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 In the US cheap cars had already superseded outfits so Stateside manufacturers had nothing to lose.) 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.
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 Small Heath team also staged a series of publicity stunts, 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 coincidence 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 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.” En route to Salzburg “The road ran all the way beside the River Salide until the last ten kilometres, and by the light of the full moon we had magic glimpses of a tumbled mass of foam in the deep gorge below, and of the towering, hoary mountain crests above. My front tyre (to descend from the sublime) punctured 15 kilometres out of Salzburg—our third puncture that day—and we spent a chlly twenty minutes over the repair, as both our spare wheels were flat. It is surprising how long solution takes tobecome tacky on a frosdty night!” A packet of Eno’s fruit salts interested Czech customs officers looking out for cocaine. In Budejovice (where “we decided later that only Yorkshire could have produced ham and eggs tasting more English”) “the representative of a Swedish firm, MJ Leon Karkoff, who had been dining at the hotel and is some mysterious way knew all about us and the expedition, brought offers of assistance, and promised to meet us again in Prague.” When approaching Belgrade Castley took photo of a railway bridge—they were arrested at gunpoint and marched at 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!”
FOLLOWING FOUR YEARS at the drawing board Narazo Shimazu (whom 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, painted them bright red, 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. Despite the success of this run Shimazu went bankrupt but found new partners and set up Japan Motors Manufacturing in Osaka. Shimazu and his team uprated the Arrow First and produced up to 60 machines a month. Interviewed in 1972 he recalled: “I sold 700 motor cycles in three years, but the profit margin was insufficient to continue, and I closed up the factory. I was one of Japan’s motor cycle pioneers…but owing to the fact that the timing was too early, as a business, it ended without bearing any fruit.”
SO MANY WOMEN WERE competing in races and trials throughout Britain that the Motor Cycle Manufacturers’ Union honoured the gentle sex with a banquet in London.
A WOOD GREEN &DMCC dance at the Alexandra Palace was attended by 614 members and guests.
COMMERCIAL PLASTIC injection moulding machines arrived.
“RESIDENTS AT ALEXANDRA CRESCENT, Bromley Hill—mostly motorists—have had a 10ft wall built across the end of the road at the boundary with the LCC Downham estate, so that all through traffic is stopped. It is the sequel of an alleged right-of-way dispute, and developments are expected.”
THE BLUE ‘UN DESCRIBED an engine with a capacity of 3.6cc. Circulation of its show report issue topped 200,000.
THE AUTO-CYCLE UNION TOOK an active interest in expanding the motor cycle football and established a knockout cup, Coventry beat Middlesbrough in the final
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.
“‘PILLIONETTE AND PILLIONIST’ are the words suggested in a letter to a daily paper to denote respectively a pillion passenger and the rider of the machine. But wouldn’t ‘with my brother as pillionette’ sound a little odd?”
“200BHP FROM 1,000CC! It is rumoured that a French firm of car manufacturers is experimenting with a 12-cylinder 1,000cc engine which is claimed to develop no less than 200bhp.”
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. Following Arthur Grady’s truly epic lap of Australia (on a Douglas, in 1925) another Duggie crossed ‘the Union of South Africa; and Miss Gwendolyn Adams rode 3,000 miles from Ellesmere to Venice and back on yet another Douglas. It behaved perfectly, she remarked: “I was very proud of the mount, for neither France nor Italy can produce anything to equal it.” Captain Geoffrey Malins and Charles Oliver went global on OEC-Temple outfits powered by 1,000cc ohv British Anzani Vulpine engines. The Hughes sidecars didn’t stand up to the journey too well so the sidecar chassis were replaced in Melbourne. [You’ll find a taste of the trek in 1927 but for more details of this expedition turn to Murray’s Timelines in the main menu, scroll to the bottom of the page and take a gander at Volume B which also contains a comprehensive report on Arthur Grady’s odessey, including a lengthy first-hand account and so much more.]
