1914 Scottish Six Days Trial

Yet again the Scottish was tough as old boots. The ACU Judges’ Report makes interesting reading; I hope you’ll also enjoy the retrospective by The Motor Cycle’s correspondent. I did, and that’s what counts.

THE SCOTTISH SIX DAYS TRIAL FEATURED seven named test hills, five of which had to be climbed non-stop before any competitor could claim a principal award: Amulree, Trinafour Cairn o’Mount, Abriachan, Tornapress, Applecross and Glendoe. On the second day the route took riders up Cockbridge Ladder, which, in the conditions which prevailed proved harder than the nominated Cairn o’Mount. An unexpected hazard was encountered at Carrbridge when the modern road bridge alongside the ancient drovers bridge was washed away during a cloudburst. Of the 120 starters, more than fifty won golds. Repeating its 1911 TT shock, Indian won the team award. The club prize was won by the MCC team of DH Noble, CT Newsome and G Featherstonehaugh, all riding 3½hp Rovers. P&M did well too; of six that entered five won gold with one silver—and that went to veteran competitor Mrs Hardee, the only woman rider in the SSDT. The Judges’ Report makes interesting reading. “It is customary at the conclusion of a long-distance reliability trial for the judges to give an indication as to the general performance and conduct of the trial; and at the conclusion of the sixth Scottish Six Days Reliability Trial the judges are of opinion that they can state briefly the outstanding features of the trial as follow: Dealing first with the entry, which came to 125, this included practically all the

“JR Alexander, EA Colliver and E Frasetty, who formed the winning Indian team in the Scottish Trials, all of them riding the 7-9hp models.”

best known makes, and the entry can therefore be put down as thoroughly representative. The number of gold medals, 55 in all, is very satisfactory. The number of retirals, 44, is somewhat high, and can be accounted for in the following way: First—A somewhat unnecessary rashness displayed by some entrants in their riding. Second—A decided weakness in frame construction both of motor cycle and sidecar, especially noticeable with regard to certain makes. Third—A somewhat unexpected amount of mechanical trouble. Of the machines that finished, the great majority finished in very good condition, considering the strenuous nature of the trial. Dealing with the hill-climbing performances, these were, taken all over, good, although a few riders appeared tn have great difficulty on every one of the observed hills…The protests were few in number, and would have been still fewer had entrants perused the regulations more carefully. The judges had little difficulty in awarding the Manufacturers’ Team Prize to the Indian team, all three members of which gained full marks. The Club Team Prize was won by the Motor Cycling Club, represented by three Rover motor cycles, with comparative ease. All the other special awards the judges find it impossible to allocate, as several riders in the respective classes put up equally good performances. On two occasions the route had to be altered at the last minute through the road being washed away, but the judges are pleased to state that these alterations were of little consequence, and were carried through with comparative ease. Finally, the judges have to comment very favourabiy on the conduct of the competitors during the trial.” [This was a welcome change, following cases of ‘high spirits’ verging in hooliganism that had sprung up in the previous couple of years. Mind you, the incident of the table in the tree that you’ll find near the end of the following report indicates that the lads for still game for a lark]


THE MAN FROM THE MOTOR CYCLE had an eventful outing. “At the last moment I was compelled to take a borrowed 3½hp chain-driver as my means of locomotion to the Car TT in the Isle of Man, and in the Scottish Six Days. The machine was a somewhat aged sample, guaranteed by its owner to be in splendid tune, and equipped with enclosed chain drive and a 500cc engine, kick starter, and three-speed counter-shaft gear. I had originally offered to escort a novice, who had just bought his first machine at second-hand, from the. Midlands to Liverpool. We took half an hour to cover five miles, after which—in his interests —we ignominiously took the train. He was a fair sample of the handicaps under which the trade prospers. Some unscrupulous agent had sold him a 1913 mount in rotten condition; it could not exceed 25mph on the flat, nor climb a long grade of 1 in 17 with any certainty; nor had he the least notion that the machine was seriously amiss. I waited fifteen minutes for him five miles out, and he told me he was ‘all out’.”I examined the machine, found it had no compression, and that the front chain of the two-step drive was actually so loose that it was jumping the teeth of its sprockets. I took him back home, lent him one of my machines, and we caught the train to Liverpool. Incidentally, his own engine seized up solid on his return journey.

