Following complaints about ‘freak’ hills at the 1921 trial, the 1922 course was more conventional. But triallists still tackled hundreds of miles of rough riding, from the North Country to the West Country via the Welsh mountains before tackling a series of tests at Brooklands. They had an eventful trip.
“SUNDAY IN YORK (THE STARTING POINT) was a busy day, but before going on to describe what happened and what it brought forth, it may be well to recapitulate the story of the trials generally. Briefly, there are five days of road work at, mostly, a 20mph schedule, finishing on Friday; then, to see how the competing machines have retained their tune, high speed tests will be held at Brooklands on Saturday; and, finally, an examination of general condition will be undertaken. The road portion, without being freakish, is sufficiently stiff to be a very severe trial in itself; the speed and condition tests are expected to prove the last straw on the camel’s back in quite a number of cases. To return to the preliminaries, 142 of the 144 entrants presented themselves for the long drawn-out business of having their machines weighed, examined, and sealed. Most of the riders took things very seriously, and a considerable amount of apprehension was felt about the following day’s run.
Although the trials provide manufacturers with every opportunity of trying out new designs under conditions of great publicity, they are not so freely used for this purpose as they might be. This is to be regretted, because the lessons learned during the week’s strenuous testing are sufficiently in advance of the Olympia Show to enable any modifications found necessary to be incorporated in the next year’s models. The James Cycle Company has evidently appreciated the Six Days in the light of an instructive test of this description and its entry includes a departure from its usual range of models in a 349cc single-cylinder four-stroke, on examples of which J
Lidstone and G Kimberley are mounted. The finish is the usual black, with brown tank lined in red and gold. In the same class is the Raleigh, a new chain-driven model of which made its first appearance. Undoubtedly the popularity which the chain-cum-belt Raleighs have attained will be enhanced by the adoption of a chain-driven specimen, especially for harder work or sidecar pulling. Much attention was focussed on the smaller mounts, which are becoming more and more popular. It is to be regretted, however, that two-strokes were not more fully represented amongst the starters. [Among them are] the Allon, now fitted with a Sturmey-Archer three-speed box and chain-cum-belt drive. Specially commendable is the fact that the Allons are absolutely standard models, even to the footboards and leg-shields. Probably no machine attracted greater crowds of admirers at the weighing-in than George Brough’s new 8Omph (guaranteed!) 976cc special sports model Brough-Superior. It is a glistening mass of plating and polished aluminium. The exhaust pipes are connected to the ports by large finned castings, and the expansion chambers at the extreme ends are of stream-line bulbous formation. The saddle position is only 27in from the ground…The P&M machine, it was noticed, had been fitted with additional foot control for the change speed mechanism, and an
innovation on the twin BSA is a foot-operated front brake…Easily the smallest machine entered, the 169cc JES two-stroke is a real light-weight of diminutive size. Its rider, RP Purnell, felt somewhat handicapped by the absence of a clutch, but the little mount is equipped with a four-speed constant-mesh gear box…There was every evidence, as the machines were presented tor examination, that few people were anxious to lose marks for inefficient silencing…A late-comer at the weighing-in was the Grindley sporting machine, equipped with a 249cc JAP engine. Nothing unconventional distinguishes this mount, which embodies well-tried components, but its graceful lines and the unusually large tyres (28x3in) give it an attractive appearance. It is made by the Grindley Motor Co, of Prees, Salop…most of the machines in the Trials have three-speed gears and all-chain drive. Four speeds, however, were to be found on the JES, Clayton Russell’s 633cc Norton sidecar (Dureff four-speed chain gear box), the P&Ms, the Dot and the Morgan runabouts.
MONDAY’S RUN, 1,791¾ MILES. York, Stillington, Ampleforth, Thirlby, Helmsley, Gillamoor, Kirkby Moorside, Hovingham, Strensall, York (lunch), Naburn, Cawood, Brierley, Bamsley, Binginglow, Ashford, Buxton.
