It had become a truism that every six days trial was ‘the toughest ever’. But there’s no doubt that the 1914 event, based on Sheffield, tested competitors and their bikes to the limit—many of them failed to complete the course and there was no shortage of complaints from exhausted riders.
THE 1914 ACU SIX DAYS TRIAL, based this time on Sheffield, was carefully designed to test the best bikes on the market to the limit. Only spares carried by competitors throughout the trial could be used, and there was a comprehensive series of special tests. Acceleration was evaluated by a fast and slow climb—the first 50 yards of a hill were climbed slowly; the following 200 yards were climbed fast. To gain full marks slow meant 5mph or less (no zigzagging allowed); fast meant 25mph or more. The fast speed was divided by the slow speed and multiplied by six. Speed trials were run over a half-mile of level road; the minimum speed for maximum marks ranged from 28mph to 50mph depending on the class of machine (there were five classes: A, 250cc; B, 350; C, 500; D, 750; E, 1000). The brake test, on level ground, was made from 20mph. The time and stopping distance were noted; marks were awarded on a formula of stopping distance divided by the stopping time squared. Machines were liable to be inspected at any time for the efficiency and adequacy of mud- guards. A restarting test entailed stopping on a hill then restarting and covering 15 yards within 10 or 12sec depending on the class. Following a lunch break, so engines were cold, the quick starting test required solos to be started and ridden for 50 yards within 40sec; combos had to cover 50 yards within 60sec. Apart from that the 132 entrants had nothing to worry about, apart from a series of test hills and six days of some of the toughest going in the kingdom. As always, The Motor Cycle could be relied on to follow the action from beginning to end, starting with a review of the bikes…
The [162cc] Dayton, the smallest engined machine, has three speeds. The [190cc] NSU machines in this class and in Class C are equipped with both their own two-speed engine shaft gear and the Armstrong three-speed hub, thus getting six different ratios…motor cycles which stood out pre-eminently for their finish and general appearance were the P&Ms, which looked as if they were brand new, but were the same which had gone
through the Scottish trials, the James, Scott, Matchless, Brown’s Rover, Lea-Francis Clyno, Enfield, Ariel, Sunbeam, Bat, Triumph, Scott and Humber. Moffat was riding the identical Sunbeam ridden by Busby in the Tourist Trophy Race. It is fitted with an enormous petrol lank holding 2½ gallons. Two machines were conspicuous owing to the pains taken to carry out the mudguarding in an adequate manner. These are Eli Clark’s Leader sc and Greaves’s Enfield sc. The former is fitted with an enormous rear guard with ample side shields, so designed that by undoing the nuts securing the mudguard and carrier stays to the frame the whole can be swung back and the back tyre exposed. We saw this actually done and in a very short space of time. The front mudguard is fitted with light detachable valances, which cover half the wheel, and the front wheel and sidecar wheels are detachable and interchangeable. Sidecars in several cases were very much on the light side, and were often dangerously near to being unsuitable for touring. Greaves’s Enfield sidecar combination has a Lucas dynamo carried in a circular bracket brazed to lugs fitted in the saddle tube. Slotted orifices allow for adjustment of the driving chain. The dynamo is driven off the gearshaft. A neat switch box is fitted to the top tube, and the equipment lights both the head and tail lamps Haslam’s single-cylinder Premier possessed a light but comfortable wicker sidecar, purple in colour, and provided with a sidecar wheel brake The chief innovation on the handsome and businesslike khaki coloured Matchless-MAG sidecar machines is the new detachable wheel. All three wheels are interchangeable. Five of the twenty-five paid observers appointed by the Auto-Cycle Union failed to report themselves at the appointed time on Sunday, which did not lessen the difficulties of the organising body. However, five substitutes were soon pressed into service.
Monday, 137½ miles: First it rained, and in the very earliest stages a five-mile stretch of moorland track was traversed which would put any section of similar length in Scotland in the shade. Then a hill, the surface of which was so loose and bad that the competitors thus early talked of striking. Once again a succession of appalling gradients and rock-strewn bye-roads, which must tell their tale before the week is out. Those competitors with Scottish Trials experience confess that they have never known so much in the way of hills and freakish surfaces crammed into one day. FJ Watson, who had returned to Birmingham by road on Sunday in order to get a new piston, succeeded, by dint of riding all through the night, in getting back to the starting line at the appointed time. JL Norton had engine trouble on his way to Sheffield and changed his engine for one owned by a local rider The upper portion of Sir William Hill proved a teaser, but Stoney Middleton tried the competitors more severely, and here several came to a standstill. HF Edwards (Bat) was badly baulked, but saved himself by magnificent riding. KE Don (5hp Zenith) made a fine climb, but broke his frame near the top of the hill and had to retire. Victor Garland (Williamson sc) retired owing to the gear box bolts coming adrift. Longson, on the American Excelsior, retired with a broken sidecar connection. Further on, at Littonstack, there was a sight to be remembered, for competitors were literally strewn all the way up the road, and some of the machines were belching forth clouds of blue smoke. When Littonstack was selected the surface was passably good, though the gradient is really severe, approaching 1 in 3 at the top. But recent heavy rains rendered the surface almost impossible, and consequently the vast majority stopped, though it should be added that many failures were due to baulking on the narrow road.
