In 1913 the ACU Six Days’ Trial laid the foundation of the ISDT, which evolved into the current ISDE. It was the biggest Six Days to date and it was tough enough that the riders threatened a strike. As well as The Motor Cycle’s blow-by-blow report you’ll find some fascinating contemporary comments and letters and, for good measure, a test of the newly arrived Sunbeam.
THIS YEAR‚ THE AUTO CYCLE UNION Six Days’ Trial will be in the nature of a prolonged test and a demonstration of reliability and efficiency,” The Blue ‘Un reported, “and not, as has been the case annually since 1903, a series of daily tests. The trial proper will occupy five days, the sixth day being devoted to a technical examination of the competing machines. Certain of the five days will be ‘non-stop’. That is to say, stops will not be permitted except at the official controls. On these days a short period of time will be allowed in the morning during which competitors may lubricate or adjust their machines, but on other days no such time will be allowed, and if in certain cases such preparation is unavoidable the time so occupied will count against the competitor. This is quite an innovation, and we think quite a desirable one, which has been brought about by reducing the amount of time spent on [maintaining] the machines to a minimum…the
idea of this is to encourage development, to render motor cycles mudproof and weatherproof, to improve the lubrication and, incidentally, to ensure that the lubricant given is retained for a reasonable period, and to encourage manufacturers to design machines which can stand long distances under arduous conditions without an excessive amount of tinkering, but most emphatically not to lead the general public to believe that their machines will run day after day without being properly looked after. Flexibility and speed tests will be held during the course of the trial. Component parts will not be specially tested this year as was the case last year with tyres and belts, but careful examination will be made at the end of the trial of the competing machines, and notice will be taken during the trial of the appearance both of machine and rider. Lady competitors will be barred. Manufacturers will be limited to three entries each. This year’s competition is the one chosen by the newly-formed Federation Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes to revive international competitions between the various motor cycle bodies which form the Federation. Canada and America are anxious to compete, and it remains for France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark, and other nations on whose roads motor cycling is possible, to send their representatives [in the
event only France and Great Britain entered teams for what would become the International Six Days Trial]. The number of teams that may be entered by each country is limited to one, and such team shall consist of three competitors, each of whom must be a subject of the country represented. Each team shall comprise one passenger machine (either a motor bicycle not exceeding 1,000cc, with sidecar, or a three-wheeled cycle car not exceeding 1,000cc, or a four-wheeled cycle car not exceeding 1,100cc), and either two 500cc motor cycles, or one 500cc motor cycle and one 350cc motor cycle. The entrants of the winning team in the International Touring Trial will be entitled to hold, for one year‚ the International Trophy presented by the Cycle and Motor Cycle Manufacturers and Traders Union. This trophy consists of a handsome silver cup, value 200 guineas. As regards the rules, we note with pleasure that spare wheels may be carried, and that riders must not include in their personal apparel any article of clothing or adornment which might be considered a self or trade advertisement, which will exclude those grotesque headgears which have rendered certain competitors ridiculous and brought discredit on the ACU on previous occasions. Another new feature, and also an excellent one, is that spares must be declared and packed in separate toolbags which will be sealed, and that legitimate spares, such as tyres, repair outfits, belts, fasteners, chain link parts and plugs, do not come under this category. All vehicles must be equipped as follows: Two independent brakes, a set of tools and receptacle therefor, mudguards projecting at least 10mm on each side of the tyres and covering at least 120 degrees of the circumference of the wheels, one or more petrol tanks with a minimum capacity of 5lit, one or more oil tanks with a minimum capacity of 1lit and a complete set of lamps; motor bicycles must be fitted with a stand and luggage carrier, the latter having an available surface of at least 600cm2. No cleaning, repairing, or adjustment may be
effected in controls. Replenishments of petrol, oil and water may be made only at the official starting depot or during the luncheon interval. Motor cycles must be driven under their own power only throughout the trial. All pedalling or running alongside is prohibited, as is kicking on the ground for the purpose of propulsion. Passengers must remain seated in a normal manner throughout the trial. A maximum of ten marks may be lost on account of the defective condition of any competing machine as may be decided by the Judges during the final examination. The country selected for these trials is comprised within a radius of 100 miles of Carlisle, and embraces what is undoubtedly the most beautiful and the most hilly district to be found in England. In selecting the routes care will be taken to provide as varied conditions as possible, but hill-roads having an abnormal surface, or where the road is not of reasonable width or is dangerous, will not be included. The routes will start from and return to Carlisle each day, but the daily mileage will be somewhat less than in previous years, and the total mileage will probably not exceed 700. On one afternoon the competing machines will be required to cover a certain distance on a private road, at speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour, different speeds being set for each class of machine.