Trials other than Scotch.
In the Island my chain-driver proved all one could desire, giving no trouble of any sort or kind, and climbing the rough hairpinny ascent of Sulby Glen on second gear, which augured well for Scotland. On arrival in Edinburgh I was immediately stopped by the police for dangerous driving. As a wag says, the TT makes one oblivious of speed limits, and the Scottish Trials make one drive as if there could never be anything or anybody round a blind corner! I managed to see everything of interest on the Monday’s run, though I had cartloads of trouble. Imprimis, my engine was lubricated by a drip feed operated by crank case suction through a non-return ball valve at the lower end of the pipe. This dodge is admirable in the level Midlands, but it floods the engine with oil during the descent of the long Scottish hills, for there was no tap to stop the drip. I had only one spare plug, and if carbonised plugs are cleanable, it is no easy matter to scrape burnt oil off the inside insulation. Furthermore, some wag had apparently put a teaspoonful of potting loam from an hotel flower pot into my carburetter. I cleared the jet several times, and finally dismantled the entire carburetter. Then I had a bad nail puncture, and finally the petrol union came away from the tank—one of the most awkward mishaps to “fake” imaginable. However, the machine took Amulree on less than quarter throttle, and as it was now pretty well tuned up, I looked forward to a comfortable week.

Hairpins Galore, and Poor Driving.
Tuesday was a very severe day, and the machine ran like a clock—absolute non-stop.
Wednesday ditto. I was the first man up Abriachan Hill, and thought nothing of it; but the subsequent ascents cut up the bad corner considerably—the first sidecar ploughed a rut several inches deep clean round the centre of the hairpin; and there was, perhaps, more excuse for the many failures than I was inclined to credit. Every Scottish Trial is the same in one respect. On the opening days the men who are sampling the Scottish hairpins for the first time bungle their speed and steering abominably. In previous trials the bad corners have generally been reserved till late in the week. This year the men had two hairpins on Amulree, one on Trinafour, two on Cairn-o’-Mount, eight on Cockbridge, two on Abriachan, and one on Gruinard, all in the first three days, not to mention others of minor severity; so there was some excuse for the initial failures. Many riders of repute were already near the danger line between gold and silver medals by Monday night.

1914 SSDT 3 PICS
From the left: “A Sunbeam rider passes old farmhouses on the moors. WE Grange (6hp Bradbury sidecar) coming down Abriachan Hill. Mrs Hardee (3½hp P&M) rounding one of the bends on Glendoe.”

Applecross, and Other Worries.
On Thursday I had a very trying day. I had been troubled by an intermittent leak in the back tyre, similar to one which worried other riders on the same make of tyres The tyre deflated slowly. When in a hurry, one blew it up, and it lasted from ten to thirty miles. When one had a little leisure, one enquired into matters and found no sign of a leak, but the tube would not hold up half the day. On the Thursday morning the leak got worse, and out came the tube. One of the many patches which decorated it was ‘lifting’. I pulled it off, cleaned and solutioned the tube, and got my patch ready. Returning to the tube, I saw a bead of ugly glutinous moisture oozing from the hole—evidently some patent puncture sealing nostrum. The patch would not stick on the top of this mess; after some trouble, by holding the tube with the hole uppermost and draining the sticky mess round to the bottom, I got the patch to stick. When I blew the tube up, I found half a dozen other leaks, and the joint was also oozing the yellow sticky stuff. Out came the knife, and I slashed the tube in half, only to find that the spare tube was endless. Out came the wheel, a job which occupied no small time, as the axle nuts were rusted home on their spindle, so that it was very difficult to get both of them loose simultaneously; moreover, the hub-disc details of the rear chain case had been badly strained by the real owner and could not be induced to clear the sprocket all the way round. I now had a most fiendish ‘blind’ to the summit of Tornapress, having lost over two hours on the riders. However, as the engine was a real ‘revver’ and no more trouble cropped up, I got there just ahead of the riders, and cooled off lunchless in the thick blanket of white fog—lunchless, because as soon as the last men were over the hill, the first men were due back again, and it was not fair to descend in the fog whilst others were trying to ascend the rough tortuous track. On the return journey, which was non-stop, I swopped machines for some miles with a retired competitor, who could not get up Tornapress at any price. I formed the impression that the works bus, which he was riding, had been tuned with an eye to Brooklands rather than Highland hairpins. The ignition was timed so fast that it conked like a shipyard of Sunderland riveters when it was picking up on the flat; very nice when it once got ‘revving’, but how could such a mount be coached round the Applecross hairpins?