Ellis (Morgan) made an excellent ascent, but in turning into the narrow gateway at the top his front wheel lifted, and the machine charged the gatepost, smashing the screen to atoms and cutting the driver’s hand, but he pluckily continued. Lower down the hill Sawer’s Premier sidecar turned completely over without injury, and Stevens on the James sidecar did practically the same thing, the sidecar wheel being buckled. He sent for a new one, and continued rather late. Major Lindsay Lloyd now appeared at the hill foot, and as soon as he saw what was going on decided there and then to allow those riders who preferred it to proceed by another route, so that those who had churned their back tyres and strained clutches and gears in getting over the hill are to be condoled with. Hugh Gibson elected to make an attempt, and with Gregson on the carrier made one of the best climbs. Heinzel, whose six-speed 2hp NSU is going magnificently, ran off the road, charged through a bunch of nettles, and was off down the hill in no time, to the amusement of the crowd. Hereabouts Glissan (Rex Sidette) retired owing to bent tappets, and Edwards (Sparkbrook sc) also gave up, as his low gear refused to engage. Other withdrawals were Chinn (Wolf), who experienced trouble with his gear, and Sproston, who broke a chain on his Lea-Francis in most cases there were Colonial tracks; and evidently the ACU was very little disturbed by the strike which was occasioned last year, for Monday’s route surely was the most severe the ACU has ever planned. By this time the riders were saddle sore, and many a rim showed the effect of the gruelling it had received. The timekeeper was stationed on the outskirts of Sheffield, and just previously the competitors had descended at a crawl a hill which really has no surface. Entering the city Applebee senior unfortunately knocked down a man who walked into his front wheel—it is astonishing how the Sheffield folk wander aimlessly about the roads without a thought as to traffic; 111 competitors were duly checked into the garage on Monday night. If the average of 21 retirements is maintained throughout the week there will be few competitors left on Saturday.
Tuesday, 126 miles: Haslam (Premier sc) and Watson (Ariel sc) were in high spirits as they were the only competitors to have piloted successfully 3½hp sidecar combinations round the course, and their performances are indeed the wonder of the other rider, some of whom are not slow to grumble at the undue severity of the test. The first point of interest after Buxton was that winding but not very steep ascent known as Cowdale. Its surface looked fairly good, but it was in reality of a treacherous nature. F Smith (Clyno sc) and S Parker (Enfield sc) both made sensational ascents in quick succession. First the front wheels refused to steer, then the complete machines swung from side to side; but both drivers, with consummate skill and daring, went up in fine form. W James (Morgan) suffered badly from wheel slip, while Scott’s AC came to a standstill for the same reason, whereupon F Dover (on this occasion a steward, and for the first time in nine years not a competitor) leaped upon the tail of the body, with the result that the extra weight in the right place allowed him to restart. Henfrey (Ariel) skidded right round in the reverse direction to that in which he was travelling, but saved himself from a fall. P Pratt (6hp Bradbury sc) almost came to a standstill but saved the situation by getting the passenger to bump on the carrier and so obtaining momentary adhesion with each bump. The crowd was both enthusiastic and appreciative, and heartily cheered the excellent climbs made by North (Ariel), Pilkington (Rex-Jap sc) and Richards (5hp Sun). The fact that the men are started in the same order every day tells hardly on those who leave late, as they have always to take the hills after the surface has been cut up by their more fortunate confreres. Plint (Dayton) caused the yokels amusement by walking with his machine between his legs, the little two-stroke engine tugging away manfully on the 1 in 4.5 gradient. At the top of this hill there was another left hand hairpin to catch the unwary, and thereafter the route was through Hathersage over a stretch of third-rate Colonial road, the machines in places bouncing from one half submerged boulder to another; they then made their way home.