DAY 1, 124 MILES: The weather was perfectly glorious on the opening day…The ACU officials were very strict, and no one was allowed inside the skating rink [where entrants’ machines were stored] except the officials…The order of starting was decided
by ballot…competitors were allowed to look after their machines for 15 minutes…The first man to be despatched was RE Townshend (6hp Trump), followed by JH Kerr (3½hp NSU). The way out of Carlisle was clearly indicated by boy scouts and policemen…For the first few miles the road surface was very rough and several steep pitches were encountered. The hill at Armathwaite, which only a few years ago would have been considered exceptionally severe, came quite as a surprise, but the vanguard took it in excellent form…We next came upon the foot of Ullswater lake, which looked particularly beautiful…The first competitor we saw in trouble was Dr Moss Blundell with a puncture; later Ellison Hawkes suffered in the same way. The Paragon cycle car early retired; it was reported that a horse was seen towing it only 40 miles from the start…Kirkstone Pass from Patterdale ought not to have troubled the riders in view of what was in store, yet nine found the gradient too much for them…Fred Crossthwaite ran alongside his 8hp Matchless sc, and so succeeded in reaching the top…Through Ambleside the riders were directed to Foolstep Hill, which was the steepest gradient in Monday’s route, and to make matters worse the stiff portion is on an S bend. We saw 30 riders come to grief here…HC Marston (3½hp Triumph sidecar) showed the spectators how, with careful manipulation, a good machine can accomplish more than it was ever designed to perform…C Lester treated the spectators to a fine skidding exhibition on his 3½hp P&M. The engine had
ample power, but the back wheel first slewed to one side of the loose and stony road then to the other, but he got up under power all the same. The twin Jameses did well, except H Graham Dixon, who changed into neutral by mistake…The Ariel team to a man showed up well, also the Triumphs, though Rex G Mundy was baulked the first time by three fallen competitors…At Keswick we learned from Albert Catt (3½hp Triumph) that his hub gear had got deranged, the middle gear only being workable. Ellison Hawks (6hp Rudge) had had three punctures, S Browne (3½hp James) was troubled with tank sediment collecting in the jet…After Newlands Hause there was a magnificent run round Derwent Water, commencing with a climb known as Cat Bells, which is not excessively steep, but includes two bad hairpin bends. The cornering in some cases was not to be admired, several riders being obviously nervous and shaky…there are a lot of novices in the event, and we vow they will return home with a profound respect for Lakeland
acclivities…The Rake was the next test hill, and there were over two dozen failures…It was the turn for BSA riders to show up well here. SL Sealey came along when two riders who had failed occupied nearly all the road, but he neatly rode between them, and received applause. AG Fenn also made a sure climb. T Rutherford’s failure on an 8hp Matchless sc was simply owing to trying to go fast, and consequently skidding bodily into the ditch…Among the day’s incidents may be mentioned the case of Fred Dover (3½hp Premier), who ran over a dog and fell in the second non-stop section. It was the general opinion at the end of the day’s run that a 20mph average over such twisty and narrow roads was excessive…Hugh Gibson handed in a protest to the officials signed by the sidecar drivers protesting against such a high average speed in view of the state and nature of the roads.
DAY 2, 164 MILES: The first section was rough, but improved later, and there were no difficulties in the route till some miles after Penrith. The main road was then left and a terribly rough surface encountered followed by a watersplash six or eight inches deep, causing several riders to stop…Next followed a grass-grown surface with deep ruts, which served no other useful purpose than to test the three-track cycle cars…The real test of the morning was Gastack Beck, 70 miles from the start, and beyond Dent; it was approached by an awkward hairpin, followed shortly after by another, after which came a stiff ascent with rough surface, with about a 1 in 4 gradient, which was really difficult and accounted for many failures…Tom Silver (7hp Quadrant sc), the veteran, was among the best…Albert Catt (3½hp Triumph) went up shouting with joy, and J Chater-Lea Jnr (8hp Chater-Lea sc) came up in good form…W Westwood (3½hp Triumph), a local rider, was heartily applauded…The surface of the hill was appallingly bad, and the ascent terminated in a final steep pitch almost as acute as the first piece. Gastack Beck is undoubtedly an abnormal surface…120 of the competitors who took part in to-day’s run signed a protest against the hill above Gastack Beck being included in the trials…Lee’s big Zenith slewed from one side to the other and eventually stopped. De la Hay just got up on his Sunbeam with a little foot assistance. After all had gone by we remounted our machine, and came upon Gabriel and his Clement not many yards from Philip Grout (AJS sc). The French representative simply could not look at the Gastack Beck terror, so
elected to retire. He had previously been delayed by tyre troubles. So with Guilloreau’s retirement, owing to his inability to climb hills with his high gear, the whole of the French International team were out of the trial by Tuesday midday…On remarking on the poor surface to a local rider he replied that it was excellent in comparison to its usual condition as it had been swept…The descent from the summit of Butter Tubs was frightfully rough, in fact dangerously so, and how the men managed to keep up their 20mph average no one knows…The silencer of Jesse Baker’s Scott had got damaged by a boulder on Gastack Beck during the morning, and in climbing Silver Hill the pipe dug into the ground and brought the rider down so heavily that the foot-board was broken off; later a sprocket came loose…As Greaves’s Enfield passed we noticed his passenger carrying the sidecar mudguard…The first part of the Tan Hill climb was up a short sharp pitch of 1 in 5, fearfully loose as usual, and here was collected a fair number of spectators. The amount of interest taken in the trial is really extraordinary, and the people in the North are certainly keener adherents of the pastime than those in the West. At the end of non-stop section one is in sight of the highest inn in England. The surface was awful, and the descent on the other side for many miles was as bad as any road we have seen, and here as in the other rough places it was difficult to stay in the saddle. For five miles this sort of thing continued, until we felt sorry for those who had to average 20mph, for such a speed was almost suicidal…Once the main road was joined the going was splendid through Brough and Appleby. The writer was now well in the rear of the procession and began to pick up the stragglers. Chater-Lea, now out of the competition, was seen in a blacksmith’s shop at Long Marton, where the smith was forging up a piece of iron to repair the broken stay…A little farther on Lees (Zenith) was repairing a puncture, one of many, which eventually caused his retirement…Shortly after this the
final non-stop section was entered. Here another watersplash was encountered which was the worst of the three met with in the day’s run. JH Kerr (NSU) dismounted. Townshend (Trump) got off, and, walking over the stepping stones, pushed his machine through the water. Altogether this ford, which was near Glassonby, accounted for over 60 failures. The day’s trial has provoked much discontent owing to the execrable surface of the roads on the course and the inclusion of watersplashes in the trial…To-night there was a general meeting of the competitors, when a general ‘strike’ was discussed as a protest to the ACU. Between 30 and 40 offered to retire, but as a majority was needed it was decided that the trade riders should wire to their firms asking whether they might withdraw. It has certainly been a terribly stiff day, and most agree that the conditions are worse than in the Scottish Trials.
