It was almost a cliche that every six days trial was “the toughest ever” but as bikes became tougher the ACU reacted by making the course tougher too, to sort the wheat from the chaff. Like the TT, the long-distance trials were consciously designed to improve the breed. The 1920 event, based at Darlington, was brutal. And having pounded their bikes across the Yorkshire moors the survivors rode down to Brooklands to estabish that they could still run fast and stop safely. There were thrills and spills aplenty…
“THE PRELIMINARY REGULATIONS for the ACU Six Days Trial have now been issued. It has been mentioned already in The Motor Cycle that the trial is to conclude with half an hour’s run at speed and a brake test on the test hill at Brooklands. Those who disapproved of the ‘silence’ test in last year’s trial may be disappointed to learn that a test for ‘silence’ will again be included. This time there will be three judges, one using the Low audiometer, and the other two will judge by ear. Tests will be made on the first and last days, and five marks, or less, will be forfeited in each test. Only the quietest motor cycle in each class will lose no marks…200 marks will be credited to each competitor distributed as follow: 100 marks for reliability—ie, adherence to schedule, 1 mark per minute, or part of a minute, over allowance will he deducted; maximum penalty will be 50 in any one day. Fifty mMarks for hill-climbing; the positions of the hills will not be published; 5 marks will be deducted for one or more stops on any one test hill. Braking—motor cycles to descend Brooklands test hill
without stopping at a maximum speed from top to bottom of 10mph; 20 marks, or less, at the discretion of the judges, will be deducted on results only, without design being taken into consideration. Twenty marks for condition at finish—competitor or entrant may be present at the examination following the half hour’s running on Brooklands, 5 marks or less may be deducted at the discretion of the judges, and for defects obvious on examination; 5 marks for failure to reach the schedule speed, plus 1 mark for every mile or part of a mile per hour below that speed, up to a maximum of 15 marks. The schedule speeds (solo) are: 250cc, 25mph; 350cc, 30mph; 50cc, 35mph; 750cc, 38mph; 1,000cc, 40mph (sidecar) 350cc, 22mph; 50cc, 24mph; 750cc, 28mph; 1,000cc, 32mph; over 1,000cc, 33mph. Ten marks for silence; 5 marks or less in each of tests on first and last days. The quietest motor cycle in each class to lose no marks. Fuel consumption during part of the trial may be recorded. Minimum weights and tyre sizes are the same as last year; ie, 250cc, 88lb (1¾in); 350cc, 110lb (2in); 500cc, 132lb (2¼in); 750cc, 154lb (2¼in); 1,000cc, 176lb (2½in). Awards will be granted on the following marks: 250cc, 150 gold, 135 silver, 110 bronze; 350cc solo, 175cc gold, 165cc silver, 140 bronze; 350 sidecar, 150 gold, 135 silver, 110 bronze; 500cc solo, 175 gold, 165 silver, 140 bronze; 500cc sidecar, 160 gold, 145 silver, 120 bronze; 750cc solo, 180 gold, 170 silver, 145 bronze; 750cc sidecar, 175 gold, 165 silver, 140 bronze; 1,000cc solo, 180 gold, 170 silver, 145 bronze; 1,000cc sidecar, 175 gold, 165 silver, 140 bronze; over 1,000cc sidecar, 175 gold, 165 silver, 140 bronze. The entry will be limited to 150 machines. ”
“FORTY DIFFERENT MAKES OF MOTOR cycles are represented in this week’s annual reliability trials of the Auto Cycle Union. It will be recalled that the entry list was limited to 150, and actually 139 names were sent in. Of this number 133 started on Monday last. Right from the commencement of the 918¼ miles trial the hills were severe in the extreme, as those acquainted with the Yorkshire and Northumbrian districts will agree. Writing at Darlington from a recollection of some of the hills which in pre-war days were accepted as freak climbs, it can confidently be forecasted that the conditions will prove quite the most difficult yet encountered.
One remembers similar suppositions on the part of competitors on the eve of previous big trials, but there can be no gainsaying that a gold medal in the 1920 Six Days Trials will prove a trophy of which to be proud. After an examination of the 95 solo and 38 passenger machines ranged up in the official garages, one is impressed by their workmanlike appearance and complete equipment. Judged as a whole, the machines are magnificent. If any motor cycles in the world are capable of the worst trial that even the ACU can provide, then the 1920 models assembled at Darlington this week will come through all right. Believing, as The Motor Cycle does, in the future of the lightweight, we were glad to see 14 entrants in this class for engines up to 275cc. But the course does not favour lightweights. Mountain tracks which no sane man would ever dream of traversing awheel in the ordinary way are there to transmit shocks and exert the greatest possible stresses on frames and fittings. And this is in a measure the weakness of the event, for its very difficulties encourage the piling on of weight to meet extreme conditions to the disadvantage of the ordinary everyday tourist. This explains to some extent why 3½hp machines have gone up from 160lb to the modern weight of approximately 300lb. Weight reduction—not addition—should, we again urge, be one of the objects of the ACU in both solo and sidecar machines, and particularly the former. Light weight means economy in tyre wear and general running costs. Single-cylinder engines easily held sway with a total of 69, V-twins numbering 49, and flat twins 13. There were also six side-by-side twin two-strokes entered, and two three-cylinder radial engines, but one regrets that there are no four-cylinder machines in this year’s event. Improved attention is clearly being paid to mudguarding and silencing, though two-strokes (25 of them were entered) with one exception appear noisy in comparison with the four-stroke engine. The results will bring out the efficacy of the design of these two outstanding items. It is interesting also to note that a 500cc two-stroke made its appearance in this week’s trial, and its performance will be watched with considerable interest by two-stroke enthusiasts. Since there are many who look upon this type of mount as foreshadowing the moderate priced passenger machine of the future.”