Wednesday, 116½ miles: Wednesday’s run was easy, and included nothing in the shape of a hill which caused the competitors any anxiety, but it was full of interest, as such useful tests as those of acceleration, speed, brakes, starting from cold, and restarting on a gradient formed part of the programme. Not a mile and a half from the starting point, and right in the city, is a hill known as Blake Street (a quarter-mile of 1 in 5). The surface consists of rough cobbles. A huge crowd witnessed the climb, and when tackling the hill, after negotiating a right angle bend, the men had to face a mass of people which parted as they approached. Excellent ascents were made by Wilkin (Levis), May (AJS), Langton (Ariel), and Taylor (Imperial), who cleverly hugged the offside gutter, thereby taking the smoothest course and, incidentally, sweeping the erring spectators on to the pavement. As we left Sheffield, which took a long time on this occasion, it began to rain slightly, causing the dust to adhere to one’s goggles in an unpleasant manner. Finally, near the summit of a long average hill known as Stainbrough, the acceleration test was being held those riders who knew the ropes travelled slowly for 21 seconds and then accelerated, thus entering the fast portion with a flying start. Kerr (NSU) came through the slow test well enough, and was getting away well in the fast portion when his machine stopped with a jerk, and it was found that his pulley gear had jammed owing to a bent operating rod. He thus lost his three lower speeds, and was consequently left with the three higher speeds of his hub gear. Gray (Sunbeam), on beginning the slow test, said, ‘Do I go straight on?’ a remark which caused some amusement, as there was certainly nowhere else to go. Lovegrove (Scott) appeared to improve his slow-speed climbing by application of the front brake. Turvey (Triumph), who made quite a star performance, was one of the wily ones, and took his own time by the aid of a wrist watch. Through Barnsley and Hickleton the route actually lay over main roads for once in a way, but the black dust in this Yorkshire coalfield district made ones eyes smart uncomfortably. Near Marr we overtook AF Plint on the little 1½hp two-stroke Dayton with the cylinder off. This rider had actually been able to get ahead of time in order to remove the cylinder and scrape it and the piston clear of carbon in order to gain extra benefit in the speed test (at the course previously used for the Doncaster Speed Trials). The brake test which immediately followed was an unnecessary complication. Few understood what to do, and instead of
approaching the test at the requisite 20mph crawled in at varying speeds. Most stopped in ten to twenty yards, but some did better than this. As a matter of fact, the idea of a brake test at all on level ground seems farcical when one considers that on Monday and Tuesday the competitors were descending 1 in 4 gradients continually, and if their brakes had not been efficient it is questionable if they would have survived to tell the tale! After an excellent lunch at the racecourse and a welcome rest the machines, which were ranged in double line and in crescent formation, engaged in the starting test. Most of the motor cycles got away with ease, but several drivers started with their stands trailing, which did not, as it should have done, involve penalisation. Wilkin (Levis) got his engine to fire in 25 yards. Walters (P&M) did not shine in this test. Nott’s Clyno fired on the first stroke of the kick starter, while Pratt (Bradbury) was the only other out of 45 or so who succeeded in doing so. Parker (Enfield sc) had to be pushed off; Kerr (NSU) injected petrol. Applebee did likewise, but made a rather poor start; but when the engine did fire the machine almost left him behind. Baker (Scott) started his engine on the second kick, went off smoothly and quickly, and put in his top with such energy that the back wheel raised a cloud of red dust as it spun round. Some amusement was provided for the waiting competitors by a piano organ, at the grinding of which some took a turn. The next item of interest was the restarting test on the single-figure gradient of Slack Hill between Chesterfield and Matlock. The performances here were generally very good. Some had no free engines and had to resort to pushing on the low gear. Taylor (New Imperial) was one of these unfortunates, and, furthermore, failed to get his engine to fire. Chapman (Triumph) restarted nicely at the second attempt, but Robinson (NUT) overshot the mark. There was a good crowd of spectators, and when Frank Smith let the clutch in rather hurriedly and caused the front wheel to lift up, the spectators scattered in all directions. The P&Ms and the Sunbeams made fine restarts, also the Lea-Francis pair. Boxer (Bat) got off the mark like a shot, so fast that he knocked over the time-keeper, Mr AV Ebblewhite. The tests among the later arrivals were carried out in the rain, but the leaders of the string, now on the moors near home, were experiencing a memorable soaking. The rain came down so suddenly and so fast that soon the riders were drenched. Egginton (Enfield) produced a most effective V-shaped celluloid screen for his passenger, which protected her splendidly.
