbase and “a belt ten feet in length, which should conduce to smooth running”.

IN THE USA Bicycling World reported: “George H Curtiss, of Hammondsport, NY, and William H Wray Jnr, of Brooklyn, NY, the two motorcyclists who participated [in the Florida speed carnival on the Ormond-Daytona beach] covered themselves with glory…In a mile race in which they were the only competitors, Curtiss beat Wray by about three lengths in the record time of 46.4sec…however, Wray made an official trial for the record and got it, doing the mile in 44.4sec—about 80.5mph…Curtis rode the double-cylinder motor bicycle of his own well known manufacturer; it is nominally rated at 5hp but with 3.25×3.25in cylinders it develops more…Wray rode a double-cylinder Peugeot racer which has just been brought over from France and which is rated at 14hp.” Curtiss also fielded a bike powered by his 4,000cc V8 aircraft engine. Sadly, “The latter was put out of business by a break in the transmission before it had a chance to distinguish itself and so remains merely an interesting exhibit as being the most powerful motorcycle ever put together, although in a private trial it is said to have dome a sensational mile in 26.4sec, but private trials ‘don’t go’ and the big machine is way over weight anyway.”

1907 curtiss v8:2
Glenn Curtis developed a 40hp V8 to power his aircraft but shoe-horned it into a bike frame for the Florida speed carnival. Legends persist that he rode it at a mind-boggling 137mph; sadly contemporary reports reveal he rode a V-twin in the event–but he did set a record and his V8 was, unofficially at least, the fastest vehicle on the planet.
Wray’s imported Peugeot works racer was probably the bike Giuppone had ridden to victory the previous year in Dourdan at 128.5km/h.

DOUGLAS ENGINEERING, which made castings for Light Motors, took over the manufacturing rights of the Fairy flat-twin when Light Motors went out of business.

JAP PRODUCED an advanced in-line triple.

MATCHLESS LAUNCHED a (JAP) V-twin sporting swinging-arm rear suspension. “Chatting the other day with CR Collier, the famous record breaker, our racing noter found the Plumstead crack more enthusiastic than ever. Said he: “I intend doing more racing and record breaking than ever. I am having a special machine built for the races to be held at Weybridge, also one of 18hp for world’s records. As to the International Cup, I think I have finished with that, but I shall be seen in the Motor Cycle Tourist Trophy Race in the Isle of Man, and when I get my path racer tuned up to concert pitch I think I’ll pop over to Paris and see what I can do on the fast tracks there. I mean to commence early this season, and, as you know, it is my ambition to regain the British hour record. I have been unlucky or it would have stood to my credit before now. Anyway, look out for 56 or 58 miles in the hour before long at Canning Town.”

1907 matchless-jap racer
Having won the single-cylinder TT Matchless built a lightweight racer around a 20hp JAP twin. Not for the faint-hearted.

SWEDE SVEN Wingqvist of SKF patented a multi-row self-aligning radial ball bearing.

THE FIRST AA patrolmen rode bicycles. The Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland was granted a royal warrant by Edward VII and became the Royal Automobile Club.

BRITISH RIDERS venturing over the Channel were warned that ‘motor spirit’ sur le continent was variously sold as Motocarline, Motricine, Moto Naphtha, Essence, Benzin, Moto, Benzo Moteur, Luciline and Automobiline. Whatever the name, it was far more expensive than in Blighty.

BROADWAY AND Croft launched at clip-on two-stroke engine; rather than a throttle and choke revs were controlled by a compression release valve.

AS AN ALTERNATIVE to pedalling or bumpstarting, Rex fitted its de Luxe twin with a starting handle. “The rider,” it announced, “can then sit down on the saddle, and with one foot resting on the ground let in the clutch by means of a lever on the footrest, when the machine will move away and gradually pick up speed.” A ‘twin tyre’ was fitted which was claimed to eliminate skids.

1907 stan rex
This version of the 5½hp Rex twin had a conventional single rear tyre but did feature a sprung seat pillar and plunger-style sprung forks.

RUSSIA STAGED its first motor show, in St Petersburg. Motor cycle exhibitors included FN, NSU and Sarolea. A Wanderer was the only bike to finish a race from Moscow to St Petersburg without damage.

THE DUBLIN Motor Show attracted exhibits from Minerva, NSU, Rex, Singer, Triumph and the North British Rubber Co.

MANUFACTURERS AT the Crystal Palace Show included FN, NSU, AW Wall (Roc), Rip, Vindec, Bat, Laurin & Klement, Lagonda and Riley. Shows were also staged in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle, York, Manchester and Birmingham.

French shows clearly had a Belle Époque style all their own, as did their visitors.

THERE WERE 17 bikes at the American Motor Show in New York’s Grand Central Palace: 13 one-lungers, three twins and an FN in-line four. The Blue ‘Un rather sniffily reported: “The principal makers, the Hendee Mfg Co, appear to have altered practically every detail on the Indian motor cycle, which has previously been referred to in American papers as far in advance of English machines. Their experiments with steel cylinders, known in England to be wrong for the past five or six years, have, of course, proved a failure, and they have adopted cast-iron cylinders, and nearly all other details which go to make up a perfect engine have been changed, so it would appear that the much vaunted pride of Yankeeland has not been quite the success its adherents try to make out.”

