May in the Highlands…inevitably there were blizzards with 20ft snowdrifts that even the hardiest trialster couldn’t tackle. At the 11th hour, the Edinburgh club came up with a new route that avoided the worst of the snow. Instead there was mud more than a foot deep, watersplashes, sleet, gales, boulder-strewn moorland tracks and hills whose very names struck fear into the intrepid Southrons. It was also the longest six-day trial ever. Were they downhearted? Surprisingly…no.
“AS THE COMPETITORS TRAVELLED NORTH, whether by rail or road, wide caps of snow on the Cumbrian fells roused forebodings which were amply confirmed on arrival at Edinburgh. Here the genial committee of the Edinburgh &DMCC were found busy revising the trials routes in response to a barrage of telegrams from various road surveyors, local correspondents, and others. ‘Drifts 20 feet deep over Cockbridge Ladder, and still snowing,’ ran one of these wires. The early date rendered necessary by the congestion of the 1922 competitions programme, and the usual scarcity of hotel accommodation, had already pinned the Trial south of Inverness; now at the 11th hour several of the southerly moorland areas were perforce cut out. If report was to be trusted, the sodden condition of what remained would more than atone for any excisions, and by Saturday evening, lightweight entrants, remembering the ‘Arctic” Trial’, rejoiced that their machines could be carried over snowdrifts in case of need…With a minimum of fuss the 148 entrants were marshalled on Sunday morning into the darkest and least convenient garage ever utilised for a first-class trial. Hawk-eyed officials, doubtless with previous training in HM Customs, went through baggage and sidecars with fine-toothed combs; the haul of illegitimate spare parts included no fewer than five complete magnetos, all duly confiscated. Even tyre repair kits were opened for examination, and as some of the ladies complained that their suit cases were ransacked, no doubt a female searcher figured on the club staff. Quite a bevy of ladies started this year, two as drivers of light cars, and three stalwart heroines as drivers of motor cycles: Mrs Hardee (Matchless sc), Mrs Jansen (Ner-a-car) and Mrs Knowles (348cc AJS)…The competitors as a body regretted the necessity for dating the events so early in the season. Quite apart from the tremendous handicap imposed by bad weather, many
of the loveliest parts of the Highlands are completely unattainable in May, and others are shorn of half their beauty until the forests come into leaf…Many of the trials entrants are really making their debut in an event of first-class rank, and the behaviour of their machines will be closely scrutinised. Among such are the Barr and Stroud engines, 348cc Raleigh, 496cc Zenith- Bradshaw, New Hudson cycle car, ohv Triumph, Harper Runabout, New Gerrard, four-cylinder Henderson, McKechnie spring frame, Ner-a-car and the GRI…Motor cyclists do not look with any special favour upon the inclusion of light car entries in their events. Twenty-five light cars were entered this year, and were started indiscriminately, in order of entry—a system which contains serious threats of baulks in hill climbs, and creates much trouble about overtaking along moorland tracks which happen to be both narrow and rough. The clothing question had obviously been the subject of much thought. A majority of the men evidently decided that a Scottish May was wet and cold, so they brought Sidcot suits, flying coats and other sub-arctic garments. On the other hand, quite tropical temperatures are not unknown at this, time of year, and a sudden change might yet cause plenty of discomfort and fun. The present writer has gone south after two consecutive Scottish Six Days (a) with his face peeled; (b) with chilblains—so one never knows. On the whole there was surprisingly little novelty among the competing machines; and the few deviations from catalogue specification were mainly those of convenience, effected by the drivers themselves…Mrs. Jansen’s
Ner-a-car had undergone several modifications which converted it very cleverly from a potterer’s runabout to a pukka trials mount: An emergency low gear of approximately 20 to 1 was provided by an auxiliary primary drive; a separate oil-tank adorned the front mudguard, feeding lubricant through a standard Best and Lloyd drip feed, and a double Bowden lever carburetter control replaced the twist grip. FW Becker’s spring-frame MecKechnie outfit was to all intents and purposes the show model…but the designer’s (WE McKechnie) own solo mount was altered in several respects, notably in the gear box, now a Jardine four-speed, and in the provision of rubber-covered stops to limit the amount of frame movement on the really bad roads expected by the competitors…Mrs. Hardee’s Matchless outfit had an Anzani engine, with neat covers for the over-head valve gear, fed with oil from a supplementary B&L sight feed in the tank top. The Harper runabouts turned up in good time, and caused considerable speculation among the onlookers as to the procedure on Amulree—would the riders remain tied up in their storm aprons and, if so, what was going to happen if they failed? To use a well-worn phrase, their performances will be watched with interest. On JA Watson-Bourne’s big Brough-Superior there was one of the latest two-jet Bink carburetters, specially designed for this machine; the driver expressed considerable satisfaction to us regarding its behaviour. Above one-third throttle it is almost entirely automatic in action and acceleration is said to be particularly good…the fact that the Scott team had fitted knee-grips of special design to their machines is certainly worthy of note…JM Philpot’s little nest of spare sparking plugs of all makes and sizes on his Velocette also aroused interest and some amusement, as did the same rider’s massive thigh-operated big car type of bulb-horn, extending right down one of the rear stays.