“ALL ROADS LED TO DARLINGTON on Saturday, the centre for the 1920 Auto Cycle Union Six Days Reliability Trials. As a matter of fact the majority of those who journeyed up from the Midlands manufacturing districts elected to sample Park Rash Hill, near Kettlewell, one of the most terrifying gradients of the Trial, which had to be ascended on the first day. They experienced varying fortunes, some proclaiming the hill unclimbable with a sidecar—a rash statement, the truth of which was dispelled by several successful ascents late in the afternoon. Naturally, the severity of this year’s course was the subject of general comment as the riders gathered round the dinner tables on Saturday evening. It goes without saying, too, that ‘the hills are the roughest and most severe ever known, etcetera’. One gets used to this sort of eleventh hour summing up of the Six Days Trials as the years roll round; still, from our knowledge of several of the freak hills included, we are inclined to agree that the whole event will be up to 1921 standard, by which we mean that conditions must necessarily increase in severity as machines are improved year…Sunday morning last saw competitors putting the finishing touches to their machines in the various garages through- out the town. Between 2 and 3pm each man had to report to the ACU offices and there receive numbers and route cards and book of meal coupons (a reminder of the Dutch Trial), afterwards handing his machine over to the weighbridge officials and then to the official garage for sealing. Each mount had its tank filled before the weighing operations ready for the start at 8am on the morrow. Generally speaking, they are a fine lot of workmanlike mounts, which go to form a splendid representation of the various types of motor cycles manufactured today. From lightweights of 275cc the machines range throughout the scale up to luxurious sidecars and runabouts, all of which are bound to be examined with keen interest at Brooklands on Saturday. Judged by numbers, the most popular machine in the Trial is the Rover with ten representatives, Triumphs having nine, Sunbeams eight, and AJS seven. The numbers of machines in the various classes are: Solo, A (275cc), 14; B (350cc), 17; C (500cc), 25; D (750cc), 36; E (1,000cc), 3. Passenger: G (500cc), 3; H (750cc), 11; K (1,000cc), 21; L (over 1,000cc), 3.”
“WE UNFORTUNATES WHO HAVE COME up to Darlington by road fully understand why the ACU have come North for its 1920 trials venue. The modern machine is so reliable that no week of ordinary riding can find out its weaknesses. Hence, the tendency in modern trials is to select roads guaranteed to smash up anything, and north of Doncaster heavy industrial traffic has simply knocked the roads to pieces. They are scolloped from side to side into potholes as big as soup tureens, and several competing machines were stalled by the roadside yesterday all the way from Doncaster to Catterick…the Southern entrants had a rare shaking up on their way here, and are saying glumily that the ‘blinding’ previously utilised to make up time after a bad section in the Six Days will be a physical impossibility this year…As usual, there is much circumstantial evidence about the ferocity of the hills. The Rev EP Greenhill fought the Competitions Committee tooth and nail to get Rosedale Abbey Bank excluded, and failed. A Yorkshire enthusiast, who owns a Rolls-Royce, has made umpteen attempts to climb Park Rash, and has given it best in sheer despair. One firm intended to enter a team of single-cylinder sidecars, but after a practice tour elected to send its men round solo…Thirty or forty men who went to practise on Park Rash yesterday, turn pale, and hastily order drinks when any local pundit
pronounces that Park Rash is a gentle incline by comparison with others which he names…the 1920 trials will unquestionably prove far more severe than any of their predecessors…these trials may bring the old ‘freak hill’ policy to a head…If the weather converts arduous stunts into practical impossibilities we may see a radical revision of policy in 1921…As all old competition riders knows there is usually a vast amount of ‘blinding’ in an ACU Six Days. Reliability marks used to depend on punctual arrival at certain given points. It paid the men to keep well ahead of time in case some rough and dangerous section should have to be taken at a mere crawl. This year a rider’s time ‘may’ be taken at any point of the 918-mile course. This is roughly equivalent to threatening us with an unlimited number of secret checks over the whole 918 miles of the route…To the general strain of riding must now be added the necessity of being not more than ten minutes late or early for a whole week!”
“Monday: 161½ miles; test hill, Park Rash.