1907 indian
Emblem was a new name on American streets when this smartly turned out enthusiast was pictured on his 4hp one-lunger. Its 7hp V-twin stablemate had respectable sporting success against the established Indians and Harleys, setting a good number of long-distance road and track records. The New York marque would survive to the mid-’20s…
1907 EMBLEM 2
…and here’s the 1907 edition of the bikini-clad lovelys who would adorn bike ads 60 years later.

FROM A report on the motor cycling scene in the British Central Africa Protectorate: “While we cannot, of course, boast of macadamised roads, as in England, we have at least certain advantages in having no speed limits, no police traps, no anti-motor brigade, no dogs, no horses, and no punctures. The latter immunity is due to the fact that the natives always walk in single file along the middle of the road, with the consequence that there is generally a good hard track in the centre, and as the native is, of course, bare-footed he is naturally extremely careful to remove anything likely to puncture his foot… Only one native has yet had the distinction of being run over, and the reason of this mishap was because the man was a deaf mute… Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. The look of blank bewilderment on the deaf mute’s face was, I am told, a thing to remember!”

I’m guessing this snap was taken in France (that copper seems to be holding a Gaulois which is a dead giveaway). Just an everyday scene of a chap tinkering with his bike as we still do.

BACK IN BLIGHTY, a rider wrote: “I have motor cycled for four years; I am very deaf, and cannot hear anything when riding, except the engine; I have never had any trouble or bother through my deafness, I ride hard and have no objection to race or ride in a crowd. Once or twice I have been passed by fast cars, when I seem to feel them coming, but the correct thing to do (if being passed makes you nervous) is to ride faster than others.”

A SPORTING RIDER wrote: “I am sure there must be hundreds of amateurs like myself who long to enter for speed contests, but are debarred by the knowledge that trade riders with specially tuned up machines will have it all their own way. I am sure the advertisement afforded to the makers would amply repay them for offering a prize for these events.” Another enthusiast opined: “Amateurs have no chance against trade riders, who have a choice of engines, and every facility for adjusting them, and who, I also notice, generally travel by train with the machine to the scene of the contest.”

1907 accracestart
Pictured at the start of the ACU’s sixth annual race meeting are Harry and Charley Collier (Matchless), F Hulbert (Triumph) and J Marshall (Triumph).

HARRIS SONS and Co of Birmingham came up with plunger rear springing that could be bolted or brazed to any motor cycle frame.

FROM A contemporary description of The Novice: “He only comes out in fine weather… you will sooner or later see a youth whose costume attracts attention—a cap with a great bulge astern with a long peak forrard, the largest sort of goggles (vide advertisements ‘Gordon-Bennett’ or ‘Paris-Vienna’), a pair of fur gauntlets in spite of the sun, waterproof knee apron, shaped gaiters of calf, and natty reefer with astrakhan collar. The motor cycle he bestrides will be brand new, gleaming with polish, and be fitted with a bulbous Bleriot lamp and a huge double-twist horn. So far this species has a distinct resemblance to another the habits of which are very different, to wit, the ‘dude’.”

THE PARIS NEWSPAPER Le Matin issued a challenge: “Is there anyone who will undertake to travel [8,750 miles] from Peking to Paris?” The prize was a magnum of champagne which was won by Prince Scipione Borghese in a 7½-litre Italia. But spare a thought for M Pons whose Contal tricar was deserted by the rest of the field when he stopped to make running repairs (they were meant to stick together to offer mutual assistance). He ran out of fuel in the Gobi desert, trekked back to the start and caught a train home. Undeterred, Pons announced plans to enter Le Matin’s next whacky race: from Paris to Paris via Dover, Liverpool, New York, Chicago, Alaska, Siberia, and Moscow.

1907 contal pekin
Pons and his mate had a nightmarish time on the rally.
1907 BRUNEAU 326cc TRIKE
For less adventurous riders Bruneau offered this tidy 326cc forecar.

TO HELP motor cyclists deal with aggressive dogs the Continental Tyre Co of Clerkenwell Road, London EC, introduced the ‘Sjambok’, a rubber whip that clipped to the handlebars. “It will not injure the dog permanently,” Continental promised, “but can be relied upon to administer the necessary rebuke.”

BILLY WRAY Jnr of Brooklyn, New York imported a 14 hp Peugeot racer and covered a mile at an average 81.08mph to set a US record.

FEELING COLD? Ixion, as always, had the answer… “I do not know whether it is as cold all over the kingdom as it has lately been in the neighbourhood of Ixion Cottage, but the following represents the additions to ordinary attire which I find essential to keeping warm on motor cycles: Two pairs of socks, one woollen, one silken; thick winter boots, with snow boots over them; silk gloves, with woollen gloves over them, the latter with leather palms and finger facings; cardigan jacket under a leather waistcoat; leather breeches, lined Jaeger; and short waterproof coat overall. I do not care for either ear protectors or a deerstalker cap, both of which tend to produce deafness; but the best way to keep the ears warm and retain a perfect sense of hearing was found when Mrs. Ixion devised two little cloth-rolls, forming the sides of a loop, completed by a broad elastic. These fit closely to the flesh of the cheeks in front of the ears, and all the cold head draughts shoot over them, and miss one’s ears altogether. They can hardly be called pretty, but who cares for that?

DESCRIBED AS the largest meeting of motor cyclists to date, an inter-club rally in Richmond, Yorks, attracted contingents from Newcastle (30), Sunderland (25), Hartlepool (25), Middlesborough (25), Leeds (30) and Bradford (16).

1907 clubmeet
The Richmond meeting became an annual event.