HAVING WON THE 1925 INTERNATIONAL Six Says Trial Britain hosted the 1926 event which comprised five days in the Peak District wilderness followed by a day’s speeding at Brooklands. The excellent site ‘Speed Track Tales’, a mine of information on the history of the ISDT, has tracked down some fascinating newspaper reports, so for a change from the Blue ‘Un and Green ‘Un, lets see what they had to say:
Glasgow Herald: “During the coming week [whilst English cricketers endeavour to win back the ‘ashes’ from Australia] Britain will defend one of the few international championships in the realm of sport in which she is the holder. This is the International Trophy of motorcycling, which Great Britain won last year for the third time…Switzerland has also held the trophy for three years from 1920-22 inclusively, whilst Sweden won in 1923, when the trial was held in their own country. The international six days trial is the premier event of its kind in motor cycling sport. It will start from Buxton to-day, and continue throughout the week over a typical trial course in and around the Peak district, and conclude with a speed test on the Brooklands race-track at Weybridge. The race covers 797 miles on the road, and there will be included 33 observed hills on which competitors must make a non-stop ascent. As was the case last year, Germany is challenging British prestige in the contest for the International Trophy. In this competition teams of three are entered from each country—two riders to pilot solo machines and one a motor cycle with sidecar, all the machines being manufactured in the country from which the entry is received…Next in importance is the competition for the International Vase, in which national teams of three riders compete on machines manufactured in any country. Great Britain is also the holder of this event. Germany has entered her international trophy team, whilst Holland will be represented by three teams mostly riding machines of English make. England will defend her honour with her two International Trophy teams and a team composed of famous lady riders. These will be Mrs G Mclean (2.49hp BSA), Miss Marjorie Cottle (3.45hp Raleigh); and Miss Edith Foley (4.49hp Triumph). The trial will constitute a honeymoon trip for Mrs Mclean, who, prior to her marriage a fortnight ago, was Miss Louisa Ball, and she entered under her maiden name. Her husband is riding in the trial on a BSA. The British motor cycling championship will also be incorporated in the trial, and for this local centres of the Auto-Cycle Union are entitled to nominate teams of three riders. Altogether 15 teams have been so nominated, including two from the holders, the East Midland centre. There is also a manufacturers team competition, for which 20 British motor cycle manufacturers have entered teams of three riders each. Altogether 113 individual entries have been received including seven lady riders…including Miss M Bedlington on a lightweight Velocette. Miss Bedlington is a district nurse in the north of England and used her motor cycle to visit her patients. The trial embodies three distinct tests—general reliability, hill-climbing capacity, and speed…all machines must be equipped with two efficient brakes working independently, one efficient silencer, identification plates, and a complete set of lamps as required by English law.”
Glasgow Herald: For the third successive year England has gained the International Trophy of motor cycling. This, with her success in 1913, makes her fourth victory in what is essentially the motor cycle challenge of the world. She was challenged this year by Germany, who had nominated two teams of her strongest riders, but by the middle of last week one of the latter had lost all its three members, and the other, one. England’s two teams successfully completed the road course of 777 miles, but during the speed test held on Brooklands track on Saturday one member of England’s A-team was put out by a valve breakage. England’s B-team, comprising Philip Pike (Norton and sidecar) of Plymouth, J Lidstone (James) of Birmingham, and Graham W Walker (Sunbeam), of Wolverhampton had dropped only 12 [out of 300] points in all, and thus achieve a noteworthy victory. In the contest for the International Vase, victory went to the same English team. The Holland B-team, comprising J Moos, Wm Smit and HM Vintges, all on BSA machines, who had lost 21 points, were second, while third place was secured by the English Ladies’ team, consisting of Miss L Ball (James); Miss Marjorie Cottle (Raleigh); and Miss Edith Foley (Triumph), who had lost 25 points. This is the first occasion on which a ladies’ team has been nominated for an international motor cycling contest, and the result is a clear indication of the tractability of the modern motor cycle. The result is no less a tribute to the riding skill and pluck of the lady competitors. The Auto Cycle Union Centre Championship was won by the South Midland A-team, composed of TG Meeten (Francis-Barnet), L Welsh (OK-Bradshaw), and WH Hardman (Matchless and sidecar). The Midland A-team and the South-Western teams tied for second place with 10 marks lost. Of the 113 competitors, 76 gained gold medals, eight silver medals, while seven had, by forfeiting more than tghe maximum points, failed to qualify for an award. Seven ladies started, six completed the course, of whom four gained gold medals. In all, 22 completed the course without losing a single mark.”