Competitors were early astir on Monday for the eight o’clock start. All except six weighed in. The first forty solo men had sidecars brigaded with them, so to speak, an arrangement which was later to prove catastrophic, as it led to serious baulking on Park Rash after lunch. Thus Nos 1 (Radco solo) and 101 (ABC sidecar) started simultaneously, and so on. Perfect weather greeted the start, the week-end’s rain having laid the dust, whilst a cold wind had dried off all the grease, and the absence
of sun suggested that the ACU would have less cause to criticise air-cooling than in 1919. Most made good starts, but one could detect whether they used benzole or petrol, thus despatching the claim that modern benzole is odourless…Mrs 0M Knowles (3½hp Norton), the only lady competitor, received a hearty cheer from the spectators…Several competitors were wearing light-coloured oilskins, which, worn with a belt, stuck out at the skirt like the dress of the ballet girl…The first forty miles inspired incredulity in the competitors’ minds. The surfaces were uniformly excellent. There were no hills. The route would have been dull to a degree if there had been no scenery to gaze at. A pack of foxhounds and a somewhat resentful bull provided the only relief from the tedium of reeling oft level miles at rather less than legal limit. The steep rough descent of Old Church Bank into Pateley Bridge suggested that the leopard does not change its spots, and that the ACU would shortly revert to its old policy of trying to smash machines…Presently the road surfaces
became more worthy of the ACU reputation. Potholed macadam is good going compared to roads made of enormous setts, patches of which have subsided a foot or so. Fork springs could be heard clashing up solid…naked rocks jutting up rough the moorland road threw several men off, and gave us all a rare jolting…A nasty little climb out of Kettlewell brought the riders into a grassy lane, ordered with innumerable cars and cycles, and at the end of a mile a paralysing spectacle burst upon their gaze. A steep hillside formed a natural grandstand for hundreds of spectators, round whom an apparently vertical scree of sand and loose stones curved away in a blind corner. The gradient is possibly 1 in 4, but the surface constitutes the real difficulty, steering being the problem for solo men, whilst tyre adhesion is the crux for sidecarists…The first few men, both solos and sidecars, all failed, and just when the spectators had begun to denounce the hill as unclimbable, ‘Pa’ Applebee made the first clean ascent, though his little Levis was jolted all over the road by the stones…Sam Wright’s Humber was the first sidecar to make the hill look possible for three-wheelers, and Packman put up an equally good show with his Matchless. Stobart did even better by bringing his James up with the passenger seated instead of bouncing on the carrier. Nott was baulked. Colver’s gear lever was jolted into neutral. Mrs. Hardee provided a touch of humour by helping to push her husband’s outfit up. Smith’s Enfield and sidecar turned a complete circle and ran over a boy seated by the roadside, which shows how the surface flung the outfits about. Hall’s was the only Morgan to conquer the hill, but Boddington looked like making a clean climb when his chain broke…At night the judges wisely decided to ignore all failures on the hill and to award five bonus marks for clean ascents. The route home included grass fields minus a track, each rider taking his own line to a gap in the far wall. Such gaps often embody a stone step so high that crank cases may foul it.
Tuesday: 165½ miles; test hills, Summer Lodge, Buttertubs Pass, White Shaw Moss, The Stake.
After yesterday’s sample of a real Yorkshire hill, competitors were highly expectant this morning when they set out via Reeth. There was a succession of short and sharp rises among the Pennines. Swaledale was followed as far as Crackpot, and then came a fearsome hill known as Summer Lodge, which unseated nearly every competitor. Some had the power, but were hopelessly baulked again by the sidecars, which in one case stopped in a group with a Morgan broadside across the narrow road. The surface of this hill was described by Darnton, the Powerplus Indian rider, as a combination of a ploughed field and the Brighton beach, but the several twists were only just wide enough for a sidecar machine, so that passing was next to impossible. Brandish (Rover), Pa Applebee (Levis), Turvey (BSA), D Alexander (Enfield sc), and S Wright (Humber sc), were among the ten or a dozen who claimed clean ascents…at Feetham there was a sharp rise, grass-grown, resembling the roof of a house, known as Beatgate Bank, leading to Barnard Castle. Most competitors got up comfortably despite the stones and a flock of sheep, which gave the photographers their opportunity. It was noticed how well the lightweights kept a straight course, and how agile the sidecar passengers had already become in scrambling on to the carriers. The Dunelt two-strokes are already notable for splendid climbing abilities, and the Velocettes were showing up magnificently among the lightweights. On to Arkengarthdale Moor, over the Buttertubs Pass, to the Wensleydale side, some of the riders were beginning to look crestfallen, knowing that White Shaw Moss still required attention before lunch at Ingleton. Rumours of the withdrawal of the Clyno entrants (later confirmed), owing to the ‘unreasonable conditions’ were abroad at Buttertubs. Here, at the 220th mile, there was a secret check. EE Palmer (3hp ABC sc)