MEANWHILE IN THE LEAFY lanes of Richmond, Surrey a trike rider was summoned for “driving in a manner dangerous to the public” after he ran into a copper who was in conversation with a lady and gent at the roadside, throwing the officer “violently against the lady”. The triker apologised to the court, explained he was “trying to get between the lady and gentleman” and offered to pay for damage to the cop’s uniform. He must have strung a good yarn because the magistrate dismissed the case.

THE BOHEMIAN MC, newly formed to promote “racing on high-speed tracks”, hosted a meeting at the Canning Town track in West Ham. Highlight of the day was a series of matches (at one, three and five miles) between English champion Charlie Collier (Matchless-JAP) and his Irish counterpart CB Franklin (JAP-JAP). Collier romped home in all three races.

FROM A PREVIEW OF BROOKLANDS, the world’s first man-made motor racing circuit: “What a picture is presented to the imagination at the mere mention of the name of this motodrome, where the pick of the world’s racing motorists are to compete… Nothing approaching it… has ever before been attempted. For comparison with it one can only suggest the classic Olympia when Greece was the athletic centre of the world. It is expected that thousands will flock to the Weybridge track to witness such motor racing as the world has never seen before. The specially prepared surface of cement and the banking will allow of speeds hitherto impossible. Motor cycle racing men will attend from all parts, and if sixty or more miles an hour have been found possible on four laps to the mile, what may we hope to see done on the long straights and sweeping bends at Brooklands? No waiting or pocketing at the corners, but a ding-dong from start to finish. The track will furnish an opportunity to show the world what motor cycles can do in the way of speed when the conditions are favourable. Six motor cyclists could race alongside without danger… On Florida Beach, Curtis is reported to have attained a speed of 136.36 miles an hour. A beach track must be very holding compared with a top dressing of cement. What, then, is possible at Brooklands under favourable conditions?” It was designed by Colonel Holden who had built the first four-cylinder motorcycle in 1894 and was also intended to be a high-speed testing ground for British vehicles—rumour had it that the track was built to handle speeds up to 150mph.

1907 brooklandsbuild
Field of dreams… Brooklands would become a magnet for motor cycling sportsmen.

SOME MOTORCYCLISTS who attended the first races at Brooklands (for cars only, bikes weren’t yet allowed to race on the new 2¾-mile circuit) found the sheer scale of the circuit robed the events of their excitement. And they were even less impressed by the catering: “Lunch—which we badly wanted—was a sad fiasco. We were so hungry we missed a race to get a meal, and found 400 people struggling to be fed in a tent designed for fifty. Fifty hungry individuals were seated, casting fierce looks at three weary waiters. Over each seated diner stood half a dozen determined individuals intent on his seat as soon as he should vacate it. The waiters were crazy with indecision. Consequently we foraged for dirty plates, knives, and forks, carved food for ourselves, and sat on the ground in a comer, using biscuit boxes for tables. We paid half a crown for this privilege, and escaped from the hungry crowd resolved to bring a picnic lunch on the occasion of our next visit.”

Brooklands: the world’s first purpose built race track.
The caption to this wonderfully whacky collage in the Parisian sports magazine La Vie au Grand Air doesn’t really need to be translated: “L’accident D’Oliesagers: Une chute de motocyclette a 100 kilometres a l’heure.” The illustration is obviously staged but the crash was all too real. Oliesagers explained: “When racing against the French rider Cissac and the Swiss champion Bussac, through riding too close to the inside, I got my wheel off the track, leaving the banking. Knowing it was impossible to avoid a fall, I managed to reach the next banking, when I threw myself off the machine and rolled down unhurt, the speed at the time being sixty-five miles an hour.” The Belgian ace, who gloried in the nickname ‘Le Demon Anversois’, (Antwerp Demon) got away with it, unlike too many other board racers. We’ll meet him again next year when he was beating all-comers on an American tour and laid claim to the title ‘motor cycle champion of the world’.

THE AUTO-CYCLE Club became the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU); it contributed a guinea to the Ripley Roadmenders’ Fund, a guinea to the North Roadmenders’ Fund, and a guinea to the Automobile Club Servants’ Christmas Fund. Just before the club became a union it staged its fifth annual six-days’ trial. Riders followed a demanding circular route. Leaving London the first day’s run took them east to King’s Lynn and west to Coventry. Day two took them to Llangollen, day three to Aberystwyth, day four to Cardiff, day five to Gloucester and day six back to London—a total of 1,002 miles.

1907 acc6day triumphteam
Triumph won the team prize at the ACC six-days’ trial.

THE LACK of Tarmac didn’t bother the hardy souls who entered the MCC’s fourth London-Edinburgh run. This. despite the opening of the TT and Brooklands and the six-day trial, was described as the most popular event of the year. Several thousand spectators waved the riders off from Highgate at 10pm. The first checkpoint was at Hatfield;the Biggleswade control was noted for “excellent coffee, Bovril, and ham sandwiches”. Dawn broke soon after the first riders passed through Stamford (two local lads persuaded the local council to relight the streetlights to give the riders an easier passage through the town); breakfast was supplied at the Clinton Arms, Newark courtesy of Captain L’Estrange and BH Davies (yes, of course Ixion was at the heart of the action). Lunch was on offer at Newcastle (along with the worst traffic jams of the event); 39 of 59 starters signed in within the time limit at the Grand Hotel, Edinburgh. All of the 15 Triumphs that started made it to Edinburgh as did eight of nine Vindec starters. Four heroes made the return run against the clock to compete for the Schulte Cup, donated by Triumph’s boss—funnily enough none were on Triumphs. The gold medal presented by the Auto Cycle Club for the best performance went to SG Frost (4½hp Minerva twin).