Townsville Daily Bulletin, Queensland, Australia: “English files arrived by last mail and contain interesting particulars of the famous event which was held on August 16th to 21st over an 800 miles ‘Road’ course, terminating with a speed trial of approximately 50 miles on the Brooklands track. The mere mention of the distance covered, however, does not convey any impression of the severity of the conditions encountered, the course selected including atrocious road surfaces, water splashes and loose stones. On Blacker Mill Hill for instance, which competitors had to descend on the first day and ascend on the second day—very few of the riders managed the descent without falling off or losing control of their machines, so steep was the declivity. Again, only 25% of the entrants climbed this hill the following day, the remainder falling half way up. This year’s international trial attracted 113 competitors, of many nationalities, and of these only 91 completed the course. The three teams of BSA riders consisting of a ladies team, the gents’ B-team and a team of Dutch riders all scored notable successe ; the B-team being the only team in the trial to finish without loss of points. The ladies’ team secured a team’s prize trophy, and the Dutch team finished second for the international silver vase In addition to these awards the 12 BSA entrants secured ten gold and one silver medals. It is generally conceded by English motoring journals that this international trial is the most important, and incidentally the most severe reliability trial held in England.”
This excerpt from an unidentified newspaper report gives an interesting insight into riding styles—the writer is delightfully opinionated: “W Hough (348cc AJS), gold medal, steady and unobtrusive throughout…E Rowley (348cc AJS), gold medal, inclines to wild riding on rough stuff…FW Giles (498cc AJS sc), gold medal, makes sidecar driving look an arduous job, but always gets there…Sangster (497cc Ariel sc), gold medal, goes for every observed hill ‘full bore’—and luck goes with him…CJ Van Marle (497cc Ariel), no award, had much tyre trouble but struggled on…N Hall (346cc Excelsior), gold medal, not quite up to usual form…N Walker (346cc Excelsior), gold medal, failed waterslacks; P Walker (346cc Excelsior), gold medal; both the Walkers were given to footing rather frequently and their machines seemed over-geared…H van der Veen (346cc FN), no award, failed Cowdale and had a rough trip despite his huge balloon tyres…D McQueen (172cc Francis-Barnett), gold medal, a fast and steady rider…JW Moxon (172cc Francis-Barnett), gold medal, a great man for ‘feet up’ climbs, had a little bad luck on Goyt’s Bridge…JJ Boelstra (345cc Harley Davidson), retired Brooklands, used his feet a lot on hills and failed Litton Slack…G van Twist (988cc Harley Davidson sc), retired after sportingly running off the road to avoid running over a fallen solist, very hard lines; he had failed on Litton Slack, however, due to clutch trouble…WF Newsome, (349cc Humber), gold medal, steady and sure as of old…WF Waddington (349cc Humber), rather uncertain on rough stuff…G Kimberley (495cc James), gold medal, by no means as steady as one would expect…FW ‘Pa’ Applebee (Levis), no award, trailed his feet often, but that would be excusable in a man twenty years younger; put up a fine show at Brooklands…G Gubela (820cc Mabeco sc), retired due to collision, a great pity because he showed signs of being the most effortless sidecarist…R Charman (347cc Matchless), gold medal, Australia’s representative was occasionally not too brilliant on hills…FW Neil (347cc Matchless), gold medal, surprised many by the promptitude with which he used his feet…WH Hardman (980cc Matchless sc), gold medal, sometimes excellent, other times does not take sufficient care, consequently his performance varies…R Snell (980cc Matchless sc), no award, failed Litton Slack, Weag’s Bridge, Watrerslacks and Alms Hill; lacks the necessary dash as a driver…L Snell (700cc NUT), gold medal, rather slow but plodded along and turned up smiling at every check…TL Hatch (499cc P&M), gold medal, probably the best rider on the road of the P&M contingent; upheld the northern tradition of feet up, did some wonderful work recovering time lost by tyre trouble…HH Stinnes (499cc P&M), gold medal, riding improved visibly from day to day, rode the quietest machine in the trial, while—HH Stinnes (499cc P&M), gold medal, rode one of the noisiest; his track speed was great but occasionally footed on hills…G Patrick (980cc Royal Enfield SC), gold medal, capable of making a star competition sidecarist but occasionally erred in judgement, failed on Stocksbridge, Weag’s Bridge and Waterslacks; with his wife’s help detached sidecar on Brooklands and refitted a chain, thus saving his award…Miss M Cottle (348cc Raleigh), gold medal, her usual fine performance but at times seemed to waver on hills…H Gibson (348cc Raleigh), silver medal, not too steady, failed Mow Cop, had tyre trouble and stops for valve adjustments on Brooklands; he finished where many would have given up…SW Sparkes (499cc Rudge), gold medal, the gallant RAF sergeant carries his regimentals through to an outstanding performance in the trial; he proved himself one of our foremost trials riders…GW Walker (493cc Sunbeam), gold medal, a very pretty rider indeed…Miss E Foley (494cc Triumph), gold medal, on the road portion was perhaps the second most consistent lady competitor; a leaking tank and a lack of ‘horses’ nearly lost her her medal on the track…WE Smithie (348cc Velocette), gold medal, made rather noisy, and sometimes not too steady, progress…Miss M Bedlington (249cc Velocette), retired, collision, after a good deal of previous misadventure…EO Hector (344cc Zenith), gold medal, a Scotsman who brought with him a 10 to 1 bottom gear and found English hills not too gentle; but he rode well and earned his medal…C Kolmspeger and OC Huslein (249cc Zündapp), both retired by Wednesday, finding things beyond their capabilities; yet they tried hard while they lasted.”