Really gorgeous summer sunshine graced the start of Monday’s run, the first of the Six Days’ Trials. For the first 12 miles level going in a northerly direction was encountered, but the Hambleton Hills loomed in the distance. Five or six miles of undulating lanes with a surprising frequency of blind corners next ensued. All the time the riders could see ahead, of them the ‘white horse’ which gives its name to the first test hill of the day…Most modern solos, and some of the sidecar models should have taken it in their stride on middle gear. Nevertheless, there were many failures, almost all due to indifferent driving. Of course, the first hill in a trial always finds the riders in a state of stage fright, and it is this must account for the poor performances of many, yet it is unbelievable that old and seasoned competition riders should commit such blunders as to ‘cut’ unknown hairpins and to commence prodding with their feet when there is no earthly need to loose balance on merely mildly stony surfaces…Bert Kershaw, whose luck surely is out this last few weeks, ran his New Imperial up the bank. Dance and Bennett (Sunbeams) treated the gradient contemptuously, and ‘TT’ed’ up, but Bennett got into a bad cleft in the rocks and wobbled a little. RP Purnell made a wonderfully good ascent on his 159cc JES, and the Levis and Sun-Vitesse machines generally did well…Two Scott riders, W Moore and W Scott, did not trouble to take the hairpin wide; knowing what they could do
they simply ‘cut’ it at speed, going over the worst gradient. T Peck, one of the solo Ariel riders, attempting the same feat, ran into the bank…From White Horse, Sutton Bank was descended (with caution); and after some Colonial going Boltby Bank was ascended…The Sunbeam solo team was led by Dance, who made a magnificent climb; Bennett tried to provide an encore, but skidded right round on the fatal gulley; and their third man, C Greenwood, footed. RP Ranson (Lea-Francis) fell spectacularly, and his confrere, A Lea, somehow also got mixed up with a bunch of failures. For a few minutes all was chaos. GE Austin (Coventry Victor) joined the melee, and Cross (499cc Triumph) was fortunate in being able to worm past. Bainbridge (Martinsyde) failed to emulate Cross, but T Buckle (748cc FN) glided through the throng in an extraordinary manner to stop higher up. In an endeavour to hug the left side of the road, JH Davis (492cc Sunbeam) edged a party of spectators down the hill-side, and JM Philpot (598cc Beardmore) followed, erratically but quite well, the path that Davis had so effectively cleared…In the afternoon, apart from the number of corners, the route, until the outskirts of Sheffield were reached, was entirely over top gear roads, a small observed hill, Stainboro’ Low, near Barnsley, being of no account…Descending from the moors to Hathersage a rough-surfaced patch nearly unseated many as it was encountered with a comparatively easy moorland road on which fair speed could be attained…Despite the easy nature of the afternoon’s run, memories of the morning made the banner, ‘Buxton Welcomes the ACU’, a truly thankful sight.
TUESDAY’S RUN, 140¾ MILES. Buxton, Mossley Moss, Mowcop, Biddulph Moor, Axe Edge End, Rudyard (lunch), Ipstone, Cheadle, Huderstone, Aston, Gt Bridgeford, Newport, Wellington, Longwood, Uriconium, Shrewsbury.
Despite early rain, which belied the promise of the previous evening, Tuesday’s run was not so severe as Monday’s. Nevertheless, there were nine retirements, at least three being definitely attributable to broken frames or sidecar chassis, which gives some indication of the nature of the going. Much of it was very rough, and almost all of it was tortuous in the extreme…Two of the retirements were caused by accidents, both with somewhat serious consequences to the drivers, IP Brettell (348cc Connaught sc) and WN Clayton-Russell (633cc Norton sc). Brettell’s retirement robbed the trials of one of the two 350cc sidecar outfits, and previously he had been doing well…Mow Cop was the scene of more lost marks than anywhere else. It is long and straight and uneven on the steepest (1 in 4½) portion; on Tuesday an inconsiderate crowd, which persisted in blocking up the road, multiplied its slight difficulties…The New Hudson and P&M single-cylinder outfits were the most uniformly excellent in their class, but it was noticeable that the four-speed gear on Lewis’s P&M enabled him to overtake Freeley’s three-speed New Hudson—and the latter was by no means slow…J Harrison-Watson’s super-equipped Triumph outfit konked right out; Hadley’s and Danskin’s 499cc Rudge sidecars both required assistance, [as did] two ‘750’ twins—F Cotton’s James and WE Grange’s Bradbury…Lunching at Rudyard, somebody noticed that EJ Kehoe’s Rudge did not look right. Examination proved that the front down tube was broken, displacing the engine by at least two inches. The news was broken to the rider, who confessed that he had not noticed it himself. News also came through that Lea’s 496cc Lea-Francis had disintegrated somewhere on the moors from the same cause.