1907 london edinburgh
Leeds MCC members manned the Wetherby control during the London-Edinburgh run.

CHERISHED NUMBER plates are not a recent frippery. An enthusiast discovered that low registration numbers could be obtained in County Roscommon, Ireland—he acquired DI 35. Having just been incorporated as a borough Smethwick was also offering low registration numbers; one rider snapped up HA 20.

THE COMITY Chemical Co of Birmingham marketed a perfume to be mixed with petrol and make bike exhausts smell sweeter.

THE CLEVELAND Chemical Works at Middlesbrough was selling benzole at half the price of petrol which was said to offer improved consumption and more power.

THE NEW YORK and Brooklyn MCCs teamed up to field 76 competitors in a 116-miles reliability run. It was the biggest motor cycle event yet held in the USA.

1907 nybrooklynrun
The New York and Brooklyn MCs teamed up for a run.

THE FIRST CLUB run was held in Japan. A correspondent reported: “Motor bicycles flit about the country in every direction.”

ILLEGAL 6MPH speed limit signs appeared in Warwick and Milbourne Port, Somerset.

TWO NEW York bike cops were given medals by the Automobile Club of America for “bravery in stopping by means of drawn revolvers a car which was travelling at over 50mph in the city”. The driver was fined the equivalent of £20.

1907 lon-plym triumphs
JS Harwood and RG Mundy, both on 3½hp Triumphs, both won gold medals in the ACC 24-hour run from London to Plymouth and back.
1907 lon-plyn brough
George Brough, on one of the Broughs his dad made, finished the London-Plymouth-London run 10 minutes outside the time limit.

A HANDY get-you-home tip: “When two motor cyclists are travelling in company, on machines with battery ignition, and one battery fails, it is useful to remember following: Adjust the points of the sparking plug close together, disconnect the bridge of the one battery and connect one cell to each machine with a sufficient length of bell wire to allow for a little difference in speed. By this means it is possible to travel a considerable distance without pedalling or searching for another battery. Correspondents, Messrs B Cobb and Leon Bye, recently rode 20 miles at a fair speed in this manner,and this is a tip worth remembering, but it is far better to carry a spare accumulator on the machine.”

AN ENTHUSIAST who attended the French Grand Prix remarked: “We slept (?) in a village on the ‘circuit’ the night before the race, and the ‘touring’ motor cycles which passed under the window were so noisy that the exhaust almost made the window curtains wave every time a machine went by. How any rider can endure the noise for more than a few miles is puzzling in the extreme.”

FRENCH-MADE Griffon motorcycles were a force to be reckoned with in Continental road races in the hands of aces including Demester, Guippone and Cissac. Now they arrived in Blighty via an importer in Tooting. Power was courtesy of Zedel engines; advanced features included Dinin accumulators filled with a ‘gelatine electrolyte’ and shaft drive for both the magneto and rear wheel.

1907 griffon 3.5
The French Griffon 3½hp racer arrived in Tooting..
Rochet is an almost forgotten French pioneer which debuted with an IOE single in 1902 but stole a march on the competition with a 5½hp unit-construction in-line vertical twin. This example even sports what later generation would call a bikini fairing. Formidable!

FROM A REPORT on a poorly planned hill-starting trial: “They got the word to proceed up the hill, which practically immediately soared heavenwards with a grade of 1 in 4½. A most pathetic exhibition naturally resulted. Several unfortunates actually rode on single-geared twins scaling up to a couple of hundredweights. One or two men got their machines going again—all credit to them; but by this time were far too exhausted to mount, or even to steer, and were dragged all over the road by their plunging monsters, until they contrived to switch off and relinquish the attempt…”

MORE THAN 90% of the motor cycles in New Zealand were English, notably Rex, Ariel and Triumph. Australians were said to favour “low-priced foreign machines”.

SPEED TRAPS were no more popular then than they are now, judging by the following comments: “There is increasing evidence that the police mean to be very busy with their vile trapping system this summer, and no doubt, as before, just on those nice stretches of open road where there is absolutely no danger, and not the least possible inconvenience to anyone.” “If a motor cyclist is unfortunate enough to run into one of these un-English police traps it is quite sufficient to bring forth the stereotyped £5 and costs irrespective of the magnitude of the offence. We have no quarrel with the police; they are merely carrying out their instructions. A sergeant admitted to us only a few days ago that he thought traps unsportsmanlike and un-English and he did not like them, but he had to think of others, and when sent out trapping it was ‘unlucky’ to go back without a certain bag. The magistrates might think he had not done his duty. For wife beating, brutal behaviour, disgusting language in the street, and the majority of petty offences, except, perhaps, offences against the game laws, the usual fine is about one-fifth of the above amount. It makes one wonder how long some honorary justices will be allowed to sit and administer the law, even with some legal assistance.”

1907 caught!
Speed traps have never been popular with motor cyclists.

TWO SPEEDING charges against motorcyclists in Maidstone were dropped because the police were unable to stop the miscreants. The law required that police “trappers” had to stop their victims; noting registrations was not enough evidence for a successful prosecution.