DAY 3, 147 MILES: This day’s run was generally regarded as the fairest test so far. Instead of the bitter feeling against the ACU, such as existed after Tuesday’s journey, one and all were generally agreed that there was really nothing to grumble at except, perhaps, the hairpins. The chief event of the morning was the slow speed and acceleration test on Warnell Fell, a gradient of about 1 in 12 to 1 in 8. Competitors first crawled over a distance of 50 yards at slow speed (minimum time 12sec), and immediately accelerated to the top of the hill…On the whole the performances were good, though the majority appeared to enter the slow section too fast…Numerous riders went wrong at the foot of The Seat and had to ascend it twice. Notices clearly indicated that it had to be taken after the loop, which included Kiln Bank, but some busy-body at the corner sent every competitor up this way irrespective of whether it was his first or
second round. The afternoon was full of incident. FW Applebee Snr skidded on a bend and damaged his leg, and, before he had realised it, most of the petrol ran out of his tank; he had perforce to obtain paraffin at a cottage…Edmond (Humber) fell on one of the numerous hairpin bends and damaged his footrest, and Steel (Sunbeam), in avoiding some mountain sheep, grazed a rock, which broke his footrest bar in half. He continued with his legs dangling down…In descending the Seat, Holroyd (Motosacoche) unfortunately got a stone between the mudguard and the tyre, which locked the front wheel and threw him, hurting his wrist. He continued steering one-handed, but came off again on one of the right angle bends. Hereabouts, George King, a familiar figure in these trials, turned up with a huge bunch of bananas and handed one to each of the competitors as they passed…Near Gosforth, the Harding & Summers cycle car was withdrawn, the driver having lost his way and being generally ‘fed up’ as he put it, and, later, near Cockermouth, Blackburn had to retire with his Morgan, the piston and cylinder having broken. This leaves but three cycle cars of the 12 which started two days previously, viz, Morgan, GWK, and JBS…on arrival back at Carlisle we learned that Andrews (Ariel), who had started late owing to tyre troubles, skidded on the watered tramlines in Carlisle, and a motor lorry ran over his rear stays and wheel. Teeton (3½hp James) charged a bank and burst a tyre on a bad corner near Carlisle, whilst Baker (Scott) punctured and rode two miles on the rim to get in to time. The crowds along the route cheered the riders on. At every lane, village, and street corner there was an interested group, and the police were most useful, but still one or two lurked behind bushes and gave the riders a fright now and then…On Wednesday evening the adjourned protest meeting of competitors was held, and telegrams from the trade riders’ employers were read. It was resolved to report the matter to the Motor Cycle Manufacturers’ Union, and request that body to appoint a representative to inspect the course and decide whether it was fair and according to the regulations issued. The same evening the Auto Cycle Union announced that it had been decided to rule out Gastack Beck and the watersplash, and no marks would be deducted for failures under these heads. This decision has naturally pleased many competitors as it means restoring gold medals to a large percentage…
DAY 4, 170 MILES: Those who had borne the discomfort of wearing oilskins in the broiling sun of the three days previously had cause to be thankful to-day, for the morning was dull and rain beat on the window panes as the unwilling competitors were roused from their slumbers. The gruelling nature of the trial was telling its tale, for many could not be pulled out of bed and as a result we heard of quite a number who had to forego breakfast to start to time…the teams of three were considerably reduced in numbers. The Ariel team are most fancied, probably as a result of their striking success in the Scottish Trials. The LMC riders had been doing exceptionally well until Ashley was put out on Wednesday with engine trouble, and another team had depleted ranks this morning when Noble (Rover) discovered a crack in the handle-bar attachment of his mount and elected not to start…Thursday’s run to Durham took the riders over indifferent roads, mostly by-lanes and moorland tracks, and it was considered by Mr Loughborough, who selected the routes, the most severe of the five…The roads were very slippery and treacherous, the grease vying with the Derbyshire quality, with the result that several stopped…The main road through Alston is paved with large cobbles and the rain had given them a greasy coating, which troubled the riders not a little, especially so in a non-stop section. In all eight came down and lost marks…After Alston the climb up Nenthead, the highest point reached in the trial, 2,056ft, was commenced. The summit was obscured by clouds…Among those we have noticed riding very consistently may be mentioned Cook on his ASL. He is delighted with his Precision engine and fears no hills. The same remarks apply to ST Tessier and his BAT…To-day there seemed to be a marked improvement in the driving of the competitors, the corners were taken more steadily and more neatly, and it appears that the more inexperienced of the drivers are beginning to improve by experience. The Scotts, as usual, were beautifully driven and glided gracefully round the corners to the summit…We noticed many footrests bent, and other machines with no rests at all, which tells its own tale…But the hill of Thursday’s route was encountered a mile or two from Durham It is termed ‘a little Honister’. First the riders were directed up a narrow roadway around farm buildings, through a chicken run, one rider said, while another thought he was being directed to the ash-pit. Then a sudden twist, and an appalling gradient was struck—probably the steepest in the whole trial, and to make matters worse it was greasy. Fully 50% failed. Two hardened riders, Feun (BSA) and Mundy (Triumph) confessed they were frightened. The grumbling as to what constitutes an ‘abnormal surface’ and freak hill was reopened, and at lunch lime there was talk of another protest to the ACU…The long climbs over the moors against a howling wind will long be remembered. Two-speeders were obliged to crawl for a mile or two at a stretch, the surface being rough in addition. One hairpin following a watersplash required extreme care. We rode with Norman Lea for several miles. His Lea-Francis has improved every day since Monday when he stopped on the test hills due to overheating, and he is now thoroughly happy. He told us he was averaging 115mpg with the Everest carburetter. Drake (P&M) had an involuntary stop due to such a simple thing as the high-tension wire touching the tank. Anyway, he loses four marks, and four more for charging the bank on Holmside Hill, though he restarted immediately on the clutch. Keyte damaged his silencer on the same hill, and one of his exhaust pipes is missing…Gibb (Douglas) drove the last 14 miles on a flat tyre, but, despite this, finished to schedule.