THE INITIAL STAGE.
Route: Edinburgh, Stirling, Crieff, Aberfeldy, Dalnacardoch, Pitlochry, Kenmore, Perth. Test Hills: Sheriflmuir, Amulree, Trinaiour, Kenmore.
JUST AS NO 2 STARTED AWAY at the lamentably early hour of 7.30 the rain, which had fallen almost continuously through the night, restarted; all the way to Stirling it fell more or less continuously, and even at this early stage belt slip was not unknown among the light- weight entries, for the tar macadamed roads were simply awash…it was, and always will remain, the most dull and unpleasant side of the week…Raw cold, a grey sky, and frequent storms mingled with sleet and hail accompanied us most of the way. “Ah, weel, we’ll be able to see the potholes now they’re fu’ of watter,” said a Scot philosophically. They could be seen well enough, but as far as Amulree they could not be dodged, for the entire width of the road was potholes, and it came as a real relief to enter the ‘tiger country’, where sodden turf and living rock, and miniature moraines were exchanged for lorry-shattered macadam…The first observed hill, Sheriffmuir…is an easy second-gear hill, some three miles long, with four or five short steepish knuckles, a number of shallow gullies, and a few boulders…Watson-Bourne pushed his big Brough- Superior up at speed, while Humphries on the Velocette made perhaps the star ascent, his riding being perfect, and his speed immense for so small an engine. Amongst the sidecars the palm should be awarded to the P&M four-speeders. But the real eye-opener for the spectators, here, as on other colonial sections, was Colonel McKechnie’s spring frame. The veteran inventor sat bolt upright, and his body appeared to progress in an absolutely straight line parallel to the angle of the hill, utterly devoid of bounce, dither, or tremor, whilst beneath his immobile body the cycle was bucking like a broncho. The least observant of the spectators was forced to note the strange contrast between his placid ease and the involuntary lurches of the other riders…Carfrae’s Rudge-Multi was overgeared and he had to run. Both Harper runabouts stopped at the same point, apparently owing to the extreme length of the hill heating up their tiny engines for they went up easily after a short cool. Meanwhile they were responsible
for a huge baulk, through which Mrs Hardee steered her machine very dextrously…There was no lack of incident [at Amulree], amusing or otherwise. SM Greening [346cc Francis-Barnett) jeopardised the chances of the very consistent FB team by charging the bank; he bounced in the air, but it is doubtful if he stopped, hurtling round the upper bend fully 10mph faster than anyone else, JD Price (532cc Scott), fell a victim to the law of gravity, smashing his left footboard completely in the tumble which resulted from his dashing tactics…B Fairley (494cc Douglas) wobbled and fell heavily; W Wilkie (728cc Henderson), shed his passenger and then failed, and RM Wishart (482cc New Gerrard) stopped. At this point one of the cars stuck on the second bend, which effectively ended a plucky attempt, which almost promised be successful, of FW Giles (800cc AJS sc) to climb the hill on one cylinder (caused by a valve spring breaking)…A few moments later J Boddington (1,098cc Morgan), overturned, happily without damage to himself or passenger…By the time Kenmore was reached on the return journey, practice on three official hills and umpteen unofficial hills had wrought a revolution in driving methods, and accurate handling now allowed the willing machines to display their real quality. Farr (557cc BSA), and Lea (496cc Lea-Francis), hit the famous reef of rock on the worst corner and stampeded the spectators without spoiling their own marks…Easily graded roads with a considerable amount of mixed going concluded a very rough 188 miles at Perth.
THE SECOND DAY.
Route: Perth, Forfar, Laurencekirk, Banchory, Ballater, Bridge of Avon, Grantown.
Test Hills: Cairn o’ Mount, Cahrach, Bridge of Avon.