GIUPPONE’S RECORD distance of 63 miles 1,078 yards, set in 1905, was still standing but Charley Collier was getting faster and faster—his British hour record of 56 miles 607 yards was said to compare favourably with the world’s best, taking tracks into account.
Collier was also active in the class for bikes with a bore/stroke of 76x76mm (345cc), managing 51 miles 540 yards in the hour which was nigh on four miles better than the 1906 record.

A GROWING number of bikes were sporting “electric press-button motor horns in place of bulb horns”. But riders holidaying in France noted that many locals had replaced their horns with sirens and exhaust whistles—and many bikes did without silencers.

THE COVENTRY MCC staged a 100-mile reliability trial in which each rider started with 100 points but lost one point for each minute’s stop “other than a compulsory stop for traffic”. But with riders reportedly tiring of 100 and 200-mile reliability trials the ACC came up with a novelty event: an “open variable speed test”. Each rider would tackle a test hill as fast as possible, ride back down and climb again as slowly as possible. The winners would be the riders who recorded the greatest difference between the two times, with classes for singles and twins with and without variable gears.

1907 cov mcc 100ml weighin
Weighing in at the Coventry club’s 100-mile trial.

THE COVENTRY MCC, WHICH had won the first MCC Team Trial in 1904, regained the cup from the MCC, which had won in 1905 and 1906. The other entrants were the Birmingham MCC, Southern MC and the Great Yarmouth MC.

THE ACU MADE an (unsuccessful) attempt to have motor cycle racing included in the Olympic Games, which were based in London: “We trust the organisers will not overlook the motor cycle, otherwise the games cannot be called representative of English pastimes.”

MR SCRIVENS of the Bradford MCC (5hp Rex twin) won a fuel consumption trial at a thrifty 136mpg.

IXION RIGGED an oil breather having seen oil forced from a fractured pipe. He saw it as a way of squeezing a little extra power from an engine as the descending piston would no longer have to overcome crankcase pressure. He also reported on a Rex fitted with a Holts-White hydraulic pulley, designed to offer automatic infinitely variable gear changing a year before the manual Zenith Gradua hit the street and five years before the (also manual) Rudge Multi: “The sensation is most peculiar, as the engine runs at a constant speed up hill and down dale, and yet the driver never removes a finger from the handle grips and no sound of changing gears is heard. The single device of the dash pot with its two pistons and connecting pipe both alters the size of the pulley to suit the load, and also adjusts the jockey pulley to fit the altered belt length.” However, the Gradua was in the pipe line–Freddie Barnes panented his system in 1907…

1907 breather
Ixion’s air breather cured an oil leak, clever chap.
The Gradua patent: “An Infinitely Variable Gear. This gear comprises an expanding pulley working in conjunction with a movable back wheel, the wheel moving backwards and for- wards, as the case may be, to tighten or slacken the belt as the pulley is adjusted. The hand wheel is operated, which, by means of the rods B, forces the back wheel in either direction in the slides C. By means of the link D and rod E, the crank F is moved when the position of the back axle is changed. This crank F is connected through screw gearing to the movable pulley flange G. Thus, when the lever F is moved, the screw gearing operates to move the pulley flange G nearer to or further from the fixed flange H. In this manner, when the gear is changed the tension of the belt. does not vary.—FW Barnes, No 12,131, 1907.”

A SPEED TRAP was spotted on the Maidstone road run by two cops dressed as clergymen.

THE LAW required any motor cycle over 5cwt to be fitted with a reverse gear.

TURKEY LEGALISED the import of motor cycles (and cars) but banned them from urban streets.

A NUMBER of polytechnics were offering tuition in puncture repairs. But riders sick of punctures could have their tyres filled with ‘Elastes’.

A GROWING number of enthusiasts were opting for handlebar control for throttle, choke and spark. A hill-climbing champion reported on a climb up a ‘freak hill’ where the rough road, combined with the heavy pedalling he had to do, had made it impossible for him to take his hands off the bar. He concluded that he would have failed miserably on the hill without handlebar control.

A SHARP-EYED enthusiast wrote: “What was long an eyesore when passing through Kenilworth, Warwickshire, was an ungrammatical notice at a dangerous turning to the effect, ‘Drive slow’. On a recent visit I was relieved to find that the warning has been revised, and a red board with white lettering, “Drive slowly” substituted.”

BOWDENS PATENT Syndicate was actively promoting the “famous Bowden wire mechanism, to prove to all and sundry how power can be transmitted round a corner without having recourse to rods or levers”. Other Bowden products included a “puncture sealer and rubber preservative”.

THE JOHANNESBURG Motor Cycling Club held an 80-mile road race; the first three bikes over the line were a Triumph, a Rover and an Adler.

IN AUSTRALIA the Goldfields club staged a fuel consumption trial in which the top six places went to three Minervas and three Saroleas, ahead of a Triumph.

AN ENTHUSIAST using the nom de plume ‘Silence vs Safety’ wrote: “I ride a powerful 3½hp myself, and when I first had it I set about making the machine more quiet, with considerable success as regards silence. Afterwards it was a perfect misery riding my machine in any traffic at all. It necessitated continuous horn blowing and restarting, and many an angry word. I put up with this for about three weeks. I then stripped off my appliance, and fitted an exhaust cut-out operated by foot. I now run through traffic with hardly any inconvenience at all.”

If you had a weak horn you could always upgrade to a siren. The Blue ‘Un remarked: “From time to time we hear of owners of powerful multicylinder machines who desire to fit a siren in order that their was may be made clear before them.” Gamages had this in stock at 25s 6d.