Day 5, 178 miles: The chief event of the morning was the speed test in the grounds of Underley Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale. On Friday morning Keiller’s passenger never turned up at the start. Martin, the driver of the Singer cycle car, sent on his friend to take the missing man’s place; then waited for the latter, drove out, caught up the GWK and
exchanged passengers—a truly sportsmanlike action. Last night we learned of the withdrawal of the Williamsons on the day previous. Hands suffered a broken engine chain, which damaged his gear, and DS Alexander, in passing another rider, hit a boulder at the roadside and hopelessly damaged his gear box. Cocks charged a culvert at speed and broke the frame of his Connaught, and water penetrated to the armature of Knowles’s Humber and caused his retirement…The route was to Penrith over the easy side of Shap, but so strong was the wind that only with difficulty, and by means of lying flat on their machines, were the riders able to keep on top gear. The descent of the steep side even had to be accomplished under engine power…Sproston, on his too highly geared Clement, dismounted and ran. His was a really plucky exhibition, as while the other Clements have been withdrawn, he is determined to get his through this strenuous trial at all costs…The first climb of interest after lunch was Tarn Hause. It was approached from the main road by an acute angle bend which caused several stops, and was fairly steep and very rough. Some distance up a very sharp hairpin had to be negotiated, at which several exciting incidents took place. Here Gibb (Douglas) gave a beautiful exhibition of driving, Collier (Matchless sc) and Little (Premier), all members of the British (the sole surviving international team), came up splendidly. Truly the ACU selection of a team to represent England was a very wise one. Hill (Indian) fell. He is lame in his left leg, and, trying to steady himself with this, it gave under him and he came over. Admiral Sir RK Arbuthnot—an interested spectator—offered him a bandage for his cut finger, which Hill said was not sufficiently injured to require it. The bandage, however, came in useful for Breese (BSA), who fell and also damaged his right hand. His tank was leaking and he carried three oil tins full of petrol slung round his waist. Breese and also Applebee (BSA) both suffered a tumble owing to taking the corner too fast, and, curiously enough, Applebee’s tank was also leaking badly. Later in the day the leaking petrol caught fire, and Applebee told us that he put out the flames by accelerating and making the wind blow them out…Guest (Matchless sc) made quite a sensational ascent. He took the corner much too fast and upset. The engine, of course, buzzed round merrily, and though he tried hard he could not stop it. Meanwhile Admiral Arbuthnot and several others righted the fallen combination, which, as the engine was still running, and the low gear was in engagement, started off up the road. Quick as thought the plucky driver leaped into the saddle and was away. This he claimed as a non-stop, but as others assisted him the stewards thought otherwise…The competitors then looped back to Ambleside through Hawkshead. Here began the ascent of the worst side of the famous Kirkstone Pass, which ascends 1,300ft in nearly three miles. It was in excellent condition, and though the maximum gradient is 1 in 4¼, there were few failures, probably because
there was a strong wind aiding the machines…The star ascent was made by Sumner (Zenith), who has won both the flexibility and speed tests…Among the incidents of the day’s run may be mentioned Francis (Lea-Francis), who suffered a choked petrol pipe 13 miles from the finish. Hoult (Matchless) was knocked over by a runaway horse during the afternoon’s run. He was flung head first into a ditch, and when he extricated himself he found his machine standing wrong side up on the saddle and handle-bars, and though it was pretty well knocked about, he succeeded in finishing. May (AJS) had a narrow escape while on the road running alongside Ullswater. A big car coming in the opposite direction passed him so closely that the front wing brushed his hand and bruised it. Macdonald (Singer) arrived in Carlisle 20 minutes before time, giving as an excuse he did not realise he was there. Little, who had performed so well throughout the trial, lost marks through arriving too early, as he thought that the extra allowance of time, which was granted by the ACU officials owing to the severity of the course, referred to men ahead of as well as behind schedule time…
Notes by the way.
☞One can sympathise especially with those who were obliged to withdraw on the last day.
☞The rain on the last two days rendered the trial much more severe, and was the direct, cause of more than one retirement.
☞At Last Scottish Trials riders agree that a course in England can be made more severe than any Scottish Trial held up to the present.
☞The Ariel team have done wonderfully well in carrying off the team prizes in both the six days’ trials of 1913, viz the Scottish and English tests. It is a long time since belt-driven machines asserted themselves in such gruelling competitions.
☞Having become thoroughly accustomed to climbing stony mountain tracks, the Lea-Francis riders—Lea and Francis, sons of the principals of their firm—made a detour to Honister on the way home, and succeeded in climbing the pass from the Buttermere or steepest side. This test is the more noteworthy, following, as it does, upon five days of constant hill-climbing under observation.
☞As usual there was a good deal of very second rate driving. A large proportion of the failures on hills were due to sheer bad driving—rushing at bad corners being the most pronounced vice. ‘Dogged does it’ is a good motto, and if only the more dashing riders would take the bad corners more carefully the ACU would undoubtedly have had to hand out more gold medals.
☞Those competitors who did so much grumbling about the severity of the course and the strenuous conditions did not seem to realise that they were all the time adding further testimony to the performances of the 40 odd who carried out the test satisfactorily. True there were good reasons for grumbling, but some riders who failed complained at anything and everything.
☞The retirements on the various days were as follows: Monday, 9; Tuesday, 13; Wednesday. 13; Thursday, 10; Friday, 9.
☞De La Hay’s success on the Sunbeam was well deserved. Throughout the trial we never saw him make a single adjustment, and the way his 2¾hp machine climbed hills was an eye-opener.
Starters, 161. Gold, 51; silver, 21; bronze, 27; retirements, 62. If the original regulations had not been relaxed the ACU judges estimated 36 gold, 36 silver, and 27 bronze medals would have been awarded. Winners of International Trial: Great Britain. Team: WB Gibb (2¾hp two-speed chain and belt driven Douglas); WB Little (3½hp three-speed belt driven Premier); and CR Collier (8hp three-speed chain driven Matchless sc). Cumberland County MCC prize for best 350cc performance, TC de la Hay (2¾hp two-speed chain driven Sunbeam). Wheatley Cup for best sidecar performance: Charlie Collier (8hp three-speed chain driven Matchless sc). Team prize (trade): 1, Ariel, FC North, L Newey and V Busby; 2, P&M, WJM Sproule, WC Drake and P Shaw; 3, Indian, EA Colliver, BA Hill and JR Alexander. Team prize (club), given by the mayor of Carlisle: 1, Westmorland MCC, W Westwood (3½hp Triumph), GW Braithwaite (6hp Rudge) and Hugh Gibson (3½hp Bradbury sc); 2, Cumberland MCC, WB Little (3½hp Premier), TB Westmorland (3½hp Premier) and R Drinkall 4½hp Quadrant); 3, Essex MC, GT Gray (6hp Rudge); H Gibson (3½hp Bradbury sc) and BA Hill (7hp Indian).