EVERYBODY EXPECTED A PICNIC on Tuesday, as it was known that snowdrifts had compelled the officials to cut out the colonial section…A strong breeze and bright sun had dried the roads by breakfast time, and the highway from Perth to Brechin is a veritable speedway where even a Brooklands 1.000cc racer could be given its head. But beyond Brechin the organisers had inserted a cunning little detour, including for water splashes, round the last of which Cairn o’Mount was tackled by an acute hairpin. Then the weather broke, and a heavy storm churned the going into grease which was so thick that tyres could only cut it at speed; and nobody likes speed upon grease…Once round the right-hand hairpin and on the steepest portion of the hill proper belt-slip made itself known to several. Although Chase’s (Dunelt sc) passenger wiped the belt vigorously the outfit soon came to a stop. (The second sidecar outfit of this make made an excellent ascent). For the same reason A Rollason (496cc Ariel) was compelled to paddle but did not stop…R Carfrae (499cc Rudge-Multi) found it
necessary to run, but not for long…After lunch the going slowly deteriorated, its main feature for some time being huge shallow potholes full of water, and several yards across, so that everybody got pretty wet. Nearing Cabrach the course became really colonial…More storms followed, and the concluding sections we’re a nightmare, never to be forgotten by the participators. The roads were naturally vile, narrow, rutted, stony and precipitous—the last few yards of the drop to Bridge-of-Brown are as nearly vertical as a road can be. Where the surface was not inches under water it was either thinly filmed with treacherous grease or plastered with deep sticky mire. Overhead frequent hailstorms bombarded us with missiles which fell like splintered glass…Many of the riders climbed the last observed hill—Bridge of Avon—under these conditions, skidding all over the road, and unable to see more than two or three yards ahead. The mud in a dip halfway along this curious hill was measured to be 14in deep at one point, and men found themselves labouring downhill on bottom gear. The day’s journey totalled 195 miles, and several veteran competitors described it as the most exhausting trip they had ever made.
THE THIRD DAY.
Route: Grantown, Farr House, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus, Kyllachy, Grantown. Test Hills: Abriachan, Glendoe, Inverfarigaig.
THE ROADS HAD DRIED SURPRISINGLY quickly, and if main roads had been adhered to, the ride to Abriachan would have been dull, and for once the riders might have gazed at the great massifs of snow-capped mountains to the north. But a small section of sporting moorland track had been introduced as a surprise packet. It included many acute twists on a very narrow read, some deepish sand and awkward little humps, so timekeeping was not too simple…On towards Fort Augustus, and lunch, the route lay over ground which ought to be familiar to all previous Scottish competitors, but which, nevertheless, is as crooked in direction as the scenery is magnificent…Three miles on in the afternoon’s run came Glendoe, in excellent condition, and apparently improved by recent showery weather…Several of the sidecars suffered from wheelspin, but C Valling’s (499 Dunelt sc) was the only one actually to fail from this cause…JB Sanderson (292cc Hawker) commenced misfiring low down, but to everyone’s amazement pottered slowly up without a stop…The famous corkscrew at Inverfarigaig was in better condition than in 1921, but got badly cut up by the time half the men had gone up. The reversing of the cars on the hairpins and the skid-corner- ing of the sidecars rapidly destroyed the surface. This year the check was at the top instead of at the bottom as in 1921, and the men came up as they pleased. A great deal of baulking resulted, in which the cars were the chief offenders some of them were atrociously handled, one actually reversing eleven times on the hill, whilst another rammed Horwood’s Ariel and threw the rider right over his handle-bars into the heather. The hill presented a fantastic spectacle at intervals; from the same standpoint all six hairpins are visible, and as many as fifteen riders were dotted over the hill simultaneously, including solos, sidecars, and cars, variously engaged in foot- ing, bouncing, reversing, or quietly waiting for a baulk to clear…Sidecars were skid-cornering in alarming fashion; cars were reversing and wheel-spinning; half the solo machines were plunging and floundering. But the three Morgans went up placidly without an atom of fuss…Mrs Jansen kept a foot trailing in readiness, but made an excellent climb. Mrs Knowles ascended in her usual perfect style, and her climb was neater than most of the men’s. Stirling (348cc AJS) had ill-luck in breaking his front chain on the hill. The best sidecar ascents were not a pretty sight and were calculated to frighten ignorant spectators, as the passenger was usually in some gymnastic attitude or other, and the front wheels did not seem to possess much control of the machines. At the fourth hairpin several machines all but plunged clean over the edge of the road, and others rammed the bank, whilst Mrs Hardee’s Matchless first tried to climb the bank and then lay down on its side. Nearly all the sidecars got up, but what with bouncing, skidding, wheel-spin, and the antics of the occupants the spectacle was not edifying…Poor Horwood was placidly negotiating the second hairpin when a car ran violently into him and hurled him off the road. He made a neat ascent half an hour later…The Harper runabouts were greatly missed at mid-week. One of them seized an engine bearing late on Tuesday, and the other was charged over by another competitor outside Grantown on Wednesday. Their obvious merits have impressed the riders and spectators alike.
THE FOURTH DAY.
Route: Grantown, Bridge-oF-Brown, Achbreck, Cabrach Castle Newe, Ballater, Banchory, Cairn o’ Mount, Charterstane, Aberdeen.
