1926

1926 EGYPTIAN STAMP
An Egyptian stamp showing a rider in the desert marked the launch of a motor cycle express postal service.
1926 EINSPURAUTO
Mauser ceased production of the remarkable Einspurauto ‘one-track car’ but designer Gustav Winkler managed to build a few more examples.
1926 BSA ROUNDTANK
BSA made nearly 30,000 motorcycles, including this 250cc ’roundtank’ which seemed destined for a hard life.
1926 AMA POSTER
Sidecar racing was dropped from the TT programme. The official reason was a lack of entries but pundits suggested that manufacturers feared racing outfits would harm the image of combos as safe family transport (cars had only just outnumbered outfits on British roads). By way of contrast the American Motorcyclist Association dropped its ban on sidecar racing. In the US cheap cars had already superseded outfits so Stateside manufacturers had nothing to lose.
1926 INDIAN ACE
Indian took over Ace, adding a well-proven in-line four to its V-twins which was accurately, if unimaginatively, marketed as the Indian-Ace.

THE ULTRA-LIGHTWEIGHT (175CC) CLASS was also dropped from the TT, and this time the story about a lack of entries was true (the 1925 race sttracted only seven starters). The mountain section had been tarmacked, which would boost lap speeds, and methanol was banned, forcing manufacturers to use standard petrol, which was true to the spirit of the TT. The TT had become the most prestigious race in Europe so inevitably the Continentals wanted a share of the glory. Garelli, Bianchi and Moto Guzzi all sent contingents; in Garelli’s case a twin-piston two-stroke single with four carburettors while Bianchi’s ohc twin Freccia Celoeste (Blue Arrow) also attracted some worried attention from the Brits. Bianchis came 13th, 14th and 20th in the Junior TT while the sole Garelli failed to finish. Pietro Ghersi led the Lightweight TT on a 250cc Guzzi for six of the seven laps and set a lap record at 63.1mph. Ghersi was on course to become the first overseas rider to win a TT but had to refuel on the last lap, allowing Paddy Johnston to snatch victory for Cotton by just 20sec–and Ghersi was excluded for using a diferent spark plug from the item listed on the entry form (Charlie Collier lost his runner’s up spot in the 1911 Senior for the same infraction). It was a good year for the boys from Gloucester: second and third placed FG Morgan and W Colgan were also riding Cottons; they were followed home by SH Jones (New Imperial) and WF Bicknell Royal Enfield). The Italians were NOT amused by Ghersi’s disqualification, particularly as the 500 Guzzi failed to finish the Senior, which TT Special editor GS Davison reckoned was “a memorable race—memorable for the terrific scrap between Stanley Woods, riding a Norton for the first time, and Wal Handley on a twin-cylinder Rex Acme…in the second lap Walter had trouble with the rear-cylinder plug and had great difficulty in extracting it. This lap took him some seven seconds longer than the average of his others and dropped him back to about 20th place…But Walter was unequalled when things had gone wrong. By terrific riding he tore through the field so that he was on the leader-board again by the fifth lap…I have seen many riders going down Bray Hill, but never have I seen anything like Walter on that occasion. He was absolutely full bore, flat on the tank and used every inch of the road…he was out for blood…and finally ran into second place, just over four minutes behind Stanley.” That was one of his finest rides.” Frank Longman (AJS) was third, ahead of Joe Craig (Norton) and CP Wood (HRD). Jimmy Simpson broke the 70mph barrier in the Junior, lapping at 70.4mph on his AJS. But Alec Bennett beat him into second place on a cammy Velo with Wal Handley finishing third on a Rex-Acme. Freddie Dixon (Douglas) was fourth, with Gus Kuhn fifth on another Velo. Bennett set lap and race records in the first TT victory for an overhead-camshaft engine—KTT Velocettes would be a force to be reckoned with for the next 30 years. AJS was acclaimed for extracting 10hp from its 350s; within a decade power outputs would double.

1926 TT COTTONS GHERSI
Contrasting fortunes in the 1926 Lightweight TT: Freddy Morgan, Paddy Johnson and Bill Colgan won a hat-trick for Cotton (Bill Cotton stands to the right). Pietro Ghersi enjoys a gasper on the Lightweight grid; he nearly became the first overseas rider to win a TT. With hindsight the Lodge spark plug banner behind him is a tad ironic.
1926 TT START
The 1926 Junior TT grid. Alec Bennett, on the right of this picture, makes last-minuite adjustment to the KTT Velo.
1926 TT WOODS BENNETT
The scouts who marshalled the TT look rather glum but Stanley Woods is clearly delighted by his Senior victory. Velocette marked Alec Bennett’s Junior win with a front cover ad on the Blue ‘Un’s first (of three) show numbers.