ACU judges’ report
Entries: The entry of 162 machines was a record for ACU trials, and it is satisfactory to be able to state that only one of the entrants out of this record number failed to start. International Touring Trial: This trial very appropriately included the first International Touring Trial held since the resuscitation of the Federation Internationale des Motocyclettes. In view of this, the classification of the entrants was made according to the FICM ruling. This led to some apparent anomalies, such as the inclusion of three-wheeled cycle cars among the sidecars and the limitation of their engine capacity to 1,000cc. Only two entries, namely, one from France and one from Great Britain, were received for the International Touring Trial. The members of the French team were probably unaware of the difficulties that they had to face, and their machines were unsuitably geared. The judges hope, however, that their want of success will not deter them from entering future ACU trials, at which they will always receive a hearty welcome. The British team, composed of Messrs Gibb, Little, and Collier, deserve the most hearty congratulations, not only on their victory as a team, but also on the excellence of their individual performances. Course: A very stiff course was selected, with Carlisle as a centre. There were many long and trying hills with bad corners and bends, and places with very rough surfaces. Some of the roads were narrow, but not too narrow for motor cars to go round the whole course. The modern motor bicycle has such great hill-climbing powers that it is extremely difficult to find hills that are any real test for it unless steep gradients are combined with sudden turns and poor surfaces. The competitors, however, may congratulate themselves that they did not have to traverse such bad stretches of roads as are found in the neighbourhood of London or Paris, many of which are far more trying for frames than those actually encountered in the Trials. The routes selected were calculated to develop the machine which will go anywhere, rather than the mere high-speed machine. Weather: Three of the running days were fine and two were wet, with high winds. Roads: Dry and dusty for the first three days. Wet, heavy, and generally greasy on the last two. Failures at watersplashes: The judges regret that so many failures occurred in these. There are so many splashes within 25 miles of London, for instance, that it should be possible for machines to go through them with impunity. Magnetos, however, appeared to be more nearly waterproof than at the previous Six Days Trial. Gear ratios: The figures published afford very interesting reading. The judges are of opinion that the low bottom gears generally fitted are not in any way ‘freak’ gears, but form a very valuable asset, not necessarily for straight-
forward hill-climbing, but for emergencies. Transmission: A great increase is to be noted in the number of machines with all-chain drive or belt and chain drive. The premier award went to a machine on which the chains ran in an oil bath. Riders: The majority of the riders were very expert, which makes it all the more difficult to find hills that are sufficiently stiff to test their machines. A certain number of competitors showed poor judgment in not changing down soon enough, or in taking corners too fast. Appearance of riders: The fact that marks were to be deducted for appearance had a most marked effect, as practically no riders wore outlandish costumes, but were content to wear workmanlike clothing suitable for the weather conditions met. A few, however, who carried oil tins, etc, on their persons had to be penalised. Appearance of machines: This was a difficult point on which to judge, as so many competitors cleaned their machines as they went along. Many, however, gave evidence of too much oil leakage. Condition of machines: For the first time in the ACU trials a whole day was devoted to the examination of the machines at the conclusion of the trial. When it is remembered that the judges had to examine 100 machines in the space of seven hours it will be obvious that the examination could only be an external one, and in some respects superficial. It is probable that from this cause a certain number of defects failed to be observed by the judges, but much interesting matter was brought to light. To get a real criterion of the conditions of the machine, it would probably have been necessary to ride each of them for a short distance to see how the engines pulled and what condition they were in. The report on the condition of the individual machines will be sufficient to make clear the nature of the majority of the defects. Some of the defects noted are of a trivial nature, and surprise may be expressed that notice should have been taken of them. On the other hand, this appears to be a good opportunity to bring to the makers’ notice the fact that these small defects do take place so that they can be remedied. A few of the more important defects may be noted in general here: Road wheels and variable-speed gears, damaged; petrol tanks, leaky; wire controls, these were broken or defective in many cases—the faults would appear to lie with the faulty fitting rather than with the system. Bicycle parts, many of the hub bearings and steering heads were loose—many motor bicycles have no provision for lubricating the steering heads. Spring forks, on some of these there was considerable lateral play, while others of exactly the same design remained in good order. Front brakes, many of these at the final examination were found to be inoperative, or practically so; magneto controls, in far too many cases these were partially or wholly jammed. Several machines had suffered from falls or collisions, and allowance as far as possible was made for these in the marking. The judges regret, however, that in a few machines vital parts of the control mechanism should still be attached to foot-rests, foot-boards, etc, which are bound to suffer if a machine falls. A fall should not adversely affect parts necessary for driving and control. Acceleration and Flexibility Tests: These were a new feature. The tabulated results will well repay the time spent on their examination, as they afford in a concise form valuable information respecting important features in a touring machine. The careful observer Will note that the schedules of speeds set for the various classes of machines were accurately forecast, with the result that the average figure of merit for each class is practically identical.
(Signed) AE Davidson, Capt RE; Archd Sharp.
The Motor Cycle had to have its say on the ACU report…
SOMEWHAT BELATED, BUT NONE THE LESS welcome, comes the judges’ report on the recent Auto Cycle Union Six Days Trials at Carlisle, and perusal of it will well repay the time involved. We think the judges have done well to keep their report as short and concise as possible. Long technical details and explanations are nearly always tedious, and there is a pleasing brevity about this report. The great debated question of the routes selected is hardly referred to, except that the report says that there are many rough roads in the suburbs of London and Paris that are far more trying to the frames and fittings than any of the loose roads in Lakeland. With regard to faults in the modern motor cycle, the points to which attention is more directly drawn are leaky tanks and badly fitted wire controls. We ourselves saw a good deal during the progress of the trials of these two, and we consider that it is not very much to the credit of the 1913 models that it should be necessary to draw attention to such defects. On many of the best makes such troubles are absolutely unknown, and the hardiest riders could drive them indefinitely without loss of petrol or failure of control wires. The judges very rightly point out that the defective wire controls were the faults of the fitters and not of the material. The judges, we are glad to say, give a word of appreciation to the general appearance of the riders. We feel sure that this praise is well merited, for we particularly noted a great improvement in this respect over last year. One or two were penalised for carrying tins of oil flopping about attached to their belts. We confess to a little sympathy for the riders so penalised, for carrying a spare tin of oil is an awkward business, especially when the carrier is already loaded. We think makers would do well to try and provide some means of carrying a quart tin of oil on the machines for long-distance touring. The judges pay great praise to the cycle cars which finished the course, and point out that not only did they get through, but that they finished in excellent condition. They also point out that it was not, generally speaking, the rough roads that caused the great number of retirements among the cycle cars, but usually engine defects. However, the fact that two out of the three successful machines were fitted with air-cooled motors does not point to air cooling being in any way unsatisfactory for this class of vehicle. Generally speaking, the machines finished in good condition, distinctly better, in fact, than last year…In some cases gear or clutch control pedals were fitted to footrests or footboard supports, which does not appear to be very satisfactory, as in the event of a fall the footrests were the first to suffer. Front brakes were often found to be sticking. The condition of the change-speed gears on the whole was good, but apparently there was often too much play in the dog clutches. This does not, of course, mean the amount of play purposely left by the makers, which was ignored. Several machines finished with leaky tanks, and, of course, there were a number of broken footrests due to falls, and frequently loose or strained mudguards. As regards general cleanliness of machines we regret to say there has been very little improvement.