Observed Hills: Bridge-Of-Brown, Cairn o’ Mount.
THE EASIEST DAY SO FAR was the general opinion at the conclusion of Thursday’s run. Yet there were 12 absolute failures (including some who had not previously lost marks) on the first hill, Bridge-of-Brown…the lower reaches on the steepest portion of the observed hill were in fair surface order. A few hundred yards higher up, however, things began to happen, for the surface deteriorated into a squelchy mire, glutinous to a degree seldom met with on British roads. Slogging was the rule rather than the exception, and the following stopped completely: NW Downie (496cc Ariel), Donaldson (Rover sc), Greaves (348cc Beardmore B&S), Chase (499cc Dunelt sc), Vallings (499cc Dunelt sc), ES Astley (988cc Rudge sc), Barnett (346cc Francis- Barnett), Carfrae (499cc Rudge), WH Bashall (678cc Martinsyde sc) and Scott (532cc Scott). Greaves, Bashall and Barnett had previously ranked among the very best performers on the hills, and Bashall had actually climbed the 1 in 3 initial rise on second gear. Thereafter the trial became temporarily a tour as the riders sped over fair roads flanked in the distance by sunlit snow-clad mountains…Nevertheless, there was quite a number of retirements, and it was evident that the gruelling of the first two days was beginning to tell. RR Grindlay (499cc Rudge) was compelled by the club to retire owing to a fractured rear stay, J Boyd (499cc Coulson) wisely gave up at Ballater, for his plug had blown out and punctured the petrol tank. Mrs Jansen (211cc Ner-a-car) also was reported missing amid general expressions of regret, for hers had been a plucky ride. Bird (770cc BSA sc) was towed into Aberdeen from Stonehaven with a broken frame tube.
THE FIFTH DAY.
Route: Aberdeen, Launcenkirk, Forfar, Perth, Dollar, Falkirk, Murrayfield Car Terminus, Edinburgh.
Observed Hills: Nil.
THE SELECTORS OF A TRIALS ROUTE never enjoy an entirely free hand. The necessity for hotel and garage accommodation at midday, as well as at night, imposes fixed points, especially in Scotland. Subject to these limitations, the EDMCC intended to use Friday to develop any latent weaknesses in the machines originating from the bucketing which they had sustained earlier in the week. For this nefarious purpose two ingredients were judiciously blended in the route from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, viz, assorted potholes and speed stretches of irresistible temptation. Dame Nature came to their assistance by setting a stiff sou’-wester to blow hard in the men’s faces, so that engines of 350cc needed continuous full throttles to average 20mph between Aberdeen and the lunch stop at Perth. The road undulates mildly as far as Stonehaven, and is broad, flat, and fine- surfaced for the rest of the 84 miles into Perth. The small machines were compulsorily all out—for example, Mrs Jansen had to keep the Ner-a-car very hard at work, and some of the two-stroke riders found a Brooklands attitude advisable. On the other hand, the men with big engines were unable to resist temptation, though the gale slowed them to a maximum of 40mph. Petrol consumptions were 25% higher than they had been in the mountains up north; but nobody grumbled, so long as the sun shone. The sensation of the morning was the phenomenal travelling of the two little Harper runabouts. Both were running unofficially, one because of a mysterious bearing seizure, the other because a motor bicycle—with a prejudice for the conventional—had rammed it amidships. But they certainly astounded the many experts engaged in the trial. They weigh 2801b. They offer more wind resistance than any bicycle. Their engines are merely the standard Villiers, with a special cylinder designed by Mr Harper. Yet they butted steadily into the teeth of the gale all morning at 30-35mph, and even such speed mounts as the Brough- Superior had no easy job to overhaul and pass them…Mrs. Knowles was still going strong for her gold on the little AJS. Archie Cocks on the Beardmore-Precision sidecar was another unfortunate. He broke the ‘sleeve spring’ of his spring fork earlier in the week, and had conducted a spirited controversy thereafter with the judges as to whether or not a couple of tyre levers strapped to a fork ‘reinforce’ it. In the rules any ‘reinforcement’ of a frame disqualifies for a gold medal, but so far Cocks had brandished Nuttall’s dictionary at the judges’ heads in vain. This controversy will now never be settled, as Cocks broke his chain stay after lunch, and so retired. Perhaps the clearest case of ‘hard lines’ was the retirement of Bert Kershaw’s New Imperial on Cairn o’ Mount during the fourth day’s ride. Beautifully handled, it had performed as well as anything in the trial. Suddenly during the climb up the Cairn it apparently seized. In a hasty diagnosis the gear box and magneto were disconnected, when the engine proved to be perfectly free. The magneto armature, as one rider put it, had ‘burst’! EB Clark was also in trouble after lunch. In his hands the only Zenith-Bradshaw competing was certainly registering a quite outstanding performance. Its misconduct was trivial—merely the fracture of the cup washer confining an inlet valve spring. But Clark had no spare aboard, so he clever!v removed the sturdy standard spring and substituted the light spring from his tyre, pump, the valve now operating automatically. His maximum speed was thereby reduced 20mph or so, and it remained to be seen whether in this enfeebled condition his engine would be equal next day to two very teasy hills—Tynron and Blackford.