WEDNESDAY’S RUN, 156 MILES. Shrewsbury, Marton, Welshpool, Dinas Mawddwy, Llanuwchllyn, Bala (lunch), Llanwddyn, Llaniair Caereinion, Newtown, Knighton Penybont, Llandrindod Wells.
Taken as a whole, the day was difficult, if only because of the number of long second-gear climbs, such as only Wales can provide Perhaps no machine fails on these at the time, but later on poorly designed engines begin to lose power in an unaccountable manner—and another batch of unfortunates remove their official numbers. On Wednesday the party numbered six…Long Mountain had dried too well after the previous night’s rain to cause much anxiety. On the way to Bwlch-y-Groes (the Pass of the Cross) rain fell occasionally, which troubled the competitors on the narrow, winding foothills leading to and beyond Dinas Mawddwy. Here the right-hand road was taken to Bala. Bwlch-y-Groes is 1,750ft above sea-level, and the wonderful panorama of rolling hills—the wildest and finest country that Wales can produce—was appreciated to the full by the crowd of spectators who patiently awaited the arrival of the long line of competitors…this two-mile ascent averaging one in five or six—[is] by general consent the fairest and finest test hill in the country, for the surface is good, and steep gradient alone provides the issue…Johnson (247cc Sun Vitesse), Pa Applebee, and Edwards (Levises) also made this one-time formidable
Welsh ascent look easy. Mrs Knowles, on her AJS, who came next, was quite fast, passing several other competitors on the way up…The fine performance of the tiny JES ridden by Purnell was acknowledged by hearty applause from the spectators assembled. His 159cc engine never faltered and required no assistance—surely an epoch-making achievement…A pause, and in the distance one saw a rider streaking past his fellow competitors. It was RM Knowles, the Norton private owner, smoking a pipe nonchalantly…The descent to Bala for lunch was particularly rough, rock protruding through the roadway and buffeting the machines. But this was as nought to what followed after lunch. First the riders travelled by way of villages bearing tongue-twisting names over the Hirnant Pass, and down the never-to-be-forgotten descent to Lake Vyrnwy, cut up beyond recognition by heavy timber waggons. Numerous cross gullies or gutters varying in depth twisted and strained the sidecar mounts particularly—a 12-mile stretch equal in severity to anything Scotland can produce. Hirnant Pass is a climb of 1,500ft, almost as severe as Bwlch-y-Groes. Although motorists were warned by old and disfigured RAC signs that the road was impassable, without exception every rider made light of it. Solo competitors toured up in second gear, and had it not been for the many deep and water-filled gullies, it would have been taken at really high speeds. As it was several riders made ascents that were foolishly fast. Westwood Wills (547cc Powell) and JH Davies (599cc Sunbeam) were particularly spectacular, plunging recklessly over the gullies regardless of consequences which might ensue, for a skid on the loose shale surface would have precipitated them over the unprotected edge into a ravine a hundred
feet below. These riders, however, did not monopolise this entertainment enjoyed by the many spectators who had journeyed to witness how modern British machines can perform on Colonial type mountainous roads. The three Scotts, ridden respectively by G Hill, W Scott and W Moore, were equally fast. George Brough (Brough Superior) also climbed the tortuous shale-strewn path in a spectacular manner, jumping clear of the ground at one particularly awkward gully, and was nearly unseated. T Peck (Ariel) followed in a like manner and narrowly escaped colliding with JM Philpott (Beardmore), who was taking things more easily…P Cunningham (555cc P&M sc) and R Lewis (555cc P&M sc) were the first pair of passenger machines to follow the solo men, and they emulated the latter’s spectacular methods, sending up high ‘bow waves’ as they crossed the water courses…AA Symes (678cc Martinsyde sc) was too fast for the comfort of his lady passenger, who had to raise herself from her raise herself from her seat to minimise the full force of the shocks as the machine was forced over the gullies at speed. WH Bashall (678cc Martinsyde) heeded not the mute appeal for mercy from his lady passenger, and drove on as if the twain were rendering the Excelsior duet…Harrison Watson (Triumph sc) lost so much time owing to his front tyre leaving the rim that he retired, and a broken valve put Danskin (Rudge sc) out. WH Hardman (499cc Wilkin), who previously had been one of the great majority of good but not spectacular and therefore often unnoticed riders, took two nasty tosses, the second damaging the Wilkin too much to continue.