A RIDER TOURING Scotland on his 3hp Triumph tackled the notorious Rest and Be Thankful hill in Glen Croe: “I opened the throttle slightly, advance the spark to its utmost, and was soon thundering along at over 30mph, dodging huge stones and gaping cart ruts. Gradually the speed dwindled down to the legal limit, and then to 15mph, but as I had still a long way to go, I refrained from further opening the throttle, as I thought that to give any more gas would only promote overheating. A few yards of easier gradient allowed the engine to again gather speed, but ultimately I saw that my only hope of success lay in giving the engine more gas. I did so, but after surmounting another fifty yards, the engine began to labour. I also began to labour (at the pedals), but all the strength I had got was of little use; notwithstanding my exertions, the engine ceased firing most abruptly. It had overheated, and so had I. Honest sweat ran down my face, and I lay down o the grass to recover my breath. Shortly, a farmer appeared on the scene. He was much interested in the motor cycle, and I gathered from him that I was almost at the summit. He told me in reply to my interrogation that he had seen several motor cyclists come up the Glen, but they usually turned when they saw the hill. “Aye, man,” continued he, “an’ A’ve see caurs stuck no hauf sae faur up as this”, at which remark I felt considerable pride in my machine which had carried me so well.”

SIDECAR PIONEER Mills & Fulford, while agreeing with a correspondent that sidecars were best fitted to the left of the motor cycle, stressed that because some riders wanted right-hand sidecars they would continue to make them so “they can be used upon either side by the simple removal of the chair and springs”. The company was strongly opposed to calls for a sidecar brake to be fitted and controlled by the sidecar passenger.

FOLLOWING AN exchange of increasingly sniffy letters in the Blue ‘Un a propos the carriage of spare dry-cell batteries, an enthusiast named Stanley Reed showed a nice line in dry wit: “The concluding remark in Mr Akermau’s letter anent waistcoat pockets smacks most unmistakably of polite incredulity as to my ability to run on a dry cell of such modest dimensions, that it can be thus accommodated. It may interest that gentleman to know that far from stretching the proverbial point, I have by me a cell hailing from the Fatherland called the Daimon, which measures two inches by five-eighths of an inch, on which I can run perfectly. Now, as the length of my waistcoat pocket is precisely five inches, and the depth thereof four, a pencil, paper, and a modicum of patience will disclose the startling arithmetical fact that my much-maligned pocket will accommodate not one but 12 spares, which statement I shall be most happy to ocularly demonstrate to Mr. Ackerman if he cares to communicate with me.”

PACING MOTOR cycles used on foreign cycle tracks were said to be “getting beyond all reason in the direction of size and power”. The biggest bicycle pacer built in England was a 14hp De Dion one-lunger until  a JAP-powered Bat twin promised to raise the stakes to 20hp. A French builder shoehorned a 40hp four-pot car engine into a tandem but the valuable Continental pacing market was dominated by Anzani with a 1,730cc V-twin and a 2.6-litre V3—the French army used the V3 in an experimental Bistinof aeroplane.

1907 anzani tandem pacer french
This French Anzani pacer certainly wasn’t small.
1907 anzani v3
An Anzani V3 pacing engine took to the skies.

MOTOR CYCLISTS were warned of “a growing evil in connection with the carriage of motor cycles by rail. The inquisitiveness of railway porters, born of a little knowledge of the mechanism of a motor cycle, leads them in many instances to interfere with the delicate working parts of a motor cycle. Such experiments as detaching the float pin in an attempt to flood the carburettor when the tank is empty, operating the lubricating pump until the engine is over charged with oil, and working all the levers vigorously in any direction in which they will move, are not calculated to assist the delivery of the machine in good going order upon arrival at its destination, or to improve its riding condition.”

KENT COUNTY Council surveyors reported that “nothing but tarred macadam will protect the road from the effect of studded car tyres, which are held responsible for the largely increased cost of main road maintenance in the county”.

MAJOR-GENERAL Sir Henry Colville, KCMG, president of the MCC, died after his bike was hit by a car driven by Brigadier-General Sir HS Rawlinson. The coroner heard that General Colville had taken a blind corner on the wrong side of the road.

1907 colville
Major-General Sir Henry Colville KCMG CB took one chance too many on a  blind corner.

AN AMERICAN pundit warned that US manufacturers were “far behind in the matter of design of motor cycles” Comfort and even reliability was often sacrificed to appearance, he added, so “some motor cycles are very beautiful looking little affairs, but when it comes to reliability and satisfactory touring, they are very poor machines indeed”. Nonetheless he predicted that within two years there would be at least two motor cycles in America for every car.

MEANWHILE OVER the pond his English counterpart gleefully noted: “Each year American motor cycles more closely fellow English practice, and the new pattern machines exhibited at the New York shows are no exception to the rule. We can well remember when motor cycle manufacturers on the other side of the water were marketing 1½hp and 2hp machines and described English 3hp machines as clumsy, too heavy, and cumbrous, and twin-cylinder machines were considered over-engined freaks. It is amusing to note that our cousins have gradually increased the power of their machines as we predicted… the Indian machine, the best known on this side of the water by reason of its performances in the 1,000-miles Trial, the models for 1908 are 2¾hp and 3½hp single-cylinder bicycles, and a 5hp twin-cylinder mount. Previous models were 1¾hp and 2hp. Mechanical inlet valves will be standard on the new models. Magnetos, spring forks, mudflaps, long wheelbases and English-made Brooke’s saddles are other proofs of how Americans are gradually conforming to our ideas. But without a doubt American makers have still something to learn in the matter of design.