THE SIXTH DAY.
Route: Edinburgh, Broughton, Talla Linns, Cappercleugh, Moffat, Durisdeer, Tynron, Penpont, Wanlock Water, Biggar, Edinburgh.
Observed Hills: Talla Linns, Tynron, Blackford Hill.
THERE HAD BEEN MUCH UNCERTAIN SPECULATION on Friday night as to the difficulty of the last day’s run, but as it turned out the terrors of the day proved to be quite different from those anticipated by the majority. Almost impenetrable rain took the place of an almost unclimbable hill, as Tynron was popularly supposed to be, and, although the number of golds lost was not very great, one or two ‘certainties’ went the way that certainties so often go. Since it was last included in a competition, Tynron has been thoroughly re-surfaced by the local authorities, who, far from asking the Edinburgh Club’s permission, had not even notified that body of their intention! Again starting at the unpleasantly early hour of 7am—which incidentally proved too early for L Paynter (Norton), who turned up half an hour late but was allowed to start, the run degenerated into a ‘semi-colonial’ section before the first check at Broughton, but 20mph was only difficult to those who were troubled with punctures. Section No 2 brought the first observed hill, Talla Linns, a flint-strewn, second-gear climb, and seven miles of colonial going, including three water-splashes. KW Choldcroft (349cc AJS) took rather a serious toss here, but pluckily carried on for the honour of his team; WH Hardman (499cc Wilkin) also came off, but not so heavily; and W Westwood (499cc Triumph) grounded in one of the splashes. H Collins (Norton) retired through water in the magneto, probably picked up at the same spot; and Mrs Jansen (Ner-a-car) was forced to give up the trial at the next check, owing, also, to magneto trouble. It was a great pity, for she had been heroically fighting against the most adverse circumstances; not the least of her troubles being two quite inoperative brakes…Most of the hills being familiar to the veterans in the entry, Blackford Hill furnished the Edinburgh leg-pullers with their only chance of putting the wind up the Southrons this year. They succeeded tolerably well, quite apart from the natural nervousness induced by a steep climb in the very last mile of a Six Days. They alleged it contained a patch of 1 in 2½; that sidecars only cleared the wall by an inch; and so, forth. The rain cleared as the trial neared the suburbs of Edinburgh, and at last the riders spied an abrupt hill crowned by an observatory lip which wound a hard, smooth path some 7ft. wide, looking steep enough to overbalance and topple backwards. To the right the breast of the hill was hollowed out into a natural grand stand, on which thousands of the citizens had assembled to gloat over our panic. An imposing array of constables whistled and semaphored to the starting marshals, who sent the men up one at a time. Between whiles they tried to prevent the crowd from sliding bodily down the glazed turf on to the road, with only partial success, for many competitors climbed into an ever-retreating bottleneck of human figures. Local riders fussed about the competitors. ‘Sidecars must have lots of weight on both wheels. Passenger on the carrier or she won’t drive. Driver well forward on the tank or she won’t steer!’ Actually the ascent was not half so formidable as it looked. The surface was excellent, except for a narrow paved V gully or two; and the maximum grade is probably a few yards of 1 in 3¾. Where so many failed (13 in all), some de tailed description seems indicated. The BSA sidecars scorned the hill. The Barr and Stroud engines were slow—wisely
so, as later events proved. N Downie took his Ariel up cautiously; his brother. A.- L., was much faster on the little Raleigh, but his magneto was apparently exhausted by the furious burst, and gave up sparking at the summit it was lucky that he could coast in to the last check. The four Alexander brothers, who of course know the hill well, then ascended at speed amidst delirious cheers from their many friends in the crowd. The sole surviving Dunelt romped up. The BSA solo team took no risks, climbing well within their power, as did Gibson (348cc Raleigh) and Choldcroft (349cc AJS), the latter sobered by his toss earlier in the day. By this time the crowd was growing a little disappointed at the men’s facile conquest of an abnormal hill, but Lochhead (496cc Ariel) comforted them by obviously having nothing in hand; whereupon Newey and Woodcock (992cc Ariel sc) apparently pottered up on second. Mrs Knowles made a splendid climb, throttling down to clear a sister machine just ahead. Sibley (499cc Rudge sc) was all out. Astley on the big Rudge sidecar roared up dangerously fast, grazed the wall, recovered, began to knock, and finished sedately…Hereabouts the amazing Harper runabouts came up unofficially at speed. They were so tickled at their success that they repeated the attempt, and, to the huge delight of the onlookers, one of them missed a gear change near the foot, and disappeared backwards round the corner at speed…Then Watson-Bourne attempted his usual stunt climb, but his wet glove slipped off the bar when the huge machine bucked at the gulley, and he crashed heavily on full throttle.
