1907: London to Edinburgh…and back!

“THE ANNUAL TWENTY-FOUR HOURS’ RUN from London to Edinburgh has without doubt done more than any other competition to bring the Motor Cycling Club to the fore. It was, therefore, a bright idea which suggested itself to the trials hon sec, Mr J Van Hooydonk, when he instructed the medalists to embody in the design of the 1907 medals the coat of arms of London and Edinburgh…St Paul’s Cathedral is on the left with Edinburgh Castle on the right, making the whole design in keeping with this now famous event. The gold medals awarded in the Schulte Cup Competition are of a similar design, but the inscription on the reverse side, of course, records the double journey…A very large and representative entry has again been secured for the classic London to Edinburgh run…The motor cycles exceed last year’s figures by four, the tricars are not quite so numerous, and there are eighteen cars. Out of a motor cycle entry numbering seventy-three, there are twenty-nine fitted with accumulator ignition and thirty-eight with magneto, six not stated. There are 39 single-cylindered bicycles, twenty-three twin-cylinders, five fours, six not stated. The entries include: fourteen Triumphs, eight Vindec, six Rex, four Minerva, FN and NSU riders. For the Schulte Cup Competition [London-Edinburgh-London] eleven bicycles are entered, two tricars and no cars.”

“THERE IS A SINGULAR FASCINATION about the London to Edinburgh trial that, in my opinion, is shared by no other sporting event. At ten o’clock on Friday night you are in the English capital, and by the same hour on Saturday night, all being well, you are in the Scottish capital, having accomplished a feat that you will never forget, and which you will always look back upon with the greatest satisfaction. In these days of routine it is always refreshing to accomplish something, no matter what, that other people do not attempt, and I believe that this is one of the great charms of the London-Edinburgh run. I can think of few things that can so effectively drive us out of the narrow groove that so many of us are perforce compelled to travel as an experience of this kind. Fired by the reports that we had heard of this run, my brother and I decided to become competitors…and accordingly sent in our names to the secretary of the Motor Cycling Club some ten weeks before the event. A few days after doing so I had the misfortune to dislocate my arm in a football match, and this proved rather a handicap, as I was unable to get into the saddle again until a few days before the trial. On the Tuesday previous to the run, however, we gave our machines their final trial spin, and both my brother’s 3hp Quadrant and my 3hp Triumph behaved in the most satisfactory manner, and we were thoroughly satisfied and quietly confident of getting through within schedule time with

“Members Of the Leeds motor Cycle Club checking the arrival and departure of competitors at the Wetherby control.”

ordinary luck. I can never understand why more riders do not take part in this run. The expense is not great, and, provided the rider himself is capable and is astride a reliable machine, there is absolutely no reason why he should not succeed. As a safeguard against side-slip and tyre trouble we had both fitted non-skids to our back wheels, and in an event like this I consider it a wise precaution, although it is true the speed of the machine is somewhat diminished. We carried as spares in case of emergency a butt- ended tube, a belt cut to the proper length, complete with fastener, spare valves, and the other usual complements of a motor cyclist’s kit. The few days preceding the trial were days of rain, wind, and intense cold, and Friday (the day of the start) was no exception, a north-westerly wind that blew on that day surpassing in violence any of its immediate predecessors, and the cold as the day drew to a close made us fully realise that the journey North would be a very chilly one. Consequently we donned all the warmest clothing we could possibly carry, and after filling our flasks with whiskey and our pockets with sandwiches, and saying good-bye to our fond relatives, we were soon tackling the somewhat steep gradients on our way to the starting place at the ‘Old Gatehouse’ at the top of Highgate Hill. On arrival at our destination we wheeled our machines into the yard, and, divesting ourselves of some clothing, repaired indoors for dinner, and all the more heartily did we partake of the good cheer that was set before us as we realised that before our next meal, which it was highly probable would be a hurried one, some seven hours would have elapsed, and we should be 120 miles upon our way. After finishing with a hot cup of coffee we reported ourselves to the officials, and, having affixed the numbers to our arms, we strolled outside to see how things were progressing. All was bustle. We were surprised to see that a large crowd had collected, and after a look round we took our place in the long line of competitors…on one side of the road. Before the start an official sealed each machine. The crowd increased to considerable proportions, and had it not been for the efforts of a strong force of police, who cleared a lane for us down the centre of the road, I do not know how we could possibly have been despatched by the stated hour or anywhere near it. Close on the 10pm starting time the incessant roar that resounded on all sides as the engines were being warmed preparatory to starting warned us that it was time to be getting ready. A few minutes before ten o’clock we were moved into line down the centre of the road, and almost before the clock had finished striking a cheer in the distance announced that the first rider was on his way. As each competitor was started we moved slowly up the line, and after seeing my brother off I had only about two minutes to wait before it was my turn. At last I was on the starting line, and in half a minute Mr Bidlake, watch in hand, gave me the signal to start, and, jumping into the saddle, I released the exhaust lifter, and