“THE NUMBER of motor cycle fatalities this year shows no comparison in contrast with cars and pedal cycles; this despite the greatly increasing use of powerful machines. A contributor is of the opinion that this is due to the purr of a motor cycle engine, which he considers an advantage. There is no doubt that an absolutely silent machine would add to the danger of the highways, and the ‘pop-pop’ of the engine is a much better warning of approach than the hoot of the horn, the shriek of the siren, or the peculiarly aggressive exhaust whistle.”

DURING THE annual dinner of the Sheffield and Hallamshire MCC the club’s least successful competitor was presented with a specially made sugar wheel weighing over 30lb. “The formal presentation was greeted with roars of laughter.”

1907 sugarwheel
For the rider who has everything: a 30lb sugar wheel.

JAP REPORTED that its 4½hp engine, “when running light, and with careful adjustment”, would run up to 4,000rpm with a piston speed of nearly 2,500 feet per minute.

A CLEMENT-Garrard rider reported that its adjustable exhaust tappet was “very efficient and useful”. He had been puzzled by a lack of power until he tried different lifts of the exhaust valve and considered adjustable tappets were “almost a necessity”.

THE KING of Spain visited Singer’s London depot to buy a 9hp Singer tricar for Prince Leopold of Battenberg. It had three speeds and reverse with a top speed of over 40mph.

FROM THE Daily Telegraph: “”Those pessimists who a year or two ago forecasted the early disappearance of the motor cycle must now belong to a disowned race. At any rate, the single-track, self-propelled machine—and the three-wheeled variety, for that matter—never showed greater signs of virility than at the present moment.”

AS BIKES BECAME more dependable FC Dee, a theatrical touring manager, extolled the virtues of his 3½hp Vindec Special. Describing himself as “something more than a butterfly rider” he recorded a typical week on two wheels: Tuesday, Worthing to Exmouth (only stops for meals and replenishing); Wednesday, Exmouth, 50-mile circuit; Friday, Exmouth to within three miles of Worcester (accumulator troubles necessitated a walk, had no spare. My own fault); Saturday, Worcester to Llandudno. “After this,” he said, “similar distances were regularly covered, either on the Sunday or Thursday for four months, with the exception of three night journeys by train. Distance was now no deterrent to me and I was able to put in some very interesting rides—rides which sometimes meant 10 hours in the saddle at the legal limit to enable me to reach my destination before sunset. The greatest advantage of the motor cycle is that it can go practically anywhere; little or nothing is barred to the motor cyclist except a private road. Turf riding is excellent, especially on the South Downs, and the ride I enjoyed most, although short, was a non-stop from the Eastbourne Park to the Coastguard Station at the top of Beachy Head, including in the ascent stretches of one in eight, hairpin corners, loose flints, and a final 400-yard ride on the close lamb-cropped grass. Riding on the sandy beach also is delightful, although it is rarely one can find more than a few miles of it which are firm enough for speedy work. My experience is that north of Yarmouth and south of Ilfracombe the sand is quite firm, and motor cyclists can often be seen testing their machines at these seaside resorts.”

1907 theatrical tour
The route that was covered “without the slightest mishap”.
1907 theatrical2
Theatrical agent FC Dee with his trusty Vindec outside the Yarmouth Theatre.

ADVERTS FOR A London music hall act promised that “the usual sharply banked type resembling a saucer in shape… will have an extension fitted in a perpendicular position. This will necessitate the riders, who will use Motosacoche machines, assuming an absolutely horizontal position relative to the floor of the stage. Truly a sensational performance.”

A LESS SUCCESSFUL act involved a strongman holding two 8hp cars from moving. Came the big night the strongman took up his position at the back of the first car and called to the driver to let the clutch in. The driver, however, had mistakenly engaged reverse gear and reversed over the brawny artiste bringing the act to an unexpected conclusion.

FROM A US publication, The Bicycling World: “Harry Hewitt Griffin, an Englishman who is old enough to know better, urges that motor bicycles be styled ‘bicars’ and tricycles ‘tricars’. But why not go plumb daft while about it and entirely eliminate the word ‘cycle?’ Griffin evidently is suffering from a severe rush of ‘automobilism’—another beautiful word that compares with ‘cyclism’—to the head.”

1907 cop trike
“Detective-sergeant Eustace of the Metropolitan Police has used the Phoenix Trimo, with which he is depicted, for 4½ years. Each year it has taken the owner and his wife a fourteen days’ tour and the Minerva engine has never been dismantled, nor have the piston rings been removed, The petrol consumption averages about 100mpg, and Mr Eustace says the engine has never overheated,

RAC SECRETARY Claude Johnson invented what might well have been the world’s first motor scooter. The Max Scooter, powered by a 2½hp Triumph lump, was an early user of twistgrip controls. There was no seat, instead the rider stood on running boards that could be folded down to act as sidestands. The Max failed to find buyers but Johnson went on to be MD of Rolls Royce.

AT YEAR’S END the British industry had produced 3,600 motor cycles of which 800 were exported; there were an estimated 60,000 “self-propelled bicycles” on the road. There were 31,286 motor vehicles in France; a year-on-year increase of 5,024 (the French did not differentiate between motor cycles and cars but their two-wheeler parc was dominated by lightweights).