Thursday, 160 miles: Whatever may have been thought of the severity of Monday’s route, that planned for Thursday was a great deal more difficult. It was a succession of steep by-lanes with the roughest surface—innumerable hairpins and cobblestones and pot-holes were the order. Twenty miles per hour over such roads was exceedingly difficult, indeed dangerous, for one had perforce to descend the precipitous declines at walking pace, and the only chance of making up time was on up grades, but speeding at any time was decidedly risky on Thursday. Scapegoat Hill was reported to be the most difficult on the morning section. It contained acute hairpins, but the competitors were now quite practised in this sort of thing and handled their machines splendidly, dropping down to low gear for the corners only and then accelerating finely. Several of the lower-powered machines came to a standstill. We noticed Eggerton go up with a flat driving tyre on his Enfield. O Birse (3½hp NUT) retired hereabouts owing to the fact that the low speed of his hub refused to act. As a matter of fact he had been running considerable risk, as on Monday his brakes were damaged in a fall on Grindon Hill. One notable climb on the morning section actually included a flight of steps. Only the solo machines went up, but the competitors did not like it a bit. Pilkington (Rex-JAP) and Frank Smith (Clyno) reported that they had climbed The Staircase and had not remarked the notice that it was only for solo machines. Smith dented his crank case in a gulley while making a clean ascent; Applebee (Motosacoche) had grazed the wall and scraped the skin off his fingers; Haddock (AJS) had suffered a collapsed back wheel halfway to the luncheon stop owing to striking an enormous pot-hole at speed and had to retire. The same pot hole dented many rims and threw one of the Bat riders. Wright (AJS) withdrew at Halifax owing to his passenger having absolutely refused to face the terrors of the homeward journey. Complaints as to the roughness of the roads and the difficulty in keeping to schedule were heard on all sides; in fact very few indeed arrived to time. Cook (ASL) said he thought it had been a fine sporting run. A mile or two further on a stone got fixed between the tyre and guard of Pearson’s Clyno and threw the rider, who had to dispense with the guard. Another hill of the series on the out-skirts of Halifax was Blackwood Hall Lane, near Luddenden. There was a terrible gulley some way up, shortly after followed by an acute hairpin bend, the inner corner of which was stated by Major Nicholl to be 1 in 1½. Only 83 finished the day’s journey. Plint (Dayton) broke a front fork stay and had to retire. Fenner (Blackburne) came to a standstill over a gulley through the flywheel and footrests touching the ground. Ellis (Morgan) decided not to restart as he had had enough. All told there were no fewer than 38 hills with single-figure gradients in this day of days. Any one of them would have stopped a motor cycle a year or two ago. Platt (Bradbury sc) punctured and then followed a real TT to make up time. We had the benefit of his dust for some time, so we know how fast his twin Bradbury is.
Friday, 148½ miles: It was a very reduced field that started on the last day’s ran of the ever-to-be- remembered Six Days of 1914, for, instead of the 132 who originally started, there were but 81 left this morning. Teeton (James sidecar) had withdrawn owing to physical unfitness to continue, though he observed the others on one or two hills. Henfrey (Ariel), who had put in useful work at the start securing the belt pulley to the spokes, broke a belt. Later, we overhauled CR Collier, who was bewailing his luck with tyres, for a front wheel puncture had completed the round of all wheels. The new Matchless detachable wheel, however, soon saw him on his way again. The last seen of Finch was near the luncheon stop, a broken exhaust valve causing a halt, when it was discovered that by no manner of means could the valve cap be removed. Haslam wasted ten minutes helping with a huge wrench, but with no avail, and finally a new cylinder had to be procured to enable Finch to proceed home. A driver who had put up such an excellent performance surely did not deserve such an ignominious exit, for the hill-climbing of his 3½hp sidecar outfit has been one of the features of the trial. Undoubtedly the piece de resistance in Friday’s run was the ascent known as Mytholm Rise, near Todmorden. There were many acute bends, a short, easy stretch, and a long,
steep section getting looser and looser towards the summit, and a final hairpin. Turvey (Triumph) was baulked by a cart, and had a narrow escape from being driven into the gutter. Platt (Bradbury) made a magnificent climb, and as far as the eye could judge his was the best performance of a sidecar combination. Ball (Douglas) made a fine ascent and was applauded by the spectators. Lea (Lea-Francis) was all over the road, but reached the summit without a stop; Edwards (Bat) was driven into the side of the road by a cart. Brown (Rover) made a fine showing, while quite the best solo performance was that of Lovegrove (Scott), whose machine climbed fast and held the road in a manner which words fail to describe. Drew (Imperial) was obviously failing, when he retarded the spark by turning the contact breaker between his fingers, but this feat did not save him. Davy, whose Norton has a Brampton variable gear as well as a hub gear, went very well; Newey (Ariel) travelled fast on second, his machine leaping like a deer, and he only changed to first just below the last hairpin at the end of the climb. A non-competing Bradbury sidecar arrived at the summit with three adults and a baby on board. Further on Platt’s Bradbury engine seized, and as we passed clouds of smoke were issuing from the engine, as paraffin was soused over it in the driver’s frantic endeavours to finish. When but 15 miles from the finish Vickers Edwards broke a valve, and, having no spare, gave up. Hardee’s sidecar frame broke when almost in sight of the storage depot, a 1in solid bar of chrome vanadium steel having sheared.