THURSDAY’S RUN, 171 MILES. Llandrindod Wells, Llangynog, Llandovery, Brecon, Llangynidr, Gilwern, Abergavenny (lunch), Blaenavon, Pontypool, Abergavenny, Monmouth, Tintern, Mitcheldean, Gloucester.
Several things happened on Thursday. For the first time in the trials it rained really heavily. In itself this fact would not be important, but it so happened that the last hill of the day—a minor test that scarcely anybody knew of—was of the sort that required only slight lubrication to convert it into very nearly the worst hill of the week. The rest of the route was more in the nature of an endurance test; there was a great deal of second gear slogging, and, consequently, hard riding to keep to schedule. The toll of retirements was five…we spent an interesting half-hour on the least easy hairpin bend watching Dr Hopwood endeavour to discriminate between ‘footing’ to preserve balance and ‘footing’ to assist the machine. Eventually it was decided that ‘Pa’ Applebee (Levis) and J Graham Oates (Grindley) were guilty of the latter offence…J. Watson Bourne, who had taken over G Brough’s machine owing to the latter’s indisposition, looked very bored. Between the lower and upper hairpins we observed three sidecarists effecting adjustments. These were JW Wildblood (494cc Douglas sc), TR Allchin (989cc Harley-Davidson sc) and CW Johnston (989cc Harley-Davidson sc). The first-mentioned had evidently developed real trouble after a noteworthy performance right up to this point, for as the competitors left Abergavenny after lunch they passed him in tow of a motor ‘bus, his transmission sprocket having sheared. Thus Pehrson’s Dunelt was the only 500cc sidecar left in the trial…At lunch AR Edwards (Levis) fitted a gaiter to his rear tyre; and it was reported that RM Knowles (Norton) had been towed into Brecon owing to gear box trouble. After lunch the competitors were led to the Fiddler’s Elbow, a hairpin with a
local reputation, but which proved easy to every competitor. Being near a centre where many enthusiastic motor cyclists reside, a big crowd of spectators congregated to witness what proved to be nothing more than a display of regularity and fast cornering. Probably some of the competitors wished that the hill were miles away from civilisation, for several non-competitors considered it good form continually to ride up and down while the trial was in progress. Here Professor Low was comfortably seated in a car making notes on ‘silence’. A detour brought the now thoroughly soaked riders back to Abergavenny, and almost all the way to Monmouth it was greasy by-lanes and short hills…Generally speaking so little happened (except
rain) that the. pressmen were getting bored with the whole affair, Longhope Hill proved their salvation. It has a hard embedded stone surface of the typical unfinished kind of country lane, and on Thursday afternoon was coated with so much slime that walking required care. Only the solo machines were sent up. It was impossible to observe all the hill at once, but all of it was treacherous…The early lightweights, having a clear run, made quite a good show, Davison (Levis), Applebee (Levis), Kershaw (New Imperial), and Horton (New Imperial) being most steady. Mrs Knowles (AJS) disappeared round the top bend in great style, but Mrs Janson (Coventry Eagle) was not so fortunate; eventually she fell. But she failed in good company, for Dance hit the bank at speed and baulked his two Sunbeam team-mates, Greenwood and Bennett. All three got going again in good style…RP Ranson (Lea-Francis) almost relinquished all control of his bucking mount…Wills fell twice without stopping his engine, but three was not his lucky number in this instance…Plucky do-or-die climbs were made by JA Newman (Douglas) and JH Davis (TT Sunbeam), and WT Woodcock (498cc Ariel) was very sure. The three Scotts once again excelled, W Moore’s being really wonderfully steady and unfussing. Becker’s spring frame McKechnie seemed to take to the grease like a duck to the water ; his climb was as good as any except the Scotts’…Pugh’s big Harley also proved very unmanageable, a foot-controlled clutch had obvious disadvantages.