Transmission Troubles in the Wilds.
Friday was a terrible day. The machine ran like a Rolls-Royce to Glendoe. The last competitors to ascend had tailed out so badly that the trial was now miles ahead of me, and I resolved to take things easily on the way home, instead of scrapping madly after the main body. Gibson and Mundy came along on their withdrawn Morgans, together with two merry Scottish journalists on a plucky little Baby Peugeot, and we foregathered at the Whitebridge Inn a few miles over the summit of Glendoe for tea, little knowing what awaited some of us along the sixty-four miles which still lay between us and bed. Two miles further on my back chain broke; it did not jam and skid the wheel, as confrere ‘Ixion’ is wont to allege in his more pessimistic moments—the machine simply freeled into a deathly silent stop uphill. I began with the plan of detaching the chain case to recover any fractured bits. Gibson, Mundy, and their passengers beguiled my labours with humorous remarks, mostly taking the form of prophecies that my frame or engine were on the point of dissolution, and that they would see me carbonised before giving me a friendly lift. The makers of the machine tell me that the chain cases on this mount had been badly strained; but at any rate the five of us reluctantly concluded that to dismount the rear chain case, we should have to take off the back wheel and both the front sprockets. So I waxed reckless; prising the top split of the case apart an inch or so, I fished out the broken ends of the chain with a bent wire, mended them, spun the wheel, heard no noises save such has had always characterised the rear chain case, and left the broken fragments of the chain to do their worst; what became of them is a mystery, for they never reappeared, though I drove for miles with a finger on the clutch control for fear of an almighty jam-up.

“AF Downie (5-6hp Ariel Sidecar) coming down the road to Drumnadrochit during Thursday’s run in the Scottish Trials.”

A Novel Method of Starting.
After this all went well till we hit the lovely speed straights near Cawdor, where I had the fright of my life. I heard a terrible uproar astern, and looking round saw the two Grand Prix Morgans coming up behind me, one on each side of the road at a level sixty; and Mundy, I knew, was running on the canvas of his back tyre. I wriggled hastily to one side and let them through. These two machines, by the way, were hunting in couples because one of them would not start on the handle, and so the other used to tow it off by a rope which the passenger held. The groans of the passenger if the engine did not start within fifty yards, and the rope half cut his palm through, were frightful to hear. I let their dust subside—this took about ten minutes, and then ‘blinded’ off after them. Presently my engine began to get very hot, and glowed between my calves like a live coal. I oiled it up vigorously and slowed down. Clouds of blue smoke followed me, but it got hotter and hotter. I stopped and investigated to find the crank case drain plug missing. At a friendly smithy near by I got a huge rusty bolt, which I lashed into the orifice with wire and proceeded. At this point our photographer turned up. His own machine had broken its forks, and he was riding a borrowed twin, which would not look at Glendoe, and could only do 25mph all out. He had been compelled to go round by Drumnadrochit and Inverness after snapping the men on Glendoe, and was looking a thought weary.

Rags and Patches.
We rode on together, and about 9.30pm—fifteen miles from the night’s destination on top of a lonely moor in the rain—he punctured! His stand had already collapsed, so we laid the machine with the belly of its engine on a bank, and one of us steadied it whilst the other repaired the tube, which, incidentally, showed an enormous blister just by the valve. While we were thus busy the Baby Peugeot arrived, and we noticed that the neck of the umbrella coat, which was its driver’s chief pride in life, looked rather ragged. He explained that eleven punctures had exhausted their supply of patches, and he’d had recourse to his coat collar. We got going, and overtook them further on with yet another puncture, and gave them patches. Dropping into Grantown, my engine developed the most frightful moans, presumably the results of the previous oil leaks from the crank case. A congregation of experts at Grantown dismally surmised either ‘con rod’ or ‘big ends’, but after the 10pm meal (the first since 7am) I fancied the noise came from the front chain case, and aided by the kindly PW Bischoff, we took the front chain case off, and found the chain sagging against a security stud, having stretched a whole link in the five days. As all the adjustments were at their limit, and the nuts rusted home, and the tools in the kit grossly inadequate, it took us nearly two hours to adjust the chain, and shortly after midnight a weary pressman retired to bed, only to be awakened by shrieks of merriment when the barman dropped a marble-topped table from the top of a huge tree outside, whither two or three merry spirits had conveyed it.

An Inglorious Finish.
Next morning it was proved in the first mile or so that the slack chain had not been solely responsible for all the moans of Friday, and miles from anywhere the engine suddenly seized up solid at speed, another motoring fatality being averted by the writer’s cautious habit of keeping a finger near the clutch control when driving on rigid transmissions. I draw a veil over my progress to the station; I ran the machine thither, as the time-table showed that by catching the first train I could overtake the trial and get a lift on a car. The cross-country route to the station was far more truly Colonial than anything previously encountered, and in one place a small loch had overflowed it for 100 yards to a depth of 6in or so. Next year I shall report the Scottish Six Days on my own machine. It is false economy to subject a borrowed mount to the gruelling such a week implies, and it is absolutely necessary to have a complete and intimate acquaintance with one’s machine.”