FOLLOWING HIS TT VICTORY StanleyWoods was the fastest rider at the Athey races, doing 88.3mph on a New Imperial.

AE ‘BERT’ PERRIGO JOINED BSA’S COMPETITION DEPARTMENT. The also staged a series of publicity tunts, culminating in a world tour by a pair of colonial-model 986cc Model G V-twin combos. The riders were BSA salesman Bertram Hall Cathrick and John Castley, who was a sub editor for the Blue ‘Un. Cathrick had worked and ridden in South Africa and Malaya and had won a Scottish Six Days Trial; Castley was also a an experienced motor cyclist who wrote reports of their progress which were published monthly in The Motor Cycle—over the next two years his reports ran to 117 pages; what follows gives the briefest idea of their adventures. (And, as a one-time sub for Motor Cycle Weekly I confess to delighting in the fact that Castley also went to my old school.) Modifications to the world-tour outfits included gauze-canister air filters, uprated spokes and forks, sump plates and a plunger-operated pump to oil the rear chain. The BSA sidecars featured tubular frames supporting steel-clad plywood boxes with five-gallon fuel tanks to give a range of 350 miles. As well as camping equipment the intrepid pair packed dress and lounge suits and a rifle—each outfit weighed in at half a ton. In two years they covered 25,000 miles through western, southern and eastern Europe to Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, thence to India, Burma, Java, across Australia and onto Tasmania, New Zealand, South America, South Africa and back to Blighty. They were arrested, shot at and imprisoned in Serbia, and made the first motor cycle crossing of the Sinai Desert, helped by a twenty-yard roll of wire netting which they laid down to cross over stretches of soft sand. There were problems with customs officers who took the Beezas’ piled arms logo literally and assumed they were arms dealers. Theirs were the first motor vehicles to cross the Andes from Valparaiso to Mendoza. Castley’s wrote in his report on Budapest and the Danube: “The mighty river was like a polished scimitar, thrusting into the heart of the capital clothed in the copper foliage of autumn.” A packet of Eno’s fruit salts interested Czech customs officers looking out for cocaine. When approaching Belgrade Castley took photo of a railway bridge—they were arrested at gunpoint and marched ay bayonet point along the railway line for six miles to a small town where an officer confiscated the camera and accused them of spying. They were held for interrogation until a delegation from the Belgrade Motor Club, who had been waiting to welcome them, had them released and took them out for a slap-up feed. Castley noted that photos of the railway bridge were on sale next to their gaol. The Turkish authorities did not want them anywhere near the east bank of the Bosphorous where new fortifications were being erected so they had to travel inland by train for 50 miles. Christmas was spent in Jaffa. Castley described India as too vast for a human brain to comprehend: “The best that a bird of passage can do is watch, to ask and to listen.” They passed though Agra, saw the Taj Mahal, and rode up into the Himalayas. In Rangoon they had a narrow escape from a major fire and helped rescue furniture, including a piano, from a burning house. On the ride down to Singapore they visited British outposts where they played tennis and watched polo matches. Near Penang they met up with Cathrick’s chums from his plantation days, one of whom escorted them south on his Norton. The BSA agents in Perth overhauled the outfits in preparation for a 900-mile battle with the sand, mud and potholes of the Nullarbor Plain. Castley reported: “It was dark and my light refused even to glimmer, so I followed Cathrick. Not grasping the meaning of a frantic swerve and shout from him I crashed, blind and groping into the ancestor of all pot-holes. My engine stopped in the general cataclysm which followed, and when I tried to restart, such gruesome groanings and gratings were wrung from the engine or gearbox. I almost sat and wept to think that we should have to leave one of the machines beside the road so near to the end of a great run. Cathrick was made of sterner stuff. He started the engine, engaged a gear and rode off, shouting to me to bring his outfit on. The saddle pillar had broken on his machine, and I had to sit on an entirely unsprung saddle—on such a road!”

1926 BSA TOUR
BSA’s intrepid duo slogging their way through the Aussie outback and (right) strutting their sartorial stuff in Bombay.

P&M came up with the remarkable unit-construction, four-speed, 246cc ohv tranverse V-twin Panthette designed by Granville Bradshaw. There was little demand for such a refined, expensive lightweight.