FRIDAY’S RUN, 182¼ MILES. Gloucester, Stroud, Tetbury, Birdlip, Northleach, Whitney, Oxford (lunch), Dorchester, Watlington, Princes Risborough, High Wycombe, Maidenhead, Windsor, Staines, Chertsey, Weybridge (Brooklands).
Towards the end of a strenuous trial the competitors get tired or reckless or bored. The finish seemed in sight on Friday morning, and some of the riders apparently ignored the wisdom of ‘many a slip betwixt…’ There was much careless cornering—overshooting turns, etc—and not a few minor crashes on Cotswold and Chiltern clay. Although there was not one real hill in the morning’s run through country famous for its great climbs, there were many unpleasantly slippery lanes. One of these, about 10 miles from the start, got half the solo entry wobbling and brought several to the ground, all within 20 yards of one another. Lovegrove (Radco) hurt his leg here, but carried on…At lunch there was an extraordinary amount of apprehension—’wind-up’ is the apter term—about Alms Hill. According to the latest dictates of the ACU it was to be a penalty as well as a bonus hill ie, plus five marks for a clean climb, minus five marks for a failure. Sportsmen who had lost their
maximum for a gold debated the knotty point vigorously, but usually without coming to any conclusion. Five bonus marks were very tempting; but Alms Hill was reputed to be a real terror when wet. And of course it would be wet! Very glutinous-surfaced by-lanes on the way to Henley, moreover, seemed in the nature of a practising ground, and by the time the parting of the ways was reached most of the riders were in a state reminiscent of one’s first day in the trenches. Then, one by one at first, and later in batches as they arrived on foot, they discovered that the hill was remarkably dry. It was five easy marks for all but two who attempted it. Sudden turns, minor hills, and patches of muddy going followed during a 40-mile detour to Marlow. Over-shooting of corners continued to be too common; in one melee Dance, who pulled up because two James had missed a turn, was rammed by Verity (499cc Triumph). The latter, on a strange machine and in his first trial, was again unfortunate later. He ran into a large dog at Marlow and bent things considerably; pluckily he continued. When making minor adjustments to his Matchless by the roadside EC Barton was knocked down heavily by a following sidecar. He was unable to go on, but his machine was taken to Brooklands for its ‘gold’ by an official. No 13, J Graham Oates (Grindley), arrived at Brooklands very, very late, and explained that he had had valve trouble, remarking to Mr Loughborough that he never wanted a similar number allotted to him again! ES Burnett (698cc Raleigh) was noticed by the roadside repairing a front tyre, apparently in serious trouble, for he failed to reach Weybridge that night. On the whole, therefore, the day was a stiff one. There were four retirements.
SATURDAY, 68 MILES ON BROOKLANDS. Brake Test, 25-Lap Speed Trial, Final Hill Climb and Examination.
“The surprises of the final speed tests were the number of cases in which the minimums were exceeded by a large margin, and the comparatively small amount of trouble caused by a gruelling 25 laps under a glaring sun. The required speeds were: 250cc solo, 30mph; 350cc solo, 35mph; 500cc solo, 40mph; 750cc solo, 44mph; 1,000cc solo, 48mph; 60cc sidecars, 32mph; 1,000cc sidecars, 38mph; 1,100cc three-wheelers, 38mph. The 250cc and 350cc machines were dealt with first, a rough and ready brake test on the test hill being staged on the way to the fork start. Except for bonus marks; there was little to be gained by racing, but Mrs Janson (349cc Coventry-Eagle) and E Searle (349cc Sheffield-Henderson) immediately started a small TT on their own. They finished closely, the latter just leading, but Mrs Janson paid the penalty
later, for she could not make her engine fire when the time came to reclimb the test hill for the final examination. Valve and plug troubles were the chief difficulties. Unlucky Graham-Oates (Grindley) broke another valve and could not remove the cap. At last he was forced to retire, after a very fine performance, marred only by misfortune. SE Longman (349cc Zenith) was similarly troubled, but completed the course. The JES plugged steadily round, but it was reported that Purnell had difficulty in feeding the tiny engine with oil. The test hill was vanquished by all the survivors, but not always with ease. The same sequence was now followed with the 500cc and 750cc solo machines. Westwood Wills (547cc Powell) split his belt rim coming down the hill and so lost his only marks—eight—in the trials. Whitfield’s Rudge was again obstinate, but was eventually persuaded to the starting line. It was of no avail, for another two exhaust valves went, and the machine was withdrawn. Dance (Sunbeam) announced his intention of going steadily. He must have changed his mind, for only GF Bainbridge’s ‘Quick Six’ Martinsyde was able to get ahead of him…he finished up in a haze of glory two laps ahead of Dance. Two spills marred the proceedings—T Buckle (FN) and BH Cathrick (Dunelt) burst front tyres at the same spot on the track—and although at first the latter’s injuries were reported to be serious, it happily turned out that neither was seriously hurt…Phillips’ four-valve Triumph was opened out on the last lap and was timed to go round at 60mph.