led the way on Buttertubs Pass, and made light of the hill. This rider’s showing on the steep gradients is so far a revelation. He was followed by Handley (OK), and Baxter (Radco), and all got up splendidly. The Morgans were fast, the Scotts glided up, the Zeniths roared up, the Triumphs went up as good Triumphs usually do, and the Nut-JAP riders to a man were good. Ryecroft hit a boulder, which lifted his machine clear of the ground…Knowles (Hobart) had the bad luck to break his belt on the hill when already 50min late. Sullivan (4hp Harley-Davidson) stopped momentarily through mulling the gear change, whilst all the AJS sidecars did excellently. Darnton on his red Indian—which he affectionately calls his ‘Fire Engine’ streaked up the gradient. Turvey and Co on the BSAs simply toured up. Douglas Alexander (Enfield)—probably the fastest sidecarist—added one more hill to his bag. White Shaw Moss is a long, rough hill, compounded of turf and boulders, with two bad knuckles, of which the worse comes at the very foot—a sharp bend covered with loose stones, and utterly devoid of any decent track. A narrow strip of hard stuff on the right soon terminates in a jutting ledge of rock, which caused worse wobbles than the loose stuff in the centre. There were, of course, innumerable failures, and all the passenger machines had an anxious time; not a few solo riders fell, charged walls or ditches, or even swung right round and began to go down again. The lightweights, as usual, were flung here, there, and everywhere, but Jones (Velocette) and Kuhn (Levis) made fine ascents, whilst Denley and Goodman actually waggled their Velocettes through a tangle of stranded sidecars on the very worst pitch. Newman on the little New Imperial and Clark on the Coulson lived up to their Park Rash reputation. Kershaw on a Verus was good, but Pa Applebee took a heavy fall. Price on the Diamond and Wills on a Verus were astonishingly fast for their power. The sidecar drivers were all
in a cleft stick. If they came up slowly they lost steering way—a catastrophe which befell many. If they came up fast, their back wheels spun. Eric Williams made the first clean sidecar climb with his passenger on the carrier. Sam Wright brought the Humber up fast, but a gigantic skid brought his sidecar into the wall with a thud. Packman came up finely, as did Nott and Ross (both are experts at throttle work coupled with scientific bouncing)—a fine show for Matchless machines. Ashley on the LMC sc was also good, but nobody bettered Smith’s 8hp Enfield outfit, which was extremely fast. HFS Morgan bounced his reluctant back tyre into biting the stones, and got up well. F James’s Morgan did not arrive till the surface had been cut to ribbons, but he got up; and Hall’s Morgan made a most spectacular dive between two stranded bicycles, and scored a good climb. Douglas Alexander (Enfield sc) dispensed with bumping, and his passenger remained in the sidecar. Capt Charlesworth was faster, but his passenger was on the carrier, bouncing in unison with the driver. Foster’s Dot-JAP made a similar ascent. The heavier solo machines scored many first rate climbs. The Sunbeam crowd were particularly impressive, especially Dance. Mrs Knowles (Norton) made a lovely climb, as steady as if she had been on macadam. Longman on the Ariel was cool and masterful. Three P&Ms conked out in a heap. Wood and Langman on Scotts were superb, as was Davidson on the Harley-
Davidson. The Triumphs came up confidently in a cluster, Green and Edmond a foot apart shouldering each other like lovebirds. Chambers on the Zenith, was a sensible climb—slow and sure. By contrast Gayford, on a sister machine, came up far too fast, turned a complete circle, and went on just as though the feat had been intentional. After lunch at Ingleton, Kidstones Pass, succeeded by a further climb known as The Stake, unseated a number of riders on the homeward run. Near the top there are two turns, many stones, and the usual slippery stretches of grass. PW Bischoff was a spectator and announced the decision to withdraw the Clyno entrants. Major Watling pronounced the course thus far as more difficult than the Scottish Trials. No 1 (Baxter), clad in his familiar aluminium coat, led on the Radco, W Cooper, who is verifying the course on his Morris Cowley light car, having passed a few minutes earlier, and incidentally received a cheer from the many Yorkshiremen present for a very neat ascent. Pehrson (Dunelt sc) had to be assisted due to wheel slip. FW Applebee (Levis) when going gamely hit a huge boulder, which diverted his front wheel up a steep grass bank which he mounted like a sheep on a wall, high and dry. He gamely went on again. Jones (Velocette) used his foot merely to keep upright. Davies (AJS sc) was very good; also Eric and Cyril Williams on similar machines. Hall (OK) was very good; also Lidstone (James), Hanks (Enfield), Denley and Goodman (Velocettes), Porter and Kuhn (Levises). Now Mr Alfred Scott demonstrated the hill-climbing powers of his new Sociable, which buzzed away merrily up the hill. Cocks and Bees on their two-stroke Beardmore-Precisions showed up well. Price (Diamond) travelled well, though he got in a rut and was thrown on the descent of the other side to Bainbridge. Robinson (ABC) made a clean ascent, and in fact the majority of the solo mounts which showed up conspicuously on other hills. But ill luck awaited many of the sidecar men, who had proved themselves well able to account for sheer
gradient, for a wet grassy patch on the very summit stopped quite a dozen sidecarists through sheer inability to get a wheel grip. Just above this stretch Dr Low’s Audiometer was in operation—quite the last straw to many enraged riders!—but, of course, many wily men who detected the instrument simply dropped into low gear and closed their throttles to minimise the effect! A cinema man completed the fare provided at The Stake. Strange (James), who has been doing well, suffered a fall on the descent to Bainbridge over a grass track with a very uneven surface. Newman did not arrive on his new Imperial, due, it was discovered later, to a seized gear box near Arncliffe. Boddington (Morgan) was delayed by a puncture. We rode with a group of fourteen men homewards, one DA Atkin on a twin Rover actually describing his experience so far as ‘topping’. The Ariel riders were members of the party, happy as usual, but short of Watson whose engine seized and caused his withdrawal.
Wednesday: 134½ miles.