Following the reports came the correspondence…
I ENCLOSE FOR publication a copy of the letter written by me to the Secretary of the ACU, setting forth my reasons for retiring from last week’s trials.
I beg to inform you that after due consideration I have withdrawn my machine, No 31, from the trial. I have taken this step as a protest against the character of the course; for it is impossible to keep up an average of 20mph without either risking one’s neck in the by-ways or breaking the law on the highways. I do not intend to do either. I would specially call your attention to non-stop section No 6, and to the watersplash lane near Crosby Ravensworth. Enquiries from the villagers elicited the information that this narrow lane is only occasionally used by farmers for muck carting, and that it is not considered suitable for other vehicles. In the General Conditions a specific assurance is given as to surface, width, and safety of the roads selected for the trial, and I believe that I am only voicing the opinion of the majority when I state that these conditions have not been fulfilled. I feel that the ACU would have no alternative other than to return the entrance fee to any competitor who desired it, on the grounds that the nature of the trial had been misrepresented in the printed conditions.
I HAVE READ THE reports and the comments on the [six days’ trial], with the correspondence printed on the subject, and if I may venture to criticise as one who is neither a member of the ACU nor at all in agreement with its policy, I should like to suggest to you and your readers that the least said by the disappointed folk who went for the Trials the better. When are we to have an end of this unsportsmanlike spirit that is showing itself amongst motor cyclists? Other people go in for other sports, and we do not immediately get strikes and most fierce letters to the press the moment they find that they cannot manage the trial to their satisfaction. Hats off to the ACU for the trouble it took to make this trial a real test. Many of us in our daily work have quite as hard a time of it as some of the riders had. Some of us Sussex riders who have to be out in all weathers, who have to ride flinty, terrible roads all the year, over downs, through farmyard tracks, over stony roads, and bad hills, through watersplashes, do not squeal like some of the riders did about it, and though we all admit the trial was a severe one, it was merely putting into six days’ riding the sort of thing some of us have to put up with many times in the year. The trial was advertised as a Six Days’ Trial, not as a six days’ pleasure trip, and I for one sincerely regret the prominence given to the dissatisfied riders. If they do not like it let them stay away from the next lot. At the quarterly trial held down South this year it was, to many of us, disgusting to hear the growling that went on. If motor cycling is a sport, and men enter for it, let them stand by the rough time they get, and not create a bother for the ruling body, who worked so splendidly to make it a success. Some machines behaved splendidly; they could not all have had skilful and lucky riders and yet you get the Sunbeams, Triumphs, Ariels, and others coming through with flying colours. If machines fall into pieces, if we learn that crank cases and gear boxes and parts are not strong enough for such strenuous work, if, at the same time, we learn that other parts that ought to be able to go right also did not, the trials are useful things, as many machines have to stand a most strenuous doing in a year of rough work. We do not all ride week-ends only; some of us are at it all weathers, all roads, all places, and have to get there or else give up motor cycles and take to more reliable methods; hence I for one say, ‘let the growling stop’. It has been proved that motor cycles can do hard work, and the sooner motor cycle riders, trade or otherwise, leave off howling every time they get a beating, and, like true British sportsmen, say ‘better luck next time’, the better the sport will be. I was not at all impressed by your comments, as I should have preferred to see the leading motor cycle papers going for sportsmanship clearly and with no indefinite voice.
THE AMOUNT OF NOTICE that has been taken, particularly in the general press, of the behaviour of certain competitors in the recent Six Days Trial and the gross exaggeration of the difficulties of the course will, I am afraid, tend to obscure the valuable object lessons that both the public and the trade may learn from this trial. I trust, therefore, that you will give this letter the same publicity, not because it is in any sense an official explanation or statement, but because I am personally responsible for selecting most of the route, and by reason of my position should be able to demonstrate the value of the trial more authoritatively than certain misinformed journalists or disappointed competitors. I need hardly labour the principle that the Six Days Trials have from their commencement in 1903 been organised with the sole object of encouraging the use of the motor cycle. This encouragement has been effected by demonstrating to the public how successfully the motor cycles entered have met the conditions that year by year have been made more difficult, and simultaneously by providing the manufacturer with a measure of the factor of reliability of his particular make. As machines have improved so have the regulations become more stringent, until a point was reached at which the personal element of the skill and good luck of the rider was of equal importance to the excellence of his mount. Recognising this fact, it was obvious to the Competitions Committee of this Union that, if the trial was to continue its useful work, the personal element of luck must be discounted, hence the paragraph in the General Conditions to the effect that hills with an abnormal surface, that were dangerous, or too narrow, would be excluded. The Union assumed that the most skilful of this country’s riders would enter, and, that they might do justice to their mounts, set them the most difficult course they could find in the district chosen, drawing the line at hills on which, given a suitable machine, it is more a question of luck than skill whether one climbs it or not. I maintain that in the whole course of the trial there was no hill that a skilful driver should fail on, unless on account of some fault in his machine, or through being baulked by other competitors. When surveying the route a number of hills were visited (and most of them climbed) that were ruled out as, for the reasons above stated, they were considered abnormal. Honister Pass, the road over Bootle Fell, Bleatarn, of last autumn one day trial memory, a hill to the immediate west, and parallel to Peat Hill, an extraordinary acclivity connecting this hill with the top of Peat Hill, and the hill leading south out of the