Becker’s McKechnie and Philpott’s Beardmore were surprisingly fast; spring frames were evidently an advantage to newcomers to the track. Watson-Bourne on the Brough-Superior and Pugh on the Harley were started with the 600cc sidecars. The former immediately commenced lapping at 63-64mph and his last circuit was unofficially timed as 2min 20sec, 69.8mph. The Harley rider complained of vibration, and was lapped several times by the British production. None of the sidecars went in for high speeds; it was mainly a series of uninteresting processions…Very few of the 1,000cc sidecar drivers treated the test otherwise than as a race. For seven laps, FW Giles (800cc AJS sc) and LF McCardle (989cc Harley-Davidson sc) fought a ding-dong struggle for the lead. Giles lapped most consistently at 50mph, and later declared that he had not been all out but wished that he had. Plug trouble made McCardle’s times vary, and eventually lost him several laps, but he claims to have completed his final circuit at 60mph…The two Indians were hampered by very heavy touring sidecars. The BSAs were not so silent as most of the big sidecars, but they certainly went well, and beat several 200cc-larger outfits. Walker, however, broke a chain at the foot of the test hill, for which he was docked 11 marks.
RESULTS: 79 gold medals, 9 silver, 3 bronze, 7 certificates, 43 retired. TEAM PRIZES: Class A, 1, Levis; 2, New Imperial; 3, Sun-Vitesse. Class B, 1, OK-Junior; 2, AJS; 3, Allon. Class C, 1, Sunbeam; 2, Ariel. Class F, 1, P&M; 2, Sunbeam. Class G, Harley-Davidson and AJS tied. Hopwood prize for best performance: 1, FW Giles (AJS sc); 2, W Carr (Morgan); 3, HFS Morgan (Morgan).
“THE FEAT OF MRS KNOWLES in winning a Scottish and an English ‘gold’ in one year is an unparalleled achievement for a woman, and one equalled by very few men. She is a genuine private owner, and is all the more pleased because she did not have an absolutely no-trouble run.”
“WHEN G BROUGH WAS FORCED to retire, he wired for JA Watson-Bourne, who is now partner in a garage business at Oldham. The latter set out at 1am on his Brough Superior outfit, reached Llandrindod Wells at 7.30am, and started off with the competitors at 8.26am. Incidentally, he always shone on hills, often climbing second and low-gear pimples—for others—on a top of 3.5 to 1.”
“BARNETT’S AND GREENING’S FRANCIS-BARNETTS—the only two in the trial—ran most consistently throughout the event, but the former lost two marks in the final examination owing to neglecting to tighten his rear cone after a hurried tyre change under official supervision, the night before.”
“REFLECTIONS UPON THE SIX DAYS TRIALS: No more interesting or instructive six days trials have been held than last week’s ACU event, embracing Yorkshire, the Peak district, Wales, and Brooklands. It was the 16th of the ACU series. As if the varied road test of 830 miles were not sufficient to bring out the weak spots of any machine, a final 25 laps of Brooklands at minimum set speeds served to test the engines and lubrication systems to the uttermost. That so many machines survived the ordeal (no less than 80 qualified for gold medals) is the more significant to those acquainted with the various test hills introduced, for few trials have presented so many compressed difficulties in the space of six days…Generally speaking, the most outstanding achievements could be claimed by the smaller machines, for the 250cc and 350cc mounts were throughout conspicuously good performers, no hill being too much for them, whilst their track speeds on the last day were an eye-opener to many. Chiefly, the retirements may be divided into three classes: (1) transmission troubles, (2) broken frames, and (3) accidents. A large pro- portion of the last-mentioned were due to the tortuous nature of the course and insufficient braking power. The speed test was responsible for six retirements, two at least due to the front tyre leaving the rim…Three points only may be subject for discussion among competitors: (1) The hotel arrangements en route (2) the wheel slip rule on hills which was difficult to put into operation fairly; and (3) the front wheel stand clause. It will be ‘ recalled that many competitors in the Stock Machine Trial were disqualified on the last-mentioned count, and those who fitted stands specially in the present case may well ask whether those who did not conform to the rule will be disqualified…It was good that so much country was embraced, for a great deal of useful propaganda has been accomplished; public interest was most marked throughout.”