Another fine day, and an easy route. The original programme included Rose- dale Abbey Bank, reputed to be the worst on the entire course, but the stewards wisely decided to substitute a switch road, as the July rains were said to have washed the
filling out of the gulleys, and there was some risk of broken crank cases. Crowds of Northern motorists had flocked to Rosedale, and the change of route caused them great disappointment, which the more sporting competitors unquestionably shared. After lunch, there were a few gentle hills, of which Boltby could claim mild difficulties ; a good deal of roughish going ; lots of fine scenery; and a regular series of watersplashes, several of which were quite sporting. The only incident worthy of record before lunch was WH Wells’s astute placing of the secret check. He found a smooth switchback over a lofty moor and hid just behind the crest of a hump, which a preceding dip tempted us all to rush. Some of the boys were too smart for him even then: they had noticed that these checks generally occurred near one of the ACU ‘twenty-mile’ boards, one of which was just about due. So WHW did not catch as many men as he expected. The little market town of Thirsk was crowded, its great square forming a fine park for spectator’s machines. After lunch there was a general rush to Boltby hill, which drew a huge crowd. It is quite a fair test, the main difficulties consisting of a stony centre and deep cross gulleys, whilst a watersplash 100 yards from the foot did not please the belt-drivers. Failures were few, being practically confined to the weaker lightweights and to passenger machines which encountered tyre stops…The later hills were of no special account, but an insignificant incline becomes formidable when preceded by a watersplash, and we quite lost count of the fords along this section. Hawmby Edwards (BSA) found a deep hole in it and fell very heavily. Several men had plugs put out of action, and Mrs Knowles got water in her magneto, and had to blind in order to save her time marks. It is generally supposed that splashes are included only to test belts: so it is worth putting on record that they detect weaknesses in ignition, both as regards construction and location. Several of the splashes were officially observed. The two Dunelt two-strokes were still going strong, but the sidecar machine was handicapped by having a too high gear; Pearson’s bottom gear was only 12 to 1—rather high for a 500cc outfit. One competitor suggested that the 1921 trials should be held in Lincolnshire in order to avoid so many ‘nasty’ hills. Westwood Wills rode the last twenty- one miles into Darlington on the rim. He ‘never mends punctures’, his stock of spare tubes was exhausted, and the deflated cover refused to stay on the rim. Lidstone, on the James, had trouble at a splash owing to the water dragging his coat into the naked magneto chain, but he managed to get going again. Some of the old hands always dismount and examine a splash before entering it. There were horrid rumours of a ford which was paved with green slime, so that no solo machine could cross it erect. After this day’s easy run some of the more ardent spirits were pining for more hills to conquer.
Thursday: 160½ miles.
A fine day again, and easy roads. Much of the route lay over main roads of excellent surface, so that the men were able to enjoy many gorgeous panoramas of dale and heather. Dust has begun to be mildly troublesome, and the roads were choked with clouds of it immediately after breakfast, when a few men took advantage of the good going to blind ahead and gain time to change tyres. Several of the passenger machines were thus engaged, and in the preliminary sprint they raised the road surface almost sky high. Otherwise, the only real excitement before lunch was a gem of a watersplash. Mercifully, for the sake of the competitors, it was not observed by any official, for only 5% of the men got through without trouble. It was particularly deceptive. The canny men prospected on foot, and seeing only 8in of water charged ahead. Unfortunately, the bottom was soft mud and very deep. Some fell in the stream, others stuck fast in a vertical position, and many got their magnetos or carburetters (or both) full of water. Loud were the curses when the unfortunates discovered there was no ACU observer in the crowd, so that all the solo machines might have utilised the narrow footbridge. At one time two Morgans lay cheek by jowl in the stream, completely blocking the passage, and later on the correspondent of a well-known daily paper stuck fast, and, refusing to wet his feet, waited until a horse was fetched to tow his car out. The afternoon run commenced with the long climb up to Alston, the highest town in England. This was a top gear run for most
men, and the fine surface allowed us to enjoy the view which embraces four counties. After ascending Kilhope we were despatched on various excursions up byroads into the wilderness, but the going on the narrow tracks was uniformly hard, and the gradients, if sharp, were usually short…We noticed the Dunelt sidecar tackling Peat Bank in exemplary fashion. Its cooling is evidently very efficient. Sam Wright’s attitude, as his Humber roared up, was eloquent of contempt, as if to say, ‘Do they think this miserable pimple will puzzle me?’ The much advertised watersplash near Bollihope was not adorned by official observers after all. Billy Cooper had taken out a special warning placard ‘Dangerous Watersplash—Slippery Bottom’, but instead of the expected 2ft a mere 4in of water was trickling lazily over the not very slimy stones. Many riders had got such wind up about this splash that they deliberately took the footbridge, though they thought the splash was ‘observed’, preferring to lose marks rather than risk their machines. The ‘clever’ brigade first searched the knot of bystanders for a man with a brassard, and then took the bridge. Even then Nemesis overtook them, for there was a 9in drop off the end of the bridge…For some mysterious reason this afternoon’s run concluded with nearly thirty miles of mining villages. Incredible potholes, innumerable children, and illimitable number of dogs infested the roadways. The riders were very fed up when they reached Darlington.
Friday: 204¼ miles.