Saturday: Saturday was devoted to an inspection of the machines which survived, operations commencing at 8am. Many a competitor whose footrests were bent, or a valve lifter broken, or rim dented, quaked at the prospect of having marks deducted which might preclude them from an award. In the evening the results were issued and the following special awards: The Team Prize, the Douglas team, Messrs WB Gibb, PW Moffat and P Phillips on 2¾hp three-speed model Douglas motor cycles, the Douglas team gained 597 marks out of a possible 600; 2nd, P&M, 593; 3rd, Matchless, 583; 4th, Scott, 576; 5th, Humber, 545; 6th, Premier team, 499. Cup, value £8 8s (presented by Mr T Haslam, Sheffield, for the best performance by any machine not exceeding 350cc), Messrs WB Gibb (2¾hp Douglas) and PW Moffat (2¾hp Douglas), tied. Cup, Value £15 15s (presented by the Sheffield motor cycle traders for the best performance by a sidecar machine), RC Davis (8hp Chater-Lea sc). Cup, value £15 15s (presented by the Sheffield motor cycle traders for the best performance by a solo motor cycle), W Westwood (4hp Triumph). Special gold medal for an exceptional performance, N Hall (2hp 190cc OK with Albion three-speed gear). Of the 74 riders who completed the trial 51 earned gold medals, nine won silver and eight won bronze.
☞ Fancy including a brake test on the level when competitors were descending 1 in 4 gradients every day without exception!
☞ FC North’s record in Six Days Trials is surely unequalled. He has competed in six events and on every occasion has qualified for a gold medal; a magnificent testimony to his riding skill and the qualities of his Ariel.
☞ The performance of Neville Hall on the 2hp OK Junior stands out prominently. His was the only miniature to finish, and the other competitors were so impressed by his plucky exhibition that a petition was signed to present Hall with a special gold medal. His machine had an Albion three-speed counter-shaft gear.
☞ Thursday’s route was by far the worst ever arranged in a Six Days event.
☞ One of the best roadside repairs during the trial was by JS Holroyd, who broke three pinions in the hub gear on his Blackburne, and effected a replacement after dismantling the gear on the road. Holroyd had never seen the inside of a hub gear before, and told us that when he removed the end plate a lot of springs and balls fell out.
☞ Benzole was procurable everywhere in the districts at 1s 6d per gallon. Those who used it liked it, and were pleased to find that their engines refused to knock.
☞ The two motor bicycles used by our staff in reporting this event were a strange contrast. One was the product of that old-established and excellent firm, Messrs Phelon & Moore, was expected to acquit itself well, and it did so, while the other was one of the new 3½hp twin ABCs—quite a new and untried production. Had it not done well we should have forgiven it on account of its youth, but as it climbed every test hill it was put at in excellent form and finished in perfect condition, it deserves the fullest credit.
☞ Route-marking by means of spilling dye on the roads is in its infancy. Nine times out of ten during last week’s trial it was successful, but on the tenth occasion the colour would not show up on the road.
☞ A smoking concert arranged by the Sheffield and Hallamshire MCC at the King’s Head Hotel on Wednesday proved a popular change in the evening’s programme. Filling up protest forms was largely indulged in other evenings.
☞ On Thursday evening a competitors’ protest meeting was held at the Grand Hotel, when certain resolutions were passed calling upon the ACU to reduce the average speeds, especially for passenger machines. Simultaneously the ACU officials were discussing the advisability of allowing a few minutes’ grace in connection with Thursday morning’s route, which was eventually done.
☞ The judges, Major DF Nicholl, RA, DSO, and Dr AM Low, DSc, ACGT, etc, and the stewards, the Rev EP Greenhill and Mr F Dover, and other officials worked for twelve hours in examining the surviving machines and working out the results. The examination by the four gentlemen named, who are expert motor cyclists, was most thorough. We spent some time with them during their arduous task, and saw that very little escaped their notice.