Daily Mail: “Extraordinary scenes were witnessed near Buxton yesterday when the competitors in the ISDT attempted to climb Blackermill Hill, a towering and greasy ascent in the Peaks. Riders were flung from their machines, which skidded on the treacherous boulders. Miss Cottle and Miss Bedlington embraced each other in the mud after falling. The Misses Debenham, Miss Foley and Mrs McLean made better ascents than did most of the men, spectators had to scramble for safety as motor-cycles leaped from the boulders on to the grassy slopes. Later Miss Bedlington hit a car at Cranford and had to retire with smashed forks. Miss Betty Debenham fell in front of the Dutch rider, Van Twist, who steered into a seemingly shallow ditch which proved to be nine feet deep and filled with nettles. He and his passenger were badly stung and shaken and they had to retire…”
Bath Chronicle: “A Bathonian’s Forced Retirement—After an appalling storm of rain and wind throughout the Wednesday morning run in the ISDT my adventure has come to a premature end after covering nearly 400 miles of the gruelling course. The vagaries of the back wheel bearings were the cause of my retirement at the beginning of the afternoon’s run. When I started out this morning all-weather equipment was the order of the day as the rain was simply pelting down…setting forth on the route we were immediately led to the top of the adjoining hills, where we traversed bleak moorland tracks for mile after mile. The rain storm changed into a literal hurricane on the tops of the hills, and eyes were sore, while the protective clothing was practically useless. The constant gusts of wind at times promised to take the machine off the road and hurl it down the precipitous hillside…Hardly had we seen a main or secondary road after over an hour’s journey and then without any warning a cloudburst or something similar ocurred, and the rain came down in sheets. It was scarcely possible to see and soon the tracks were like little rivers, easily covering the tyres and rims of the machine, and splashed on the plug so that it was an impossibility to slow up without the engine cutting out altogether. Acute corners taken at half-speed (about 30mph) and hectic skidding, a rapid dig with the foot to recover balance, and then I skid along the mud to keep to the time schedule…”
Western Gazette: “The stewards of the trial state that in comparison with previous ISDTs the course as a whole was more strenuous although the number of retirements was considerably less…The condition of the motor cycles which completed the course was generally much better than in previous years, and the standard of driving also showed considerable improvement…It would certainly appear that tyres are the least reliable part of the modern motor-cycle…In the technical report of the trial prepared by Dr Low, the chief technical observer, it is pointed out that over 70% of the machines which completed the course did so without suffering any damage to frames or working cycle parts, in spite of the fact that the rough nature of the course which measured 800 miles approximately, was equivalent to 5,000 miles of average touring…More care would appear to have been devoted to the arrangement of cooling fins…That an engine may be capable of operation without loss of power for long periods on low gear was ample demonstrated, and it was noticeable that those engines which could maintain a low temperature were more reliable, clean and silent…Proper enclosure of all working parts can undoubtedly be achieved…Further attention might be paid to the possibilities of a multi-cylinder machine on account of the benefits to be obtained from even torque, and the mechanical reliability of small capacity cylinders…It is essential for a further improvement in the degree of silence to be accomplished…Many machines are too noisy on indirect drive.”
MARJORIE COTTLE WAS ROPED in for an imaginative, stunt: she traced the world ‘Raleigh’ on a map of England aboard a 174cc Raleigh—and 1,077 Raleigh owners got together at Monsal Dale in the Peak District (no, I don’t know why).
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.