To the general relief, Friday opened fine, for the penultimate day’s run is generally a teaser, and if rain and grease had been added to the horrors of our 200 miles this day there would have been many retirements. All the disagreeables came before lunch. They began with the grass and stones leading up to Park Rash from the reverse side. Then came the descent of that notorious hill—quite the fiercest of many very practical brake tests during the day. Mrs Knowles confesses she would rather go up ten times than down once, and many of the men zigzagged to ease the gradient. There was a little good going into Ilkley, and towards the top of Keighley Gate a spell of horrors began. The climb out of Ilkley bothered nobody, but the moor road to Keighley consists of a series of pits and boulders, well calculated to smash up sidecars and buckle wheel rims. The pave through Keighley is notorious. Thwaites Brow was dry, so there was no fear of skidding on this quaintly paved corkscrew, and the men romped up its easy incline. Then came the climax of the whole trial so far as discomfort and risk was concerned—Harden Bank. It is difficult to make this abominable hill live in cold print. It has no gradient worth mentioning, but its surface is simply indescribable. In lieu of the small loose stones which compose the surface of most rough hills, the reader must imagine innumerable big stones, deeply embedded in sandy soil, with long prism-shaped edges exposed. Many of them are a foot long, and protrude six inches. Here and there, particularly on the inside of the
second bend, there are tremendous reefs of solid rock. One loose boulder lying in the fairway weighed a good 50lb. A rider who knows the correct path up the hill can watch his front wheel and dodge the more violent collisions. A first timer must look ahead for the wisest track, and let his front wheel take its punishment. Very few solo men got up without using their feet to correct wobbles. The passenger machines had little trouble until the middle of the first hairpin, which is a left-hand bend, got cut up into a morass. The crews for once had no need to bounce deliberately; the rocks saw to that part of the business. Many fine ascents were made, nevertheless, and a big crowd of spectators thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. Of the lightweights. Hanks (Royal Enfield), Kershaw (Verus), and Clark (Coulson), impressed us most. FW Applebee (Levis) got an ovation. Price (Diamond) was flung up the bank, but he never stopped his engine. He just let his machine slide back on to the road, let in his clutch again, and went happily on—a great stunt. Kershaw never took his feet off the rests—a very neat, clever climb. Baxter’s Radco has been geared too high for some of the worse hills. Harden suited him, and he did excellently. Most of the passenger machines bounced masterfully up, having a hard bottom for their driving tyres. The Dunelt sc did excellently tor so small an engine. HFS Morgan made a fearsome climb at speed, roaring and rolling. The bigger solo machines had the easiest task, as their weight and speed gave steady steering if they enhanced the personal misery. Frank Applebee (ABC) shot up at a great rate with his feet on the rests. Dance (Sunbeam), of course, was fast. When we got on to a proper road again, we were in the manufacturing district. Everything was black and grimy, a dirty haze hung overhead, and the common objects of the roadside were dogs, children, trams, setts, wool lorries, and pot-holes as big as baths. But the road was wide, the police were encouraging, and there was a miniature TT along the streets of Brighouse and Huddersfield to lunch, where another vast crowd awaited us. A very few miles of dirty streets sufficed to release us from Huddersfield and its horrors, and the sole incident of the afternoon was the timed climb up Holme Moss—a long, easy main road hill with a medium hairpin or two, and lots of spectators. No police were present, the road was open to ordinary traffic, and there was a mild procession of non-competing motors in both directions. For example, just as a Tin Lizzie was trying to overtake a 5-ton lorry on the worst hairpin two sidecar combinations (Sam Wright and Eric Williams) roared round neck and neck, and got thoroughly baulked. Again, when George Dance was roaring up to cut the hairpin, he met a big American twin coming down on the very angle of the bend. The crowd were eagerly waiting for Mrs Knowles, and she took her Norton up in most workmanlike fashion at a good
bat. Seen at the top, Eric Williams (AJS), Bladder (New Imperial), and Fell-Smith (Blackburne) were the most impressive sidecars on a fast straight. Of the rest the James and Velocette babies, with Wills’s Verus, were very speedy, whilst Ryecroft (Triumph), Applebee (ABC), and Morgan (Morgan) simply tore past us. When we had cleared the moors above the Woodhead reservoirs we got on to decent Midland roads, switchbacky to Ashbourne and flat through Staffordshire and Warwickshire. High speed was the order of the day. The fringe of spectators by the roadside gradually threatened to become all but continuous. The streets of Lichfield were full. At Coleshill the police had difficulty in keeping a narrow lane open for us to pass, and at Stonebridge every lover of motors in both Birmingham and Coventry had congregated. At Kenilworth the exigencies of hotel accommodation split the trial into two parties bound for Leamington and Warwick respectively. Had Mrs Knowles’s billet been in Coleshill, probably she would have gained a gold medal, for her performance was one of the best in the trial. Fate was against her however, for in Berkswell a non-competitor emerging from a side road ran into her, with the result that she was rendered unconscious. Thus ended a tiring day.
The last day: 113½ miles; total 918¼ miles.