☞ It is interesting to notice the extremes met with in the official weights of the competing machines. The lightest motor cycle was the 1½hp Dayton, ridden by WG Ayling, which scaled 148lb ready for the road. The heaviest solo machine was the 5hp Montgomery, which turned the scale at 324lb fully equipped. The distinction of having the heaviest sidecar outfit was shared by EE Guest (7hp Matchless) and Eli Clark (8hp Leader) at 616lb each. It is interesting also to note that the average weight of the three Douglas machines which composed the winning team was 203lb, or just 2lb heavier than the average weight of the machines in the Junior TT race.
☞ The ACU Six Days Trials last week developed into a Colonial trial pure and simple, and now we see little excuse for the ACU to organise a Colonial or Overseas test, as we recommended them to do, for the road surfaces over which the trial was held positively equalled any surfaces motor cyclists encounter in the Colonial and Overseas dominions. This must be the case, as motor cycling under the conditions which obtained last week was no pleasure at all; indeed, it became an anxious strain for all the competitors. The surfaces were indescribably rough, the hills steep, long, and frequent, and the potholes and gulleys so deep and freakish that riding became positively a danger.
The Judges’ Report.
The judges would particularly like to comment upon the performances of the different types of machines, taken all round, most solo mounts were capable of doing practically everything required of them, and varied only in their comfort and reliability. The performance of the 4hp Triumph ridden by Mr W Westwood may be noted as particularly fine, while the Blackburne machines are also worthy of very favourable notice on account of their good engine design. The Douglas team accomplished an excellent performance. The sidecar machines failed to put up as good a performance as usual, largely on account of the fact that, with the exception of the Clyno in particular, no machine appeared to have been designed as a unit…The vertical moment of inertia taken on some of the frames is ridiculously small, with the result that the stresses thrown on the frame are out of all proportion to the load, but here again the Clyno was an exception. The practice of carrying a can of petrol entirely unsprung and near the driving wheel is bad, as it leads to severe shock where it is entirely unsprung…Frames of motor cycles are also poor in many cases, and are only able to stand up to the work on
account of their size and weight. The judges are surprised that more use is not made of steel and aluminium compounds and steel pressings in frames. They would particularly draw attention to the steering head. At this point many machines have bends and curves so designed as to practically double the forces tending to shear the tubes, and, incidentally, causing vibration which has a bad effect on the wear of the head bearings. Many of these bearings were very slack after the trial; they should be provided with greasers and larger bearing surfaces, so arranged as to each take an equal share of the thrust. The Lea-Francis was an example of sound design in the latter particular…The Scott machine performed excellently and gave one a greater impression of unit efficiency than any other machine. The frame was well designed, and the judges would draw attention to the possibilities of the open frame considered from the girder point of view, such as might be obtained by the use of a one-piece pressing…In several instances frames might easily be strengthened by such fittings as large silencers, which might also act as mud shields, as in the Lea-Francis, and yet clear the ground sufficiently to avoid
any ordinary road surface…In constructing the power unit of a motor cycle, it is not sufficient merely to obtain power, it is extremely important that the engine should be silent in itself as distinguished from the noise of the exhaust, and as conducing to this result, it should be clean and free from vibration; such silence is the best evidence of good design and workmanship. Most engines were not in any way flexible, and consequently to allow for this defect they were more powerful than was really necessary, with the result that they were capable of turning at high speeds, which under most conditions causes not only discomfort to the rider, but also unnecessary wear and shock on the various portions of the frame and transmission. It is desirable to construct the power unit to give not only a smooth torque, but in such a manner that it can be conveniently enclosed and made free from rattle, whilst maintaining a reasonable amount of power at low speeds. The Scott engine was a good example of care in this direction, but its silencing apparatus was not so good as might be wished for. The two-stroke machines generally were altogether creditable…Practically every machine which got through the trial was fitted with fairly good brakes, although they were in many cases weakly attached and fitted with too small a surface and too little leverage or means for adjustment. It is very important that brake rods should not be unduly bent out of the straight, and in the case of front wheel brakes, they should be- more heavily anchored at the forks, for otherwise they are almost useless and better omitted or applied to the rear wheel. The Lea-Francis was the best example of front brake design. It is desirable that compensating sidecar brakes should be used on heavy outfits, and these are preferably operated by rods in place of wires. The internal expanding type of brake is equally effective forwards or backwards, and gives no trouble…Few brakes were effective in holding machines backwards, as was shown in the restarting test, neither are the springs