village of Dent were amongst these on which the surface was considered abnormal, and on which a climb was considered to be largely a question of luck. A considerable part of the trial was over very rough surfaces, particularly in Yorkshire, but such surfaces are the normal ones for nearly all secondary roads in that district. The drought had made them very loose, and consequently uncomfortable to drive over, though, personally, I should prefer such roads to many suburban ones I know of, and I am sure the latter stress wheels and frames more than any surface traversed in the trial, not excepting the gulleys on Crossdale and Buttermere Hause. The Union has been criticised for including watersplashes of two feet in depth (one paper stated three feet!). The deepest water- splash crossed in the trial had 8in of water flowing over it on the day in question. Fords of this depth are met with all over England, and, in my opinion, the modern motor cycle should, and can, be driven through such splashes without difficulty. The remaining hone of contention was the scheduled speed of 20mph. To average 20mph over many parts of the course needed a generous throttle opening and frequent application of brakes, and, consequently, as was intended, cut down the time for adjustments and engine cooling to a minimum. An inspection of the timekeepers’ sheets shows, however, that the majority of riders drove extraordinarily closely to the schedule, and that those who were late had usually failed in other directions. Moreover, it appears to have been overlooked that on certain difficult parts of the trial the speed was reduced to 15mph, and that before the stewards (on the plea of personal danger) increased the permissible margin of error, it was possible to have driven for from eight to 15 miles at a stretch at 5mph less than the set speed without incurring any penalty. I would suggest that it was simply because a number of competitors were unused to the undoubtedly difficult conditions that they found Tuesday’s route so arduous. Personally, I consider Tuesday’s run one of the easiest of the five, but then I surveyed it last of all, and had, perhaps, lost my sense of proportion! The fact that the driving of the competitors was much improved towards the end of the week, and that the two local club teams gained respectively first and second places, appears to bear out my contention that it was more the experience of the driver at fault than any unfair condition for the machine, in support of which is the additional fact that the 10.4hp Gregoire car which preceded the competitors covered the whole of Tuesday’s run without difficulty, and in spite of numerous stops to put up arrows, etc, made up time on schedule. The value of the flexibility, acceleration, and speed tests has been somewhat overshadowed by the more sensational features of the trial, but it should be remembered that it was just the severity of the course as a whole that rendered these particular tests so interesting and instructive. These subsidiary tests are also valuable in that they furnish a satisfactory means of finding a winner from amongst the large percentage of competitors that gained full marks. The percentage of medal winners is my concluding argument, and I contend that these figures are a magnificent tribute to the reliability of motor cycles. Out of 161 starters 51 have obtained gold medals, 22 silver, and 25 bronze medals. These results prove conclusively, to my mind, the value of the trial; my only regret is that the sportsmanship of a minority of the drivers has not been displayed to the same advantage.
TW Loughbobough, Hon Sec, Auto Cycle Union.
THE MOST CAREFUL PERUSAL of the judges’ report reveals precisely—nothing! It is a document, the composition of which, by a rising diplomat, would immediately mark him down for promotion to the highest ambassadorial post. It says so little in such a number of words. We are told, for instance, that control wires were often broken and badly fitted. Why are we not told to which machines these remarks apply? Again, the report says that many machines showed signs of considerable oil leakages, but no mention is made of the offenders. How then can the prospective purchaser decide which is the most suitable machine for his requirements and so on throughout the report? This lack of candour, I consider, by a body such as the ACU, is entirely to be deplored. The whole essence of a big trial is to reveal the truth and the whole truth. Why cannot a complete report on every finishing machine be tabulated and published? Are the manufacturers averse to such a course, and, if so, is the ACU under the thumb of the manufacturers? The whole report is a masterpiece of partial revelation. I, for one, hope that in succeeding years the authorities will lift the veil with rather more freedom than they do at present. By this means trials would increase enormously in value; and, after all, the private owner pays the piper in the long run, so it is only fitting that he should call the tune. As things are at present the ACU is nothing like so outspoken as is the RAC when that club issues reports of trials held under its auspices. It does not matter how small the accessory to be tested, or how important the car, the report is always a plain, unvarnished, bald statement of what happened during the trial, and showing precisely how the article in question comported itself under test. Let the ACU follow suit.
Ixion, inevitably, waded into the debate.
I THOROUGHLY AGREE WITH ‘SPARKS’ that the ACU judges are either too timorous or too modest. Possibly they remember the hot water into which their route cast them, and shun further unpopularity such as a little frank criticism might bring: possibly they have crept into their shell, and fancy that the motor cycling public is no longer interested in the facts they have elicited and the opinions they have deduced from those facts. In either case they are wrong: they have lost a golden opportunity of rehabilitating themselves. Their report might have been composed by a perfect diplomat with the idea that it should be read to a grand assembly of the Society of Motor Cycle Manufacturers, and exercise a most mollifying effect upon them. As it stands, it is not worth the paper it is written on. It tells us a great many things we knew long ago—‘record entry’, ‘very stiff course’, ‘British team deserve hearty congratulations’, and much similar flapdoodle. But at the end seven headings aroused faint promise of really valuable information, but here we find the briefest paragraphs of this very precious document ruined by a pusillanimous anonymity”
The Motor Cycle’s man at the Six Days’ Trial rode a Sunbeam, launched only the previous year and designed by Harry Stevens of the AJS clan. Two Sunbeams had won gold medals in the London-Exeter-London trial at the end of 1912 and the 2¾hp, 350cc side-valve was already earning a reputation for quality.