The last day. Main roads and no secret checks! What a relief to the tired survivors who set out from Coleshill on the las leg of the hardest trial that has ever been organised. The majority took it easy, but others availed themselves of the opportunity to get ahead i order to make adjustments and polish up their machines for the final examination…Whilst many machines appeared to be in as good condition as when they started, on passing some of the others we detected strange noises suggesting that the terrible gruelling had left its mark upon the mechanism. The AJS sidecars were in splendid condition, the Triumphs and Scotts were burbling along, while the American representatives—Indian and Harley-Davidson solo models—were causing their riders no anxiety…Near Oxford we came upon Mrs Knowles, who was so keen to see the finish that, against the doctor’s orders, she had accepted the pillion of Grieg’s Sunbeam in order’ to get there. We took her aboard our passenger machine, and proceeded on our way, and shared in the very friendly ovations with which her fellow competitors greeted her. Through Henley, Maidenhead, Windsor, and Staines, the run was just a tour, which would have been boring to the tired riders had not a ‘gold’ been in sight. Just before two o’clock the
leaders were turning into Brooklands race track. Round the bends and through the tunnel they came with smiling faces, then into the paddock to be parked while they had lunch. Before the last man was in, the brake test had started on the test hill. To prove that one had perfect control over a machine in free engine on a 1 in 4 required an ability to balance at a snail’s pace on the part of the solo riders. Only a small minority failed in the test. Knowles could not hold his Hobart, and the brakes on Charlesworth’s Zenith were not quite sufficiently powerful to bring him to a stop. Quite a number of brakes squeaked and squealed, but the great majority were silent. Alexander’s Enfield had its wheel locked, and he slithered a little on his steel studs. Among the best performances we saw were Smith’s Enfield sidecar, S Hall’s Morgan, de la Hay’s Sunbeam, Robbs’s NUT, Edwards’s BSA, Strange’s James, Batten’s P&M, Hardee’s Matchless, White’s and Danskin’s Rovers, and Longman’s Ariel. Dr AM Low was the judge for this event, and apparently he relied upon his own judgment instead of the watch. Most of the riders came down the hill at less than 1mph, hence
the watch was useless, and Dr Low, therefore, called upon them to increase speed, and then pull up. After this test, the competitors rode to the fork to start their speed test. Here again the regulations appear to have been altered, for although the programme stated that the test was to be for half an hour, the competitors received instruction cards upon which was stated the number of laps which had to be covered at a certain speed…only a few lost marks in this test. In fact many competitors seemed to cast caution to the winds and indulged in a real speed burst, covering their number of laps well within their time. A number of the competitors had never seen Brooklands, and to ride on it was to realise their dreams, and it says something for modern engines that they stood up to this open throttle treatment at the hands of those who had no previous experience on Brooklands, where an engine requires twice as much lubrication. Fate had reserved a trick or two for a few unfortunates. The engine of Stobart’s James sidecar, which had done so splendidly during the trial, developed trouble, as did Kaye Don’s Zenith. The former was towed in, and the latter did his required number of laps on one cylinder. FA Applebee (ABC) actually ran out of petrol, and caused his father (the veteran FW, or Pa, as he is familiarly known) some anxiety when he did not reappear. E Redvers Johnson (4½hp Humber) got into a speed wobble, and fell heavily, hurting his hands badly. Tonks (New Imperial) ran over a Cowey horn on the track and suffered a fall. Touring bars are not really suitable for track work. Sam Wright’s Humber sidecar did all that was required, and he received many congratulations for bringing so small a sidecar through the trial.”
133 starters, 33 retired, 88 Gold medals, 5 silver medals, 1 Bronze medal, 2 no awards, 3 disqualified, 1 withdrawn. Manufacturer’s team prize: Scott (+11 marks). Runner up, Triumph (-5); followed by Veloce (-12), BSA (-13), Harley-Davidson (-16), NUT (-17), Humber (-18), Sunbeam, and AJS (-22), Enfield and Rover (-25), P&M (-38), James (-90), Zenith (-101). Club team prize, Worcester &DMCC (no other club teams qualified). Private owners’ team prize, RW Duke’s team of Triumph riders; runner up, FJ Ellis’s teAm of Matchless riders. NEAA special prize, F Turvey (4¼hp BSA). Ex-DR’s prize, W Westwood (4hp Triumph). Mrs OM Knowles (Norton) was given a special prize subscribed for by her felLow competitors.
“IT WOULD APPEAR THAT the ACU judges did not pay their usual careful attention to ‘condition’ at the finish of the Six Days Trials. Had they done so fewer gold medals would have been awarded. This year, machines with (1) a broken footboard, (2) leaks cured with Plasticine, (3) a broken valve rocker, (4) a broken piston, and (5) a burst silencer were passed with full marks for condition. Clearly the five cases enumerated escaped the usually keen eye of the examiners, who completed their task in three or four hours on Saturday evening. Why such cursory inspection should have satisfied the judges this year, when last September the examination was not only severe but ultra critical, we are unable to explain. There is no object in our hiding these facts, for many competitors well-know the machines we refer to. The effect of the omission to discover and penalise such defects has the effect of discounting the value of a gold medal. No fewer than eighty-eight riders of the ninety-six finishers are provisionally awarded gold medals, when actually a careful examination of the machines under the important, heading of ‘condition at the finish’ would have provided valuable data and thinned the ranks of the gold medalists, whilst at the same time increasing the value of the chief award. There are always grumbles after every big trial, and this year the nature of the route came in for the greatest criticism. It must, however, be realised that the ACU is doing its best to provide for the motor cycles, a year’s work in a week’s time, and the surfaces must be vile to fulfil such demands. Generally, the trial was well organised, and is bound
to benefit the pastime in many. ways…certain competitors withdrew in protest against the difficult nature of the route. Their action only served to emphasise the merit of the achievement of those who successfully survived the course. The ACU is, however, somewhat to blame for including hills in the programme which were afterwards omitted on the score of condition. Either these hills should never have been included or else the competitors should have been taken over the route published at all costs. Not only do such changes affect competitors, but also spectators. Some hundreds of keen motor cyclists had assembled to watch the performances at Rosedale Abbey Bank, some having ridden a distance or nearly two hundred miles only to be doomed to disappointment. Notwithstanding the omission of Rosedale, the course for the first two days ensured that this year’s trial should prove the stiffest event of its kind ever held, but this is as it should be. Brooklands failed to eliminate many of those who survived thus far, a matter of surprise to many who know track conditions, but probably the fact that the speed set in the various classes did not necessitate full throttle work all the time, saved many first class awards. The number of gold medals provisionally awarded is high considering the severity of the course, and though this may be partly due to a less rigid final examination than was expected, it speaks volumes for the reliability and capabilities of the modern motor cycle.”