THERE WERE 79 STARTERS in the Scottish Six Days Trial; 59 completed the course of whom 38 won silver cups. The Lightweight Prize went to JW Moxon (172cc Francis-Barnett); W Wick (550cc Triumph) was the top solo rider; NPO Bradley (493cc Sunbeam) was top combo pilot. RB Clark (499cc Rudge) took the prize for Most Plucky Performance. Douglas won the 350cc team prize, Ariel won the unlimited class. Cumberland County took the team award and, unsurprisinly, the Public Schools MCC won the Public School award (riding two Scotts and a Henderson).
“IF, A FEW YEARS AGO, one had ventured the prophecy that the ascent of Snowdon was within the compass of a 172cc motor cycle, one would have been classed as a dreamer of dreams. Yet the conquest of Snowdon by three Francis-Barnett two-stroke motor cycles, each of 172 cubic centimetres capacity, was accomplished at the first attempt, and in a non stop run. The morning broke dull and threatening with a promise of rain. The upper half of the mountain was hidden in the clouds. The attempt was to be made up the track of the cog-wheel railway, the length of which is five miles and the average gradient one in seven point four. I places this gradient has a severity of one in five…the three intrepid riders, Messrs JW Moxon, EA Barnett and H Jones set out from the railway shed at Llanberis…Immediately after the start, bottom gear was engaged, and most of the ascent was carried through on that gear—a wonderful tribute to the Villiers engine and the transmission of the Albion gearbox. Steadily the ride went forward. The rough path permitted no wandering. The riding space was often a matter of inches only and seldom reached a width of more than a foot. At times the riders were obliged to take to the steel sleepers. On these sections progress was made in a series of rapid bounds, which subjected frames and forks to a severe hammering…The high wind blew straight across the track from the right…no liberties could be taken with gusts that were at once violent and disconcerting. Moxon led the way and was mounted on the machine he had recently used in the Scottish Six Days’ Trial. At the conclusion of that event, after 1,000 miles of hard driving over some of the worst roads in the Highlands, the engine and carburetter were sealed up by officials of the Edinburgh Club, so that no mechanical attention to these vital parts was possible. The intention was to ascertain whether the machines was equal to the task before it after undergoing the buffeting of the Scottish Trial…The party at the summit, suffering the discomforts of wind, mist and rain, became increasingly pessimistic…In the midst of the discussion a voice down the track called out—”Here they come!” The rapid beat of the engine was heard and in a few seconds Moxon appeared, having completed the ascent in the splendid time of twenty-two minutes. Barnett and Jones followed quickly, and the triple ascent of the monarch of the Welsh mountains by three small two-stroke machines was an accomplished fact. The riders made a wild dash over the ‘rough stuff’ beyond the railway terminus and, grouped in front of the cairn, were photographed literally in the clouds. An immediate examination of the machines showed them to be in perfect condition in every respect…Their capacity for hill work, in truth, was by no means fully extended in the course of this historical ascent. The small two-stroke has entered into its own…we have proved that the rougher the road and the steeper the hill, the more the little two-stroke vindicates itself.”
FRANCIS-BARNETT DIDN’T GET LONG to rest on its laurels—a 500cc Beeza climbed Snowdon; then a 350cc Raleigh was ridden up Ben Nevis by the aptly named R MacGregor.
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.
AS WELL AS HELPING the South Midland team win the ACU Centre Championship in the ISDT, TG Meeten shred, with Mrs Meeten, victory in the Carshalton MCC Pillion Trial.
THE OLYMPIA SHOW attracted153,867 enthusiasts; up from 118,770 in 1925 and 98,742 in 1923. British models ranged in price from £22 to £195.
GEORGE PATCHETT MOVED FROM Brough Superior to work with McEvoy as competition manager—until branching out on his own in 1924 Michael McEvoy had worked at Rolls Royce so the pair had an impeccable pedigree. With an advanced frame and big-twin JAP McEvoy promoted their creation as “the Fastest all-British big twin that holds all high speed British records worth holding in its class”. They went on to fit a supercharger, setting nine world records at Brooklands. Patchett then won the Championship of Southport in 1926 at 116.5mph—on the same day the McEvoy team won the 500cc sidecar and 500cc solo races. The Motor Cycle remarked that “The McEvoy firm has a great faith in the future of the supercharger, first of all for racing, and later for ordinary touring machines, and is carrying out a series of experiments to determine the possibility of employing an increased charge in standard engines.”
MCEVOY WAS NOT THE ONLY manufacturer to brave the economic recession by roaring onto the market with luxury big twin; its ohv JAP was matched by AJW’s eight-valve British Anzani. Both 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. And by ‘eck they’re gorgeous!