“The bicycle vanguard about to leave the second control.”

gradually the cheer from the many well-wishers died away in the distance, and for the first time I fully realised that I was off on a 400 miles ride and my first motor cycling competition. After covering about six miles we reached Barnet, and, turning to the right at the top of the hill, we left the tramlines behind, and were fairly started on the famous Great North Road, with a clear run into Hatfield—our first checking place. Just after passing through Potter’s Bar my lamp, which had been burning sluggishly, went out altogether, and this entailed a delay of about five minutes. Handing up my ticket as I ran through Hatfield, I caught up with my brother, who had, been riding slowly so as to enable me to overtake him. Passing through Welwyn (20 miles), we made good time into Stevenage (27 miles), and, turning to the right at the end of the town, we were soon humming through Baldock (33 miles), and at about 12.10 we were pulled up outside the Swan Hotel, Biggleswade (40 miles), where we had to dismount in order to sign the checking sheet. There was a bright fire burning in the inn, and everything looked very cosy and warm. Several of the competitors dropped inside for a hurried meal and for something warm to drink. As the night was bitterly cold we were sorely tempted to follow their example, but, not knowing what was in store for us, we decided to push on without delay. By doing this we were amongst the first batch to leave Biggleswade, and at 12.30 were passing through Tempsford (46 miles) ten minutes ahead of time. Here and there we encountered groups of enthusiasts at the side of the road, and they gave us a cheery good night as we flashed by into the darkness. Now and again we were passed by the twin-cylinder machines, but on the whole we were quite satisfied with our position in the pack, which by this time was probably trailing over many miles of country. We passed through Buckden (56 miles), and at 2.10am through Wansford Bridge (78 miles),and duly arrived at Stamford at about 2.30. We now began to look anxiously towards the eastern horizon for that first cold grey light which heralds the approach of dawn, and at last we were rewarded, the stars gradually paled and the darkness of the night slowly gave place to a bright but exceedingly cold morning. With the advent of dawn the cold perceptibly increased, and we were glad to have a pull at our whiskey flasks to shake off the numbed feeling that was slowly creeping over us. We were soon through sleeping Stamford and on our twenty-one mile run into Grantham, famous for its twenty-one hills, which, however, did not give our machines the slightest trouble, although we were glad of a little pedal exercise here and there to stretch our limbs. We were overhauled hereabouts by one or two cars, which left us a legacy of dust and

“Two arrivals at the Wetherby control, 194 miles from the start. “Three of the fifteen successful Triumph riders.”