fitted to pull off the brakes up to their work, with the exception of the P&M, Blackburne, and one or two other makes…Although the bad roads may account for a good deal of the trouble, that fact was insufficient excuse for the number of front fork springs found broken at the end of the trial…On the rough roads encountered in the trial it is natural that there should be some damage done, but most rims were too weak. It is not entirely desirable to fit absolutely rigid wheels on a light motor cycle or sidecar, but it is desirable that the rims should be stiff. The Clyno, P&M and Premier suffered no damage in this respect, but many others were injured. Detachable wheels are desirable, especially on passenger machines, and although introduced by one or two makers some time ago, are being but slowly adopted by other firms…Taken all round, the mudguarding on the machines showed a much needed improvement, but a combination of oil and dust was found covering many parts at the conclusion of the trial. It is important that the mudguards should project widely beyond the wheels, and also should be arranged so that they can be swung out of position. It is an advantage slightly to lip the edges to avoid mud-throwing. Practically no machine, except the Scott, the Lea-Francis, and one AJS had anything in the nature of an undershield…The judges were pleased to notice that on one Ariel a proper gate change was fitted, giving four forward speeds; this is a very desirable feature and might be copied with advantage…The brake test was instituted for the purpose of obtaining a comparative result, and as a measure of the deceleration of the machines. Competitors did not appear to realise that it is desirable to travel at a good speed when testing brakes, for when a wheel becomes locked the braking value falls off, and in most cases a bad performance was due to non-observance of the regulations rather than to inefficiency of brakes…The free use of insulating tape to secure fittings on many machines clearly shows that much is still lacking in their design. This should be unnecessary…With very few exceptions indeed, machines could be started quickly and easily, a great advance on previous years. Practically no marks were lost by reason of machines not being ready to start to time each morning…the P&M, Sunbeam, Scott, Bat, Douglas, and Blackburne were extremely good, whilst the performance of the OK and Baby Clyno motor cycles is deserving of very special mention. Of the sidecar machines the Chater-Lea, Matchless, and Clyno were almost equally deserving of credit…The performances of the 3½hp Premier with sidecar that completed the trial, and of the small Dayton machines, are both worthy of favourable mention as indicating the possibilities of the comparatively small powered machine.
AM Low, ACGI, DSc, etc.
DF Nicholl, Major RA, DSO.
“THERE ARE DISSENTERS TO THE CONDITIONS of almost every event, but the amount of protest against the eminently suitable ACU course as a test has surprised me. Of what possible use for serious testing can a course be that presents but easily overcome difficulties? The average hill is not a test for an engine of even medium quality, and the average road surface is no test for forks, frames, tyres, etc. If the trials are purely for the purpose of enabling gold medals to be acquired we could justly grumble at the conditions, etc and go in for the London-Edinburgh procession. But if we wish lo learn and to maintain the progress that has placed motor cycles of British manufacture in their present premier position, then we must continue to test them, and I know of no better way than the ACU trial. The pity is, the test is almost as great perhaps greater in some cases for the man as for the machine, although possibly, so far as the sporting spirit goes, some of us need testing, for we don’t appear to have taken our gruel in a very sporting manner. The severity of the course is its recommendation. Modification in certain directions may be desirable or necessary, perhaps, in the direction of speed averages, and possibly some of the worst sections of road should not be non-stop. Regarding the so-called farce of the brake test, this test I consider most useful and necessary, in spite of the outcry against it, the only apparent objection being that the brakes had been sufficiently tested on the severe hills encountered. It is true they were tested, but it cannot be said they were not in many cases found wanting. Stripped or glazed pads, the straightening out of badly designed brake rods, and other causes had rendered some brakes inoperative, riders descending hills relying almost solely upon their low gear, the compression of a stationary engine, and using the clutch as a brake. The comparative retarding effect or efficiency of the various brakes could not be learned except by the special test. A fairly high standard was certainly set up for the acceleration test, but not an impossible one, although it was an oversight, I think, to give the same task to the passenger as to the solo machines. As to the hills being too severe, there was no hill in the trial that could not be climbed by a good machine. Littonstack, against which most outcry has been made, was climbed by my Big Four passenger combination with standard gears and power in reserve; several other machines also made clean ascents. There was much wheel spinning among the failures, this largely due to uneven engine torque, as well as gradient. I would suggest that competitors should be checked at the foot of narrow hills, and sent up singly, the failures returning and proceeding by an alternative route. Some details of organisation leave room for improvement, otherwise I heartily congratulate the ACU upon a useful trial, and the medallists upon an acquisition well earned.