The Personal Impressions of The Motor Cycle Representative on the Six Days Trials. The Sporting Aspect of the Event.
WHEN A MEMBER OF THE MOTOR CYCLE staff is allotted an event like the Six Days Trials, those of his colleagues who have never had the same task themselves are inclined to talk enviously about another holiday and so forth. Whereas, except that it means a week in the open air, the stern reality resembles a holiday as much as did a spell of trench digging to an infantry battalion out on rest in the days of the war. It means a week of sheer hard work for the man and, of course, an even greater strain on his machine. That is why, although 250cc machines in the competition win gold medals with apparent ease, the Pressman invariably uses something hefty of 500cc or more. My machine for the recent big ACU event was a four-valve Triumph with 3,000 miles already to its credit, and there were but very few occasions when I wished it were anything else. In consequence, I thoroughly enjoyed the affair, and am constrained to wonder why more private owners’ names did not appear on the entry list. Had I had any mechanical troubles I would probably now be feeling amazed that anybody at all had been mad enough to attempt to follow the wonderful blue trail that led (usually) to nowhere desirable by the most round-about route! Of course, in reality this does not apply to the amateur competitor, to whom a breakdown is merely momentarily galling; to myself, at times, it would have been sheer disaster. There is something extraordinarily fascinating in bumping round, a trials course, in keeping upright on viscous slime, in clambering up landslides like Rosedale Abbey Bank without putting one’s feet down. Whether the sidecarist gets the same feeling of achievement is a matter upon which I am not qualified to write,
but certainly the soloist extracts real pleasure from a section of difficult going. Furthermore, in my case there were no secret checks and my schedule was generally to get along just as quickly as I safely could. The Triumph seemed to enter into the spirit of the game. It took advantage of every little opportunity of acceleration, up or down hill, confidently because it has an exceedingly excellent rear brake. It climbed every hill in the event in a pushful manner, usually on top or second gear. It alternately bucketed of ploughed over colonial sections with never a desire to wobble or lie down—except once—and if its tail wagged slightly on certain particularly unpleasant, deep wet clay tracks towards the end of the week the 3in rear tyre had little of its original tread left—it was always possible to right it by gripping a little more tightly on the enormous Pedley rubber grips and kneegrips of the same ilk. Perhaps it was the way it conquered Rosedale Abbey Bank that put me in such good humour with it for the rest of the week. I had never seen that fearful acclivity before—possibly it was just as well—and I am no George Dance. Anyhow, although dogged by sooting sparking plugs, I contrived to draw 15 minutes ahead of
No 1 on Monday morning, and, eluding a frantic Yorkshireman with a red flag, rattled up a loose and stony hillside, dotted with many spectators, which I judged was the much vaunted tit-bit of the trials. The first bend was easy—the old rule of keeping to the outside once more proved its usefulness; so was the cross over for the more acute left-hand turn immediately following; but the bend itself demanded a surprising amount of concentration, and it was with a sigh of relief that I straightened, out again—only to find that I had in reality but started the climb. Approaching the worst gulley with caution, I remembered that machines with far more clearance than mine were reputed to ground thereon, and for the life of me I could not recall which side was most suitable for a jump. Compromising, and because there was little time to think, I went hard at the centre. There was a sickening jar and grating sound as the silencer and footrest hanger-bars scraped over. For the first time I kicked out with my feet, and to my great surprise was able to replace them a couple of yards further on as I sailed easily to the summit. Had the competitors been sent up one at a time I am sure there would have been many more perfectly clean ascents, for, as I have inferred, I am not nearly such a clever rider as many a man who failed completely on the same hill. Colonial sections did not worry me; in fact, I averaged the legal limit over some of the most difficult 15mph stretches. From what was casually said by a competitor on a lightweight who followed me over the wet, boulder-strewn track a few miles from Rudyard on Tuesday, I fear that my progress at times was far from elegant; but, anyhow, I always got there, and almost invariably without footing. By the way, to the true solo enthusiast the avoidance of