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 (courtesy of Jimmy Simpson and FA Longman); Jock Porter led the 250s home on his New Gerrard. The 175cc class was won by J Milhoux on 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.
SAY FAREWELL TO VICTORIA, a pioneer Scottish marque founded in 1902. But the name lived on in Germany, where they had been making Victorias of their own since 1901. In 1920 Austrian Victoria came up with the KR1, a sv 494cc 6.5hp two-speed in-line flat twin; in 1923 this was followed by the ohv 9hp KR2; in 1924 the KR3 gained a three-speed box and three more horses; in 1925 they fitted a blower (Germany’s first forced-induction engine) and in 1926 it did a record-breaking 102.5mph.
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.
CAMBRIDGE BEAT OXFORD in the varsity hillclimb.
“RELIABILITY TRIAL RIDING is one of the few branches of motor cycle sport in which the amateur can hope to compete on fairly equal terms with the trade rider on a specially prepared machine, and provided the private owner selects his mount with care he will be able to use it with success both for touring and for competition work. The 990cc Matchless and sidecar in many respects fulfils this dual purpose and, in order to test the machine under conditions for which it was designed, one of these outfits was entered for the recent London-Gloucester trial. The machine had been entered for a number of competitions, including the ISDT and had seen about a year’s service…The low-pressure tyres, 26×3.25in, are equally excellent for fast touring and for ‘rough riding’, but it is a pity that the specification does not include detachable and interchangeable whels…a B&B twistgrip is used which was rather stiff to turn…it was found difficult to apply the front brake without turning the grip and thus opening the throttle…It is certainly one of the most comfortable outfits from the driver’s point of view…the reclining position for the passenger was found to be almost ideal for a long-distance run…The sidecar chassis gave the feeling of boing semi-flexible and thus the Matchless is delightfully easy to ster around corners…it appeared to be almost impossible either to lift the sidecar on a left-hand corner or to cause a skid, however greasy the road…with the damper in perfect adjustment the steering at all speeds was quite exceptional…Much has been written about the merits of servo-operated brakes. Although the Matchless internal-expanding brakes are of no unusual design their effectiveness and ease of operation appear to disprove that anything motor complicated is necessary. Throughout the course of the trial no trouble was experienced from the power unit, with the exception of the power unit, with the exception thast the exhaust valve lifter was liable to stickkkthe engine always fired at once…The acceleration and pulling capabilities of the side-valve engine were good, and lack of power would never cause a hill failure…the reserve of power was large for the type of engine…Unfortunately the gearbox was by no means so satisfactory…after 100 miles considerable force was needed to withdraw the clutch…if a change was made from iddle to bottom when the engine speed was high the gears were liable not to engage. On one observed hill the gear slipped out of bottom, and difficulty was experienced in re-engaging it. The kick-starting mechanism, in spite of gentle treatment, was inoperative at the end of the trial…With the low competition gears fitted the maximum speed—54mph—was distinctly good…40-45mph could be ma intained indefinitely…Petrol consumption varied very considerably but on average it was between 45mph and 50mpg. Oil consumption was low…for those who require a sidecar machine for fast touring and for competitions the 990cc Matchless has few equals.
THERE WERE 141 OHV MODELS at the Olympia Show (44 more than the previous year) compared with 152 sidevalves (down by 15). All the major players fielded ohv engines; dynamo lighting was becoming ubiquitous, at least an an option. Ixion admitted to be feeling a tad liverish when he reported: “Umpteen different car manufacturers told me at Olympia that they were expecting to turn out 2,000 cars a week as soon as the coal strike ended [The Motor Cycle lost two issues during the general strike] , and what the roads will be like by June with all the Methusalehs, tabblies, half-baked flappers, and such-like who are crowding on to them, I cannot think. Of course, there will always be more room for us two-wheeled folk than for anybody else, but I can see the day dawning when I shall have to choose between buying a Moth aeroplane of exporting self cum bus to some land where cars ate still scarce and dear.”