“SIR,—AFTER SHOUTING MYSELF HOARSE warning people to ‘clear the course’ on Monday afternoon at Park Rash, 1 am sorry to report that I was guilty of baulking a rider who was one of the last to arrive. That I did this under a misapprehension is no excuse, and I apologise most humbly for my stupidity. I think the number was one of the eighties and the machine a BSA. He nearly bowled me over, in which event I should have been jolly well served.
The ACU and trials in the future by BH Davies.
“CONTROVERSY WILL DOUBTLESS RAGE for weeks to come about the ‘freak hill’ policy of the ACU and the wisdom of including such hills as Park Rash, Summer Lodge, and Rosedale Abbey in an event which is a commercial advertisement no less than it is a technical test and a sporting ride. I cannot personally excuse the weakness of the stewards in accepting entries for a published course, and then yielding to popular pressure, converting Park Rash into a bonus hill, pretending they had not observed Summer Lodge, and dodging meekly round the back of Rosedale Abbey at the eleventh hour. The Union ought to have the courage of its opinions. Having announced these hills, it should have stood or fallen by them. If the trade had taken umbrage private owners would have kept the trials going in 1921, as private owners have always kept the Scottish Six Days going. If the ACU had felt penitent after the event, it could have selected easier going for 1921. But weakness in a
governing-body is always fatal; and whatever policy may be adopted next year, all sensible motor cyclists surely hope there will be no vacillation about it…It is arguable that this 1920 type of course tends to develop the wrong sort of machine for 90% of our home riders. Let me particularise. I have just been riding a special single cylinder machine developed for reliability trials of the current pattern. It is almost an ideal mount for jobs of that kind. Indeed, such trials have definitely begotten it, and it invariably emerges from them with great credit. When any part has broken or given trouble in such events, it has been stiffened up; and if anybody wants a no-trouble ride in such a trial as we have just concluded, he could hardly do better than enter on the machine I have in mind. But it is entirely destitute of refinement. Comfort is hardly considered in its make-up. Its weight is formidable to a degree. It is a great, heavy, powerful, sturdy, bullocky sort of machine, and one that I would not select for pleasure on a summer tour with my wife and family…the impression is slowly taking shape in my mind that we ought to organise future trials on a dual or ‘home and colonial’ basis. I doubt whether two entirely separate events are
practicable. But by dint of switch routes and certain classified awards, the two ideals might be simultaneously fostered in a single event. For example, all lightweights and all passenger machines might be compelled (not allowed) to dodge the roughriding sections by means of switch rotes. All machines intended primarily for the home market or for the easier spheres of overseas service might be subjected to special tests of refinement, from which the colonial models would be immune. Such tests might include silence, springing, light weight, cleanliness, premiums on low cost, and any other points which a committee of experts considered desirable. Anyhow, whatever solution is finally adopted, it will be a calamity if we cease to develop the ‘bullocky’ type of machine for overseas work: and equally will it be a calamity if we enforce the home user to accept the kind of machine which enjoys Park Rash. Sporting riders do not compose more than 5% of our community. The remainder will be well suited with a far lighter, less powerful, and more refined machine. If the dual trial which I have outlined were ever organised, and I were a manufacturer catering for both the home and the colonial trade, I should hope to enter a 150lb 2¾hp machine in the ‘home’ class and send it round the switch routes: and to enter a 300lb 4hp mount in the ‘colonial’ class, and send it up all the precipitous river torrents. In two respects the results of the trial are deceptive. The route was so intensive that continuous bad weather would have produced disaster, and very few golds could have been won if the going had been uniformly wet. The kind aloofness of Jupiter Pluvius saved the ACU from red revolution. On the other hand, low be it spoken, sheer bad driving prevents many men from doing even better. Too many riders charged the bad hills at speed on open throttle…Deserting the area of controversy, the net effect of the Trials is to prove that the modern British motor cycle need fear no comparisons. It has emerged with distinct triumph from a most searching ordeal; and on level financial conditions is fit to compete with any rival in any country.”
TRUST REVEREND DAVIES, writing as Ixion, to have the final word on the Six Days Trial: “Bump, Brothers, Bump! When the trial ended, there were many who had corns on a portion of their anatomy where corns seldom form—rowing men only excepted. Early in the week the crew of the passenger machines displayed a certain hesitation about bouncing on their machines in order to get tyre grip. But quite a brief experience of the course banished their nervousness. By Tuesday they were all bumping experts. As soon as an observed hill loomed in sight, the passenger usually swung out on the carrier, and took his time from the driver, the two bumping manfully in unison until saddle pillars wilted and carrier bars creaked. By Thursday there was an unseemly scramble for the best padded chairs at the various hotels.”