footing becomes alike an obsession and an ideal, almost a religion. By the time the blue dye began to indicate a definite homeward trail on Friday morning I had reached the stage where driving on treacherous roads became a purely mechanical sequence of operations, instinctive rather than by conscious effort. It proved to be a dangerous phase. Ten miles from Gloucester I hit an unnoticed stretch of grease at 30mph with alarming suddenness, and a Lucas electric head lamp and front number plate occupied the positions hitherto held by the tyres. Neither of these members was improved thereby, but nothing else was damaged. As I kicked things straight by the roadside I had the consolation of seeing everybody else who passed wobble alarmingly, and at least one take a similar toss. This was Lovegrove, the Radco rider, upon whom hinges another tale. When he slithered into the mud with his machine more or less on the top of him I was engaged in hauling the Triumph on to its stand, and confess that I looked on his predicament more with amusement than anything else. However, Mrs Knowles, who followed hard at his heels, was quicker-witted, and realised at once that the Radco had pinned its rider to the road. She pulled up, dismounted in a flash, and flung her AJS into the hedge, rushing to the assistance of the unfortunate rider before I had realised that anything serious was amiss. Although I still feel some- what ashamed at my own unfeeling attitude, I think Mrs Knowles’ sporting spirit deserves the widest publicity. Alms Hill was the scene of my next discomfiture—slight, it is true. I had been up before when it was so wet that 95% of a trials entry had failed entirely. consequently on a Friday afternoon, when it was lined with hundreds of spectators, I faced it in a spirit of great caution and in low gear all the way. It was distinctly galling to witness later competitors, who had never seen the hill before, come charging up at speed on middle gear. Every mile of
the route, except from the summit of Mow Cop to Rudyard, was covered, but the fifth day finished the trials so far as the Triumph was concerned. I have no doubt, however, that it would have lapped at Brooklands at well over the required speed of its class. WNG Phillips, a genuine private owner who spent the first week of his holiday winning a gold medal on a similar machine, averaged 49.7mph on the track without opening out fully; and, ever since I discovered a plug—a 15s KLG—that stands up to the task, I have usually been able to send my own Bonniksen needle well past the 60 mark for quite considerable spells. On the whole, the organisation of the event itself was quite good, although it was not courting popularity to mention the Scottish Six Days Trials to an ACU official! The hotel arrangements, particularly at Shrewsbury and Llandrindod Wells, on the other hand, were not all that could be desired. Billeting-out may have been unavoidable, but many of the competitors felt that they were paying too much for the privilege of sharing towels, and so on. The man who said that there were too many officials was probably not very far off the mark. I used neither Jackson’s Impervo nor Miracle Oil, and in this respect I may have been at a disadvantage to the great bulk of the competitors. But although I found a large hairpin embedded in my rear tyre on Wednesday morning—and the tyre itself has done a strenuous 4,000 miles, during which a rear brake block was
worn to uselessness—I had no tyre trouble; and, after many sooted plugs on Monday and Tuesday, I effected a cure by cutting down the oil and declutching on steep descents. Incidentally I found that Wakefield’s XL oil suits the Triumph engine admirably. Fuel consumption for the whole trip averaged well over 90mpg. Only two faults on the part of the machine call for ventilation. (1) The crank case clearance is inadequate. At the same time, one may ground regularly a dozen times a day without doing the slightest damage—if permanently bowed footrests are excepted. (2) Previously I had considered the riding position as ideal—certainly the steering is superb—but after five days in the saddle I am forced to the conclusion that the handle-bars are either too far forward or of the wrong shape for continued comfort—if not for controllability. At the finish my right wrist and left arm both ached slightly. These, however, are not important points when considered beside the real comfort of the machine as a whole. Beyond adjusting the push rods three times and cleaning the plug once or twice I had no occasion to open the toolbags during the whole trip. Excepting perhaps RM Knowles’ Norton, the Triumph was the only machine connected with the trial that reached the finish without attention from oilcan and cleaning rag. And it does not appear to be much the worse for that!