Another promising vehicle with no clear market was the Saro Runabout, a fully enclosed motorcycle or a two-wheeled car. It was developed by Sir Alliot Verdon Roe (of Avro fame, the firm that would build the Lancaster). The Saro was driven by a 350cc Villiers engine with a three-speed box and shaft drive; advanced features included damped springing at both ends, 10in drum brakes, single-sided aluminium wheels and hub-centre steering.

FOLLOWING FOUR YEARS at the drawing board Narazo Shimazu (who we last met in 1908 launching the Japanese motor cycle industry) came up with a 250cc two-speed sidevalve which he named the Arrow First. He built six and Shimazu, his brother and a couple of their chums rode four of them on a 1,430-mile, 15-day publicity run to Tokyo. His company, Nihon Motorcycle Company (NMC), produced 700 bikes over the next three years before going under.

Claude Temple boosted the world motorcycle speed record to 121.41mph. on an OEC-Temple-Anzani.

There were so many women participating in races and trials throughout Britain that the Motor Cycle Manufacturers’ Union honoured the gentle sex with a banquet in London.

Commercial plastics injection moulding machines arrived.

The Blue ’Un described an engine with a capacity of 3.6cc. Circulation of its show report issue topped 200,000; the magazine also launched The Motor Cycle Football Cup competition–a sport for motorcyclists with 6ft balls [it’s an ancient quip but this is, after all, 1926].

Britain imported 520,194,737 gallons of petrol; up 146,235,874gal over 1925.

By the end of the year over half a million motorcycle licences had been issued.

As bikes became more and more reliable, riders were evidently determined to push them to the limit: Sydney Greenwood, 64, made a 5,120-mile trek across Australia on a 249cc Beeza. A chap named Grady rode a Douglas 9,000 miles round the coast of Australia; another Duggie crossed ‘the Union of South Africa’;  and Miss Gwendolyn Adams rode 3,000 miles from Ellesmere to Venice and back on her hols. Captain Geoffrey Malins and a Mr Oliver went global on OEC-Temple outfits powered by 1,000cc ohv British Vulpine engines. The Hughes sidecars didn’t stand up to the journey too well so the sidecar chassis were replaced in Melbourne.

A Norton outfit climbed Bwlch-y-Groes, the highest pass in Wales, 100 times non-stop. It then covered 1,500 miles from Dinas Mawddwy to Edinburgh and Plymouth – and won a Gold in the ISDT. All of which earned Norton the Maudes Trophy for the third year in succession.

Marjorie Cottle was roped in for an imaginative, stunt: she traced the world ‘Raleigh’ on a map of England aboard a 174cc Raleigh.

The MCC’s Land’s End-John o’ Groats trial attracted 27 hardy riders. There were 266 starters in the London-Exeter trial; the London-Land’s End trial attracted 345 riders of whom 278 lasted the course.

A trios of 172cc Francis Barnett were ridden to the top of Mount Snowden, followed soon after by a 500cc Beeza combo. A 350cc Raleigh was then ridden up Ben Nevis by the aptly named R MacGregor. A 124cc Fanny-Barnett got into the record books by averaging 33.6mph for six hours; a 588cc Norton failed to average a ton in a six-hour thrash but was oh so close at 99.98mph. What’s more another Norton set a 50km record at 94.8mph.

British models ranged in price from £22 to £195.

GW Patchett did 116.5mph at Southport Sands on a 980cc McEvoy-JAP.

A race meeting at Druridge Park, Northumberland, attracted more than 100,000 spectators; presumably there was nothing good on the telly.

The police were ordered by the Home Office to crack down on noisy motorcycles.

Ajays took 500 and 350cc honours at the Belgian GP; Jock Porter led the 250s home on his New Gerrard. The 175cc class was won by a Ready-Blackburne which, while nominally Begian, had a British engine and was of a distinctly British design.

Bennett and Norton won the French 500cc GP, Walker and Sunbeam won the 500cc Ulster. Another Sunbeam won the GP des Nations but on their home ground Guzzi won the Italian and BMW won the German GP – where Messrs Porter (New Gerrard) and Simpson (AJS) maintained their winning streak in the 250 and 350cc races.

The Dutch TT (the Blue ’Un sniffily referred to it as the Dutch ‘TT’) was restricted to Dutch riders but British bikes dominated: 250, 350, 500 and 750cc honours went to New Imp, Beeza, Norton and Scott respectively (the 1,000cc class was won by an Indian).