TO CLOSE the year, here’s a charming yarn from The Motor Cycle’s Christmas issue…

The Motor Cycle Gliderette: A vision of 1920
SEATED COMFORTABLY in my office chair one recent depressing day, with the last copy of The Motor Cycle on one side of the desk and a pile of unread correspondence, draft minutes, etc, on the other, I sat gazing into the office fire speculating as to how soon it would be possible for me to glide to business on an aeroplane. But I must be dreaming; why, of course, the air had been conquered long ago. Was not my latest aeroglider at the present moment straining at its grappling irons, which were attached to the official roof? I myself had won the great Daily Mail and other prizes for a flight to Manchester, having accomplished the journey in 35min 3⅘sec, with two stops for petrol only. I was now the secretary of a great aeroplane company.
The next day being a Stock Exchange holiday, saw me gently gliding over London at an altitude of some 500ft, with my toes on the heads of the cylinders, for the temperature, although it was summer time, was distinctly chilly at this height, and lounging back in a luxurious pneumatic chair.
Presently I hear a gentle pur-r-r-r, and up came a special news slider with the earliest edition of the Atmospheric News and Sliders’ Gazette. As I open the paper I reflect on the marvellous handiness and power of these little 2hp air cutters—the evolution of the lightweight motor tycle of 1907. The first item that catches my eye is the startling headline, “The Aero Pest”: “The new Act to prevent high flight, and consequent danger to the terrestrial public by a fall, and also danger to church spires and other high buildings by low gliding… The Police and LCC have complete control of the atmosphere and all that floats.” Except microbes, presumably.
Ah! What have we here? “The Motor Cycle and Aeroplanists’ News has secured a lease of the two towers of the new LCC Palace for a gliding off station for its newsboys.” Good old MC and AN. Always to the front of journalism. “The Thunderer has followed this example by leasing all the roofs of the great railway stations.”
Suddenly looking up over the edge of my paper, I discern a great Santos-Dumont airship making straight for me. It comes on with a terrific roar of its ten cylinder 2,000hp engines, only just leaving me time to pull the cable of the 40ft deflector plane, reduce my propeller revolutions, and gently glide under the leviathan. On looking up I find it is Mr F Straight, the secretary of the late ACU, now the Auto-Aero and Terrestrial MCU. He sings out as he glides over me, “Flopping over to Paris for breakfast meet you on earth for lunch.” He is soon lost to view amongst the thousands of black specks representing fellow fliers. His machine is the largest in existence. The engines are driven by liquid air, petrol vapour having long been discarded, owing to the freezing of the carburetters and declination troubles. It is fitted with magnetic deflector and soaring planes, automatic balancer, etc.

1907 xmas flyyarn

I resume my journal. Ah! Another injustice to aeroplanists. “Notice is hereby given that no gliders or aeroplanes are allowed over the city from 10am to 6pm, as serious complaints have been made of the darkness of the sky caused by flighters.”
I pitch the journal overboard, too disgusted to peruse
further. Glancing over the side of the car, another sign of the times meets my vision. Some large photo studios have laid down a flat sign on their roofs, ”Gliders keep clear of the line of light,” “Studio,” “No descents here,” “Hospital—no anchorage.”
Presently I discern another purring little glider with blue wings and the sign thereon “The Motor Cycle and Aeroplanists’ News”. Up it comes with a swirl, and the occupant delivers my copy, and is soon lost to view. I flap my right wing, and rise another 1,000ft to prepare for a good hour’s enjoyable read. I rapidly scan the columns on aeronautical matters, the idiosyncrasies of soaring and depressor wings, terrestrial motor queries, etc, when I suddenly open a page with the ominous heading “Aero Police Traps” in bold type. Yes, the police still play their little game for promotion, but there are no friendly hedges to hide in. The terrestrial crawlers on motor cars have a good time now. Robert soars (literally) after higher game. Here is the paragraph: “Prosecution for Exceeding the Altitude Limit. The K—ton police succeeded in bringing to earth 1 batch of glidists last Sunday over Esher for exceeding the altitude limit, viz, one and a half miles. Result, £20 towards a new police glider.” We aeroists fear no speed limit persecutions; you see speed doesn’t matter, as there are no pedestrians up here—We can only smash ourselves up. Of course, when we do collide the road below is blocked while our remains are being carted away. They can only go for us for exceeding the “altitude limit” and “darkening the sky”. The method adopted by the aero police is most diabolical. They rise on powerful soarers, and throw a lasso round your propeller blades, thus stopping your lateral and vertical motion, and you glide to earth, being arrested with a more or less gentle crash, according to the skill of the lassoist.
Suddenly glancing up to my own altitude instrument, I discovered I was 150ft. above the limit. I at once pulled my deflector cord and glided down some 200ft, but not before a policeman spied me out and came rushing up, and, before I could again descend further, threw his lasso at my propeller and missed, but struck and upset my gravitating balancers, with the result that I made a sudden dive earthwards and came down crash in Piccadilly. I remember nothing more until a voice said, “A sergeant to see you, sir.” I raised my head, and discovered I had been asleep for two hours. “Show him in,” I said, and there stood the redoubtable sergeant, with a summons for exceeding the limit at Epsom and killing a cat.
We were still in the age of the persecuted motorist, and the aeroplanes had not yet arrived to attract the promotion-seeking Roberto’s attention.

And here’s a selection of contemporary ads…

1907 4ads
1907 airtubead
1907 classads1
1907 classads2
1907 classads3
1907 druidforkad
1907 fnad
1907 mcjacketad
1907 xl'allspringforkad
1907 FN AD