discomfort until they were a long distance ahead…So far we had foolishly omitted to wear our goggles, and our eyes were so sore and tired by the dust that it was with the very greatest difficulty that we were able to read the signboards. After leaving Grantham (105 miles) we had only 14 miles to cover before reaching Newark, and the thought of the breakfast that Captain L’Estrange had so kindly provided for us spurred us on, and at about 4.15 the Beaumond Cross hove in sight, and we turned into the yard of the Clinton Arms, Newark, having covered the 120 miles in six hours. After a hurried wash we adjourned to the breakfast table, at which several of the competitors were already seated, and never before had I enjoyed a meal so much as I did this one, the eggs and bacon and the hot coffee going down with a most delicious flavour. After partaking of a first-class breakfast we repaired to the yard for the purpose of replenishing the tanks for the next lap—a task we found by no means an easy one, as the staff to whom this work was entrusted were naturally unable to satisfy the simultaneous demands for petrol that were showered upon them. While waiting for our turn to be attended to we had time to look round, and noticed that already there was a thinning in our ranks. From reports it appeared that the chief cause of failure was due to tyre trouble, but I consider this was rather due to the rider trusting to old and worn covers for a long ride than to any fault in the make of the tyres themselves. Still, we all meet with bad luck occasionally. At the expiration of our time limit the Rev. BH Davies gave us the word to start on our seventy-mile run into Wetherby. Leaving the castle ruins on our left and crossing the river Trent, we sped along a perfectly straight road for Tuxford and Retford; but I had not gone far when I was delayed for some minutes by my stand shaking loose, and in consequence we ran through Tuxford (134 miles) some six minutes behind time. There was a strong headwind blowing, and it is astonishing how much this affects the speed of a 3hp machine. Over the next twenty-four miles to Doncaster we had a splendid run, and from a motorist’s point of view I should think this is one of the fastest stretches one could find in this little island of ours at any rate—not counting the ten-mile speed limit through Retford town, of course! Until this point the roads had been all that could be desired, but from Doncaster to Wetherby they showed signs of being badly repaired; otherwise the road surface was good throughout the journey. Between Retford and Bawtry we had our first stop—a punctured front tyre—which delayed us for some twenty minutes, during which time many other motor cyclists passed us…as soon as our repair was finished we travelled well, catching the batch of motor cyclists referred to above nine or ten miles

“WH Wells (Vindec) signs the control sheet with a satisfied smile.”

from Wetherby. From Wetherby the roads were excellent, but it got even colder, and two sharp storms of stinging rain were encountered. At Newcastle—the most difficult place to be negotiated, from a traffic point of view, between the two capitals—lunch was served at the Barras Bridge Hotel. The half-hour’s halt also offered a welcome break in getting through the intricacies of this objectionable town; I mean objectionable to those who have the misfortune to pass through it by road. Once free from its crowded streets, thronged with traffic, and obstructed by central trolley wire standards, good progress was made along the excellent road to Berwick. The hills at Alnwick and Belford, however, proved rather trying to some of the men, while the watered setts in the former town were by no means appreciated. Up to this point I did not find many of the motor cyclists in trouble. Once or twice in the early morning we flashed by one or two men with their machines jacked up, but as far as I could tell it was only for some trifling adjustment, such as the taking up of a belt. In Newcastle, Brice had some delay with a broken inlet valve. After Berwick the road is good till within about eight miles of Edinburgh, and contains some splendid fast stretches…At the Levenhall control a large crowd gathered round the control, which was in charge of Bidlake, and in Edinburgh itself a still larger concourse of people welcomed the arrival of the successful competitors, who made the Grand Hotel, Prince’s Street, their headquarters. As may be expected, several of the motor cyclists had adventures. For example, Harwood experienced a leak in his petrol tank, burst his tyre, and lost his way near Stamford. Mussell broke the down tube of his machine, and rode it in spite of this from Dunbar into Edinburgh. Gordon Watson collided with a dog near Morpeth, and damaged his machine. Having reached Edinburgh, he missed the hotel, and signed the book eight minutes outside time. It is interesting to note that fifteen Triumphs entered, and all came through the journey successfully, while out of nine Vindec starters only Dee failed to arrive…Of the machines which failed to arrive there is little mews. Dr Gibbons, retirement reported due to tyre troubles; JD Hamilton, cone of rear spindle broken ; W. A. Jacobs, had a collision near Edinburgh, arrived safely, but omitted to sign on at the hotel; H Williamson, carburetter and coil trouble; Dr Blandford, valve trouble. As regards the organisation of the run, all I can say is that it left nothing to be desired. The trials hon secretary, Mr RG Booth, has had a difficult task, none the easier for him as he is fresh to it. The road was particularly well marked both by night with lamps and by day with arrows, and Mr SW Carty, of the Newcastle Motor Cycle Club, is to be congratulated on the excellent way he marked out the road Durham. The thanks of the club are due to the officials and checkers, too numerous to mention by name, who rendered invaluable assistance, thereby contributing largely to the success of the event.