I OFFER NO APOLOGIES for treating to you some more wisdom from Ixion: “In my school days I pretended a deep interest in wild birds in order to escape compulsory runs, whipped in by a large fellow with a useful switch. I have forgotten most of the lore which the boss zoologist taught me, but I dimply remember that every bird has a special call with which to summon his mate. So has a certain Yorkshire motor cyclist, who acknowledged to the local bench that his ohv HRD was undoubtedly making a noise, but that the noise was essential, being the signal for Mamie to tell mummie that she had to run up to the draper’s for some ribbon. This artless tale, coupled I dare say with a pathetic Charlie Chaplin expression, got defendant off for 12s 6d. I am left wondering how he will decoy Mamie out of her parents’ protection now. The magistrate inflicted the usual homily: ‘Most of the noise is due to a desire on the part of motor cyclists to show what very fine fellows they are.’ Pure swank, in other words.”
JOE WRIGHT RODE A ZENITH-JAP into the record books at 113.45mph, averaging 107.67mph for 10km and 108.88mph for 10 miles at Brooklands. Further down the scale a 124cc Francis-Barnet set some records by maintaining 38.5mph for three hours; JS Worters set a 50km record of 78.63mph on a 250cc Excelsior.
DRAMA AT BROOKLANDS: While waiting for the flag in the 200-mile 350cc race Wal Handley’s mechanic Sammy Jones spotted what the Green ‘Un described as “a cut of considerable dimensions” in the front tyre of Handley’s Rex Acme-Blackburne. Handley was known for wretched luck but this was plain sabotage. In silent fury Jones rushed the bike back to the paddock to replace the tyre. By the time Handley got under way he was seven laps, more than 19 miles, behind the pack. With Bill Lacey on his rapid Grindley-Peerless way out in front, who would have given Handley a chance in a hundred of finishing in the first dozen? Sammy Jones would for one.: “He was uncanny—superhuman. If I could get a bike to do 90mph, Walter could wring out another couple of miles per hour under exactly the same conditions!” Riding like a man possessed after 40 laps Handley had carved his way through the field, passing some of Brooklands’ fastest and best, to lie in third place. At the line he was runner-up, just two minutes and two seconds behind Lacey, whose winning speed was 81.2mph. Handley averaged 80.26mph on his Rex Acme, having broken seven world records. The 250cc class was won by JS ‘Woolly’ Worters (Excelsior); 350cc, Bill Lacey; 500cc, Jack Emerson (HRD); 1,000cc, CT ‘Count’ Ashby (Zenith). Allowing for that seven-minute handicap Handley beat them all.
IN REPLY TO A READER’S query, The Motor Cycle explained how a vehicle’s horespower was calculated for taxation purposes: “The RAC formula, which is the one employed, gives the power as being equal to the square of the cylinder bore in inches, multiplied by the number of cylinders and divided by 2.5.”
A PROTOTYPE ABC appeared with a 1,200cc engine.
THE COURT OF APPEAL decided it was legal to have both brakes fitted to one wheel.
THE MCC HELD A MEETING to vote on ACU affiliation. They decided to stay out.
VELOCE MADE IT OFFICIAL and adopted the name Velocette.
THE MECHANICAL WARFARE Experimental Establishment was set up near Farnborough, Hants to assess mechanized transport including motor cycles for military use. Bikes were to be tested for 10,000 miles on and off road including 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.
ECKERT AND ZIEGLER patented the first commercial modern plastics injection moulding machine..
ACE DESIGNER Val Page moved from JAP to Ariel.
HERE ARE A COUPLE OF goodies from the ‘Items of Interest’ page (in my day we simply called them ‘new products’ but the Blue ‘Un could be a bit sniffy about ‘trade’): “Automatic control of the ignition timing, hitherto known mainly to car users, is now available to motor cyclists in the shape of the ‘SAM’ Automatic Advance, made by AM Beatson and Co, London W9. The construction of the device is simple…” Yes, it’s an advance retard unit that relies on centrifugal force to advance the spark as engine revs pick up. Thirty years on and many bikes still relied on a manual advance so well done Mr Beaston. [And half a century later, en route to the Goose Fair Rally, the bob-weights on the centrifugal advance on my 1953 plunger ‘Flash combo parted company, punched two holes in the inner timing case and led to an unplanned overnighter in a Nottingham alley. So much for advanced technology.] And if you were fed up with a conventional lever throttle control…”Known as the ‘One Grip’, an extremely simple twistgrip has ben produced by the carburetter firm of C Binks (1920). The control wire is taken round a grooved drum at the end of the grip, and this drum is entirely enclosed by a cover, which also forms the two halves of a clip for attaching the grip to the bar. The cover forms a grease reservoir for the moving parts of the grip. One turn of the wrist brings the grip from ‘open’ to ‘shut’, or vice versa.” The 1936 G14 Beeza I owned for a short time (also 50 years later) certainly had a twist grip but it involved a longitudinal spiral and a cable running through the handlebar: not for the faint-hearted. The Binks, apart from apparently being made for the left hand, is identical to the ubiquitous item on all three of my British bikes. So well done Mr Binks (1920).