James L Norton
As was usual, The Motor Cycle included an impression of the bike used by its reporter on the trial; for 1914 he rode a P&M…
THERE HAS LATELY BEEN a good deal of talk on the subject of ‘delivery tune’, many wails having reached The Motor Cycle on the slip-shod manner in which some machines are turned out by makers. This, of course, is not as it should be, but the complaint does not apply to manufacturers generally, as the following will prove. Our own vehicle not being geared low enough for freakish hills, we accepted the offer of Messrs Phelon & Moore of a motor bicycle for the ACU Six Days Trials. This machine was delivered by the Cleckheaton Works to Sheffield, and it was not until the day preceding the start of the trial that we saw the mount we were to ride. An inspection of the toolbags and general equipment of the machine revealed the fact that the P&M was turned out thoroughly in every detail. The severity of the Six Days Trials is now a matter of common knowledge, and even on the first fifty miles of the route when it rained smartly the mettle of the P&M was tested to the full, for on the moorland roads and grass-grown track we were constantly bumped out of the saddle, and it was soon clear that the rider would be the first to give out under such conditions. The trial has been described as ‘a test to destruction’, but the numerous hills proved no match for the P&M, though it is true we were stopped near the top of Littonstack when going well, due to a sidecar which failed and blocked the whole of the road. However, by a dig at the kick starter and pulling the low gear gently into engagement the machine was made to do the remainder of the donkey work under its own power. A twenty miles an hour average over this year’s Six Days Trials course has been stated to be next to impossible, but a good many critics who have attacked the trials organisers probably saw very little of the trial itself, but gained most of their impressions from those crestfallen competitors who dropped out. The P&M which we rode not only averaged its twenty miles, but more; indeed, it was absolutely necessary for us to do so to gain any true idea of the daily conditions and tests which the men had to undergo. After observing on one hill it was our practice to scurry ahead to the next, and that was where a fleet machine able to take every hill in its stride proved a boon. Two years ago we rode a P&M in the Six Days Trials; that was during the memorable week with Taunton as a centre, when Porlock proved the piece de resistance on the last day, and it was the pleasant memories of the. way our mount tackled the Somersetshire terror that led us to ride a P&M this year. Once again we are happy to state that our trusty mount successfully ascended every hill we encountered. Green Hill, Wirksworth, Jacob’s Ladder, Cowdale, Trooper’s Lane, Stoney Middleton, Scapegoat, Curbar, and many other curious sounding titles included. We consider that its best climb was up Lea Lane, in Shibden Dale. This hill, it will be remembered, was the one across which were deep gulleys and the surface smothered with large loose stones. Riding was
certainly not a pleasure, for one required the agility of a cat to keep in the saddle, but the P&M as regularly as ever plodded its way up the hill, picking up again immediately after each gulley, in the crossing of which we found it necessary to raise the valve lifter. Few who did not see the trial can appreciate the difficulties and the strenuous nature of the course. The boulder- strewn surfaces, grass- grown cart tracks, constant hairpins on the roughest of hills, told their tale in weeding out sixty-seven of the hundred and thirty-two competitors, and those machines which did finish in most cases bore distinct traces of the trial they had undergone. Our P&M finished its six hundred miles gruelling in magnificent condition, not a nut being loose, and the rims were undented. The spring forks certainly squeaked slightly at times and often bumped on their stops due to the springs being compressed to the limit, but throughout the week the sum total of trouble was a puncture in the driving wheel on the third day and a brake bolt disappearing on the last day. As a matter of fact, we were not aware that the bolt connecting the band brake had disappeared, and did not discover it until descending a steep hill rather hurriedly when it was touch and go whether we could scrape round a corner. This incident was pointed out to the makers of the machine, but our words have not fallen on waste ground, for with characteristic enterprise Messrs Phelon & Moore inform us that in future they intend to fit all such bolts with nuts and split pins. As regards attention to the machine, this, shame to relate, had perforce to be cut down to a minimum, for after a long day’s tiring ride dinner is tempting, and afterwards ‘copy’ to catch the outgoing mail leaves little chance for attention to one’s mount. But this is where the P&M excelled, for, despite the scant attention, it responded every morning to our beck and call, and it is not guilty of any whims or idiosyncrasies. In speed the P&M is well able to hold its own with the majority of 3½hp mounts, and will touch nearly fifty miles an hour. The petrol consumption was in the neighbourhood of 70mpg, due to constant low gear work, but in oil consumption it is distinctly economical.