After’ the finish the club entertained the riders at a smoking concert in the Dunedin Rooms. The chief features were the presentation of the medals (already—by some miracle—engraved with the names of their winners), and the showing of a cinema film of the Monday’s ride, including Amulree and Kenmore Hills. Speeches were commendably short, and Mortimer Batten brought down the house in replying to the toast of ‘The Competitors’. He said they had all enjoyed the Six Days, but were jolly glad it wasn’t a Seven Days.
121 motor cycle entrants, 119 starters, 59 gold medals, 14 silver, four bronze, 42 retirements. Team prizes: Solo, AJS; sidecars, Martinsyde and Matchless tied.
IMPRESSIONS OF A PRESSMAN.
“I ALWAYS GO UP TO THE SCOTTISH SIX DAYS in the mood with which a very young rabbit crosses the Portsmouth Road for the first time. I always return feeling like the parrot which got out of its cage and devoured the whole of the tipsy cake, so blithe am I that the annual ordeal is over. This is a disgusting confession to make now that the audacious Mrs Knowles has lifted a solo gold, whilst Mrs Jansen was only prevented from finishing by the hardest of hard luck. So let me hastily explain my cowardice. In the first place, I am next door to a grandfather. In the second, I live on tarred roads, and hardly ever see a ‘sticky bit’ by this date in the season. In the third place, some fools say—and actually believe it—that the Scot has no sense of humour. He has as keen a sense of humour as anybody on earth. It may be a perverted humour, hut it is there. He catches us when we come off the night mail, all bleary and dazed with a long railway journey; and he proceeds to exert the full force of that massive intellect with which all Scots are notoriously blest, to put the ‘breeze up’ us. I always fall an easy victim. Usually he effects his nefarious purpose by lurid accounts of the new hills. By 1922 this wheeze had got rather stale; besides, we were getting to know his hills. So this winter the Edinburgh Committee met in secret conclave, and decided to date the trial for. May—and May in Scotland is to an English May as having your dud tooth frozen by the dentist is to eating a pound of marzipan. We stepped off the train at Waverley Station, and all the familiar faces were there to greet us. Our Northern friends stepped forward and wrung us by the hand with the air of the lawyer at the funeral, who knows officially that your favourite aunt has left her millions to a home for lost cats. We wondered at the reverent reserve of this welcome. The Scots began rather mysteriously to curse the ACU for dating the TT so awkwardly; to curse the RSAC for holding light car trials; to curse the Scottish hotel proprietors; to lament the record tardiness of the Highland spring. As I said before, we have just completed an all-night journey in a stuffy train, and such courage as we possessed was of the 2am variety. Our faces grew more and more anxious. Our eyes began to bulge. And the hateful Scots grew more and more sympathetic. Floods had washed the bridges away—but no matter, they would bankrupt the club in
purchasing planks rather than that we should wet the soles of our feet. All the sheep north of Perth were lying cold and stiff under 20ft of snow. The Edinburgh Club was nobly chartering tractors and snow ploughs—under no circumstances were we to get anxious. But, of course, we did; and not until the week was well advanced did we realise that the entire atmosphere was one gigantic leg-pull. Yet methinks that when the club treasurer comes to settle the bill for maybe 75 gold medals, the boot may fairly be deemed to adorn our leg. One thing I know—the 1923 Scottish will obviously be some trial; they won’t hand round 75 golds again without a struggle. When the date is announced I shall get married, or kill off my umpteenth grandmother, or figure as ‘reasonably absent’, as they say at Sunday schools, on some ground or other. And so to our muttons. None of the new hills were worth yellow ochre except Blackford. Doric cruelty again. Fancy keeping back the worst new hill to the penultimate mile of the trial. But even Blackford only stopped the dud engines and the unfortunates. Before a hill can defeat the modern rider on a modern engine three factors must be present, and all three must be raised to the nth power; they are: 1, Surface; 2, Gradient; 3, Corners. Note once more the wiliness of the Scot. Whatever he may say about Glendoe, he knows that Amulree is his worst hill. So he sends you up it on the first day, before you have graduated as a chamois trying to nibble edelweiss whilst fleeing from the hunter up a glacier. From both sides. And even then he only trips up the beginners. Inverfarigaig? Any ordinarily good rider can climb it ‘feet on’, provided (a) he has been up it once before, and (b) no medal hinges on a clean climb, but it is a snorter when you meet it for the first time, and a gold is attached to your behaviour. Also the second corner on Amulree is never a cast-iron certainty for anybody except perhaps George Dance and Bert Kershaw. However, the weather -was kind to the Edinburgh treasurer at one spot. I have not infrequently ‘blinded’ over the section between Grantown and Bridge of Avon both ways. This year there was a great plucking out of grey hairs over the shaving-glasses