“OC Godfrey, a gold medal winner in the MCC London-Edinburgh run. He successfully accomplished the return journey in the Schulte Cup competition.”

The Schulte Cup Competition
Four motor cyclists left Edinburgh…These were OL Summers (5hp Vindec), SG Frost (4½hp Minerva), LA Baddeley (3½hp Baddeley), and OC Godfrey (5hp Rex), the first man being expected at Barnet at 10.40pm…As the competitors rode into Berwick the rabbits which swarmed over the road seemed to move all too slowly, and one bunny will never run foul of a motor cycle again…Somewhere about Alnwick, Summers on the Vindec had trouble with a broken petrol pipe, and although patched up the break with a piece of rubber tube, he must have lost more petrol than he used, and but for timely arrival of the Maxwell car, would have been stranded miles from anywhere with an empty tank…Frost’s ignition seemed very much in the dot and carry one stage, whilst Baddeley experienced continual tyre troubles. Just after Alnwick came the first foretaste of a miserable wet day in the shape of a hailstorm, and by the time the Newcastle control was reached, the roads were in a filthy state. Good cheer, however, was awaiting them in the shape of an excellent breakfast, to which all did justice, more especially, perhaps, Baddeley, who had skipped a meal. During the short half hour in this control it had been raining hard, and the conclusion forced on them as they started on their next stage was that Newcastle, at such an hour, with its tramline riddled streets swimming in water, was the dreariest looking town in England. As Durham was approached the roads seemed to get greasier and greasier, and the back way to escape the town was so difficult to find that Summers went wrong, and was not seen again until Wetherby. Frost was still experiencing ignition trouble, and his engine seemed to be working with the same sound as a Morse telegraph instrument…Godfrey’s Rex,however, was humming away delightfully. Baddeley was still haunted with tyre troubles, as by the time Newark was reached another Rich’s tube and a Michelin butt-ender had been used; also a petrol union commenced to leak…Summers, Frost, and Godfrey were having a good easy time,

“Owen L Summers, an amateur rider, who not only rode from London to Edinburgh in the stipulated 24 hours but successfully completed the return journey in the Schulte Cup competition on Whit-Monday.”

and did much to comfort Baddeley with their sympathy at the luncheon table of the Clinton Arms. Before leaving the Newark control a clumsy mechanic in trying to fix up the leaky union just mentioned made matters worse, and a few minutes after starting the Baddeley was pedalling his machine back with the petrol pouring out on to the road. A garage was soon discovered, and after a tedious delay the leak was at last stopped, and it was not until Biggleswade was reached that the four riders met again. At this control the best of attention was received from the proprietress of the Swan Hotel, and her bright kitchen fire was much in request. Night had settled in before they started again on the last stage of the journey. Godfrey and Baddeley got lost in the inky darkness, and after many wanderings through flooded by-lanes at last reached Baldock, to learn that Summers was some miles ahead, with Frost close behind. All progressed well until Welwyn was reached, when Godfrey burst a tyre, and after several ineffectual attempts at repair started to ride the remainder of the journey on the rim. A little further on Baddeley experienced his last puncture, and but for the kindly help of a man in blue would probably have followed Godfrey’s example, and ridden on the rim into Barnet. Summers, still going well, arrived at Barnet in good time, with Frost a little behind, whilst Baddeley, with ten punctures to his credit, arrived a little later. Godfrey was now the only absentee from the quartette, but he arrived after some delay, having ridden from Welwyn on an absolutely flat tyre. The actual winner of the cup is not known, but it is satisfactory to note that the four stalwarts all completed the arduous journey within the twenty-four hours.