IT IS A SIGNIFICANT FACT that, although honours in respect of chain vs belt are fairly evenly divided so far as The Motor Cycle staff is concerned, there seems to be an unconscious leaning towards the chain-driven single-cylinder type of mount for strenuous long-distance work. Thus it came about that we accepted the offer of Messrs John Marston, Ltd, Wolverhampton, of a 2¾hp Sunbeam as our hack during the now memorable ACU Six Days Trials. It has been truthfully stated on more than one occasion
that the journalist’s lot in trials of this kind is far more difficult than the competitors’, for he has to see practically all the main incidents in one place, then scurry ahead again to witness the performances of the vanguard, and after the day’s run his time is usually fully occupied in writing, so that it is impossible to bestow any attention upon his motor cycle. A reliable machine, therefore, is a sine qua non. We started away from Coventry on the Saturday preceding the trial, and were very quickly at home with our new mount. The position of the valve lifter on the right-hand grip certainly required some practice before we became accustomed to it, and in this connection we should like to point out that in our opinion it is high time the control of motor cycles was standardised. We, who, perforce, change from one machine to another, have first to become accustomed to carburetter levers opening inwards, others working outwards, brake levers on the left and right footrests, sometimes operated by a toe and sometimes by a heel pedal; valve lifters on left and right grips, clutch controls on handle-bar and footrest, until with such a medley one can hardly settle down with comfort to any one mount. Our Sunbeam was geared 6 and 12 to 1, in view of the tales of the severe climbing we were to expect in Lakeland, and the writer being in company with the rider of a 6hp twin Brough on the trip to Carlisle, the pace, as may be imagined, was well up to standard. What impressed us more than anything eLse was the beautifully balanced engine and the absence of valve clatter. It has been our usual experience of single-cylindered machines that the handle grips are inclined to dither at speeds exceeding 30mph, but even with the chain drive of the Sunbeam there was a smoothness of running which must be experienced to be believed. Our run north via Stone, Knutsford, Warrington, to Preston by the RAC avoiding route, and over Shap to Penrith and Carlisle, was devoid of incident, and was accomplished throughout on top gear. En passant, neither of us was over-impressed by the RAC route via Ormskirk. Twice we went off the route owing to the absence of direction posts, and finally decided that it was not worth the 11 miles extra distance entailed to avoid Wigan and the Lancashire cobble stones. A 240 miles trip in a day on an absolutely strange machine proves our confidence in the Sunbeam. The flexibility of the engine is a feature to be admired, for not only is it possible to crawl along in traffic with the engine just turning over, but it will ‘rev’ at an extraordinary rate. As an instance of this, de la Hay in the mile speed test averaged 45mph on a 6 to 1 gear, which gives a speed of 3,500rpm. When it is remembered that the course was slightly uphill and heavy, owing to the drizzling rain, and that the test was on the last day of the trial, the significance of the demonstration of power maintenance is the more noteworthy. The course of the Six Days Trials has now been thoroughly discussed in these columns, and the consensus of opinion seems to be that, though the ACU misled the competitors by stating that no abnormal surfaces or freak hills would be included, the fact that 46 obtained gold medals proves that the test was not so bad as it has been painted. After all, with only five days and 750 miles to test the reliability and general excellence of the machines, the ACU were bound to include tests out of the ordinary, or otherwise we should have had the absurd result of practically everybody obtaining the maximum award, which result would have neither benefited the industry as a whole nor the breed of machines in general. Garstack Beck, between Dent and Ingleton, was, to the writer’s mind, the test of the week. There was no such thing as a flukey ascent of this hill, which was nearly a mile long, had gradients of at least 1 in 4, and was covered in loose stones. A motor cycle which can successfully account for a hill such as this must be of the first water, though, admittedly, failure in some instances may have been due to bad luck. Our plucky little Sunbeam successfully scaled this hill as well as every other hill we attempted during the trial, but had it not been for the splendid plate clutch with which the machine is provided, success would not have been ours. Twice the machine slowed down on the steepest gradients until within a few yards the engine would have stopped, and as a last resource we eased the clutch slightly, and were amazed to find that one could hold it half engaged without there being the slightest tendency for it suddenly to grip, which is the usual procedure of clutches which are designed on the small side. We have never had a more striking demonstration of the efficiency of a large size plate clutch, or of the desirability for handle-bar control. On the loose surfaces it was necessary to put down one’s feet from time to time to correct a skid, so that the
successful operation of a pedal clutch was out of the question. Nenthead, Tan Hill, Butter Tubs Pass, Kirkstone Pass, and Silver Hill, Keld, among others, the Sunbeam revelled in, and Crossdale Hill, near Cockermouth, which a disillusioned yokel suggested to us was one of the worst hills in the whole trial, the Sunbeam easily climbed with The Motor Cycle photographer on the carrier. On the Wednesday of the trial, up to which point nothing had required attention, we climbed both sides of Buttermere Hause, the ascent from Newlands being the steeper. The stability of the Sunbeam left nothing to be desired. On the Thursday and Friday of the trials, when the rain made the conditions so uncomfortable, the same average speed had to be maintained, and, as before mentioned, it was necessary for us to beat the average of the competitors, in order to see the main points of interest during the trial. By this time the exhaust caps and pipe of the Sunbeam had assumed a purple hue, but there was still no sign of falling off in power, and we continued to take single figure gradients with the certainty of a clock. Only one adjustment did we deem necessary during the strenuous week’s work, and that was to take up the slackness of the rear chain, which is easily accomplished by the special studs provided. This occasion was, in fact, the only one on which we inspected the toolbag, and we were interested to observe that the machine had been sent out equipped in the most thorough manner. It is a peculiar coincidence, of which we have taken due note on several occasions, that the most reliable machines which we are asked to test are usually those provided with the most complete repair outfit and spare parts. The homeward run to the Midlands was again accomplished in a day, despite the fact that it rained practically all through the journey. At the conclusion of the test we were interested to observe that one could stand on the foot starter against compression for an indefinite length of time, proving that the Sunbeam engine is not only efficient and reliable, but one that will maintain its power for long periods. A peculiarity is a slight ring in the cylinder, due to the thin radiating fins. The machine generally had stood up to its work perfectly. The brakes were as powerful as ever, and not a nut was loose. Oil certainly had oozed from the exhaust valve tappet, but not in sufficient quantities to cause a mess. If we were asked to suggest an improvement, it would be in connection with the number of speeds. It is true that a machine which suits Lake District requirements may not be ideal for the majority of other roads, but in hilly districts especially one notices the absence of a middle ratio on two-speed machines. For instance, when climbing the moorland hills during the Six Days Trials there were many cases when the combination of a headwind and rising gradient proved too much for the top gear of two-speeders, yet on the low gear the engines were running unnecessarily fast. An intermediate ratio would have exactly filled the bill and saved the little engine much needless labour.”