next morning. The ride into Grantown on the Tuesday had the Bodmin Moor stretch in the Land’s End knocked out in the first round; the weather was the same in both cases, but the Scottish bit undulated like a lariat when a cowboy is sending half-hitches down it, the road varied from glue to vaseline in consistency, and resembled in surface a shellhole after two siege guns have been extricated. On the return journey next day things were better, until we reached the normally easy bit at the top of Brig o’ Brown. Here there was a hundred yards of stuff resembling deliquescent concrete, some 9in deep; It pulled up cars as if their gear boxes had jammed. As to the two-wheelers, my friends all said at lunch, ‘Did you see me go up Brig o’ Brown?’ ‘No?’ ‘I never took my feet off.’ But I didn’t believe them. I never put my feet on. To give readers an idea of the hills, the writer’s ohv Triumph has a bottom gear of 11.08 to 1. On this she ticked easily up the test hills with the spark fully retarded and the throttle in slow running position. As some solo machines had emergency gears of 20 to 1, and even less, steering was obviously the chief obsession for solo men, just as wheel slip most bothered the sidecarists. If the need for skid-cornering were eliminated, the percentage of sidecars to finish would instantly become higher than the percentage of motor bicycles, because a number of the two-wheelers are outed as the result of falls on grease and on colonial sections, a trouble from which sidecars are immune. There was a fair amount of really bad riding—I
say ‘riding’ because men ride with their heads as well as with their hands. Taking hills too fast. Taking awkward hills close behind another competitor. Wasting time, and then blinding to make it up. Blinding without any excuse whatsoever. Missing the way through sheer carelessness. It would be a sound education for any trials novice to. ride a few miles behind such an expert as Bert Kershaw. His entire attention is concentrated on the job in hand. He never goes one mile an hour faster than is necessary. There were two marked contrasts with 1921. There were hardly any protests—the rules had been framed very clearly. There were far fewer jokes. At most official stops in a Scottish the air is a-buzz with really comic incidents. Perhaps the cold and the hail and the rain dried up our spirits, but anyhow we didn’t laugh half as much as usual. Turning to more personal matters, I jogged round on one of the first ohv Triumphs, and had the most comfortable ride of my experience. Never before have I returned to Edinburgh without a few aches and pains somewhere; but a good riding position, 3in Dunlops and a Druid fork have changed all that. The clearance of this machine is a little low for rough riding—the footrests got cock-eyed in a rut before ever she went North, and ere long the exhaust pipes fouled a rock reef, and had to have a giant poker hammered down them one night. The top gear was too high for fancy roads, and I shall fit a smaller sprocket on the next jaunt of the kind. But even on the highest set of gears fitted to this model there was never the least anxiety about hill-climbing, and the only drawback was that a lot of second gear was required. The Triumph rear brake is so firm and trusty that the front one need not have been there. The fuel consumption varied between 100mpg and 60mpg
according to wind, speed, and road; just over one quart of Speedwell ‘White Ideal’ was used. The engine certainly needed decoking at the end of the trial, but had been by no means clean at the start. The only spare part which I carried was a KLG, and its sister in the fastness amidst the four valves was so insulted at the precaution that she never sooted up or misfired. Engine starting is a first time job after the heaviest day. Tappets were adjusted once, chain once. The small bolt securing the front mudguard to the fork sheared and was replaced. I can heartily recommend this machine for docile riding as well as for speed work, merely specifying that a small sprocket is desirable for ordinary touring unless ample use is to be made of the gear lever. As the weather was bad, some details about clothing, etc, may be of interest. An Aquamac coat kept me bone-dry all the week as to my upper, topped by one of the cheap Ledux helmets, made out of proofed hood fabric. For legwear I tried the Trewso with spring steel side fastenings. These were equally waterproof, but one of the springs occasionally jumped out of its socket, careful fitting being necessary with this design; two inches of a seam also came unstuck, and one of the instep straps went ‘west’. Rubber galoshes over ordinary boots. A pair of 2s 6d hedger’s gloves—so cheap that you don’t mind losing them, so obviously worthless that nobody steals them, quite warm, and tolerably waterproof.”
AS A COMPETITOR SAW THE TRIAL.