It says much for British dominance that British bikes, engines and gearboxes were banned from the Berlin show. The German industry was expanding fast; new models included a 703cc ohv V-twin Wanderer and, shades of Scott, a 496cc vertical twin two-stroke from DKW.

Scott replaced the ‘bread basket’ petrol tank with a more modern looking ‘long tank’ on its Flying Squirrel.

Say farewell to Victoria, a pioneer Scottish marque founded in 1902. But the name lived on in Germany in the guise of a 500cc flat-twin. A supercharged version set a national record at 103mph.

For the first time since 1918 Harley Davidson produced one-lungers to complement its big twins. The 348cc Model 26, available in sv and ohv guise, was intended primarily for the export market (Yankee enthusiasts dubbed it the ’21’, that being the number of cubic inches in 350cc; qv the 1,200cc Harley ’74’).

Exactly 646,295 motorcycles were registered in Britain (up from 581,228 in 1925) compared with 695,634 cars (up from 590,156).

The Blue ’Un published a feature on ‘how to wear a beret’. Even more significantly, it offered a prize for the first rider to do 100 miles in an hour on a British 500.

There were 141 ohv models at the Olympia Show (up 44 more than the previous year) compared with 152 sidevalves (down by 15). Dynamo lighting was standard on many machines and all the major players fielded ohv engines.

Joe Wright rode a Zenith-JAP into the record books, averaging 108.9mph for 10 miles. Wal Handley set 200-mile records in the 350, 500, 750 and 1,000cc classes; Victor Horsman did more than 94 miles in an hour on a 498cc Triumph.

Cambridge beat Oxford in the varsity hillclimb.

From Rudge came the first of an illustrious line of ohv four-valve singles.

The ISDT was back in Britain where the Trophy and Vase were both won by the British B team (aboard a Sunbeam, a Norton combo and a little Jimmy). Graham Walker took a break from road racing to ride the Sunbeam. The manufacturers’ prize was scooped by BSA.

A prototype ABC appeared with a 1,200cc engine.

McEvoy and AJW braved the economic recession by roaring onto the market with luxury big twins – McEvoy fitted an ohv JAP, AJW opted for an eight-valve British Anzani. They were aimed squarely at the BruffSup market, as was the JAP-engined Coventry Victor Flying Eight. Unfortunate timing, but nice for them as could afford one.

Austrian Anton Gazda produced a range of 248cc twostrokes but was better known in Britain for his Gazda handlebars, which were formed from a complex bundle of leafsprings (a set of spacers allowed standard control levers to be used). Flexible handlebars… there’s a thought.

The Court of Appeal decided it was legal to have both brakes fitted to one wheel.

Brooklands was lapped at more than 113mph by Joe Wright and OM Baldwin on Zenith-JAPs.

The MCC held a meeting to vote on ACU affiliation. They decided to stay out.

Veloce made it official and adopted the name Velocette.

Manually controlled traffic lights were installed at Picadilly Circus.

The Mechanical Warfare Experimental Establishment was set up near Farnborough, Hants to assess mechanized transport including motorcycles for military use. Bikes were to be tested for 10,000 miles on and off road inc,luding acceleration, fuel consumption tests and durability tests.

British ex-pat Edward Self joined a Garelli team at Monza which snapped up a raft of world records.

Road accidents accounted for 4,886 deaths in the UK

Ace designer Val Page moved from JAP to Ariel.

BSA wasn’t the only ‘small arms’ manufacturer of two-wheelers. Eisuke Miyata, a gunsmith employed by the Hitachi Kuni Kasama Clan, founded Miyata Small Arms of Tokyo and built Japan’s first modern bicycle in 1892. When MSA was asked to develop a police motorcycle it first copied a European flat twin design. When this was unsuccessful it developed a one-lunger based on the Triumph.

Eckert and Ziegler patented the first commercial modern plastics injection moulding machine.

A French car manufacturer was said to be working on a 1,000cc engine rated at more than 200hp.

In May both the Blue ’Un and Green ’Un lost issues due to the General Strike.

1926 TLIGHTS
A manually operated series of electric traffic lights was installed along Piccadilly (London, not Manchester).

Temple teamed up with the Osborne Engineering Company (OEC), who had unusual ideas about chassis design and steering systems (their nickname was ‘Odd Engineering Contraptions’). The OEC speed-record racer used a complicated ‘duplex’ front end, which was heavy and didn’t like turning corners – perfect for a Speed Record. Temple used a special 996cc JAP engine to re-take the record at Arpajon in 1926, averaging 195.33kph.