TO DESIGN A MOTOR CYCLE that straight away imparts to the rider a feeling of security and of familiarity is an ideal seldom achieved. Not only on this point, but on many another of equal importance, the new 680cc Burney rivals the best on the road. A gentle dig on the kick-starter crank, without the exhaust valve lifter being touched, was sufficient to start the JAP engine, and once under way there was the impression of smooth, effortless power. The flexibility of this engine, in conjunction with the.Enfield cush-hub and with the shock-absorber in the Burman clutch, was unusually good. It was possible not only to run without transmission snatch at 12mph on top gear (4.77:1), but also to accelerate smoothly from that speed. Part of the credit in this respect was due to the single-lever Binks carburetter, which had no flat spot and functioned admirably throughout its range. A very. light clutch and a gear box which was silent on all three ratios added to the pleasure of-riding. Gear changing was easy, provided that the correct positions of the control could be found. Possibly a little experience with the type of seat-pillar control fitted would obviate any difficulty; nevertheless, this is a matter that merits the consideration of the gear box manufacturers. A few miles’ fast cruising were sufficient to-prove that the Burney has excellent steering qualities, and that for solo work the Brampton quickly operated steering damper is ornamental rather than useful. With this. comforting knowledge, the machine was taken to a long, straight section pf road and the very handy knurled knob which adjusts the delivery from the Pilgrim sight-feed mechanical pump was turned to the full-on position. The twist. grip throttle control was turned to its fullest, extent, and after two ‘racing’ changes had been made, the Burney was tested for maximum speed. Slightly in excess of 65mph was attained…On full throttle the machine steered hands-off with perfect safety. Cornering at speed is also beyond reproach, and the road holding is well above average…The combination of the largest size Terry saddle, 26×3.25 in tyres, and Brampton progressive action front fork was found to afford such a degree of comfort that high speeds could be maintained with impunity.,,deceleration, although perfectly smooth, was extremely rapid. This, perhaps, is hardly surprising in view of the fact that the brakes are similar both in design and in dimensions to those fitted to the machine that won this year’s Senior TT…The large aluminium expansion chamber and the two long tail pipes reduced the exhaust note to a pleasant burble, which under no circumstances can be termed offensive…it can be stated that for fast touring in comfort and with perfect safety the 680cc Burney has few equals.”
THE FRENCH MAGAZINE L’AUTO reported that by year’s end there were exactly 1,726,241 motor cycles in the world, compared with 1,435,147 the previous year. Britain was at the top of the league with 629,648—Tibet and Samoa had one apiece.
THE MOTOR CYCLE CONCLUDED: “The year 1926 has contributed its full share to the history of the motor cycle movement in all its phases. New models. which promise to be handed down to posterity as epoch making designs, have been introduced; advancement has been made in almost every branch of motor cycle engineering, and on the whole, the industry as good reason to regard its year’s progress with pride and satisfaction. It is true that motor cycles are but little closer to finality than they were a year ago. It is, of course, difficult at the present time to accept the possibility that finality can ever be reached in any branch of engineering. In the field of racing remarkable achievements have been attained, on both road and track, at home and abroad. A Tourist Trophy race won at 67.54mph and a circuit of the Isle of Man course at 70.43mph are important milestones in the history pf motor cycle racing; a speed on 94.15mph for an hour of a 500cc machine is a noteworthy performance that brings 100 miles for the classic Class C hour record in 1927 within the range of possibility. At Brooklands excellent racing has been witnessed, and an innovation in the form of a Grand Prix race was probably the most exciting event of the year at the famous Surrey track. The entries received for reliability and sporting trials have exceeded all previous records, and the interest taken in the results of such events by riders and intending purchasers of motor cycles is greater than ever. Finally, the number of motor cycles exported, in proportion to the total output of British factories, is regarded by other industries as something almost unique in the annals of commerce. Thus, in spite of the unfortunate contretemps which has so severely taxed the wealth of the nation as a whole, the year has been a successful one for the motor cycle world. Everything considered, the year to come promises to be even more interesting; everyone is anticipating that 1927 competitions will provide good sport for the private owner and valuable data for the manufacturer.
And, as usual, a clutch of contemporary adverts…