“FEW, IF ANY, TRIALS HAVE OCCURRED in which the public might so safely pin their faith as a genuine test of machines as the recent Scottish ‘Six Days’…Usually there is a chance for the crack rider on an indifferent machine, but in this case there was none. A machine requiring constant attention was bound to go to the wall. The immense distances covered, the nature of the country traversed, the shortness of the checks, and a hundred other elements entered into the remorseless process of weeding out the unfit. It has been said that premier awards were too numerous. This is not so. Only those who took part in the trial or who followed it can realise the terrific gruelling that machines and riders underwent. That there should be so high a percentage of premier- awards is perhaps the most astounding proof we have had of the efficiency of present-day machines. Looking back on the trial, now that it belongs to one’s impressions of the past, one finds the mind a chaos of disordered impressions—miles and miles of moorland road, with range after range of rugged indigo beyond, dazzling panoramas of widespread lochs, with the storm-swept hills on every side. At times we could see the storms sweeping the heights all round us, but for the most part they were kindly and left us alone. One sees again the rocky, pine-capped outcrops which make the Highlands so beautiful, and here and there we skirted for miles some majestic mountain torrent, the beauties of which were almost depressing in their grandeur. We saw so much each day that there lives, as I say, merely a disordered chaos, fleeting impressions, one quickly succeeding another, but making the aggregate something very much worth remembering…a Highland trial needs no frills to weed out the unfit—the distance and the nature of the country do
it, and I suppose this is the longest Scottish ‘Six Days’ ever held. The distances covered in the Scottish are always much greater than those covered in the English trials. I consider it a far more exhausting trial, and I think this last Scottish was certainly more trying than the English of two years ago. In that trial I won a gold; had my luck been as bad last week I might have won a silver, but more probably a bronze. Indeed, I am doubtful whether I should have finished the trial at all. The Scottish officials have always been famed for their fairness and their friendly disposition towards the riders. They set a stiff course, but having done that they seem to want as many as possible to survive it safely. This year the same genial spirit prevailed. The officials were our friends…This year any rider who handed in a protest which was considered frivolous was most unpopular. The entry was so big, trade riders so numerous, each, naturally, eager to do the best for his employer, that weakness of any kind would have been the utmost folly. And no weakness was shown…Looking back on this trial I fail to see a single hitch in the working…The preliminary examination of spares was much more rigidly carried out this season than ever previously. Only such replacements as sheer bad luck or legitimate mishap might demand were allowed. Nevertheless, this proceeding was not without its touches of humour. I saw an official snatch a piston and connecting rod complete from a competitor’s kit and threaten to brain him with it. When it came to my turn I told the burly official what I had—a few chain links, two spare plugs, a spare tube, etc. ‘Open, that bag,’ he ordered. I did so. His face fell. ‘Och!’ he exclaimed, ‘this man’s too cunning. Come on, Ronald.’ ‘Then,’ I added, ‘I’ve got in my pocket a —’ ‘Hold your tongue, man,’ ordered the spare parts examiner genially. ‘We’re no’ going to feel in
your pockets.’ And they were gone. On another occasion I blinded through a check, thinking I was late. An excited official ran out, waving something which looked like an Indian club, save that it was black and might indeed have been something quite different. ‘Go back, back man, go back!” he shouted. ‘D’you ken you’re nearly five minutes ear-r-rly?’ I went back, and I am glad I did not miss that check. It was a cold day up there on the roof of the world, and there is nothing like a swing (I almost said swig) of the Highland club to warm one…Among the lady soloists only Mrs Knowles completed the course, and everyone congratulated her, for she has tried hard in previous trials, generally suffering the most aggravating bad luck. She has shown what her sex can do in yet another walk of life, and she is the first lady to gain a solo gold in the Scottish. Mrs Jansen was no less of a heroine. Finally, I feel that a word is due regarding the Barr and Stroud Precision which I rode for the makers, though having no interest in this concern. The new sleeve-valve engine certainly fulfils expectations. Its wonderfully silent tick-over was widely commented upon, and at the checks, where other riders were waiting, I could not tell whether or not the engine was going except by looking down at the fly- wheel. It is a very sturdy puller. On the third day I broke my magneto Bowden, but did not trouble about repairing it as the engine cannot be made to pink, and pulls to its last gasp whether at full advance or full retard. Unquestionably, a great future for this engine. It cannot be made to over-heat, and, so far as I can judge, it is as good as the poppet valve in every respect, and a great deal better in many ways…So the most important and probably the most strenuous trial ever held in Scotland has come to an end, and though the good old hardy annual of ‘never again’ was on everybody’s lips when we checked in at Blackford, drenched to the skin in spite of trench coats and tarpaulins, we already find ourselves wondering what next year will hold.
H MORTIMER BATTEN.