1928

Garelli ceased motorcycle production to concentrate on aircraft components.

The Murata Ironworks in Japan changed its name to Meguro (after a local racetrack) and began selling proprietary engines under that name.

Fritz von Opel strapped six solid-fuel rockets to the back of a 496cc Neander as part of a cunning plan to set a world speed record. He made some demo runs but the German authorities banned rocket bikes – health and safety gone mad. Soon afterwards Fritz stopped making motorcycles but he also ran a rocket car in front of an audience including Werner von Braun, who obviously paid close attention. There was even a rocket sled carrying, for no obvious reason, a cat in a box. Unlike Schroedinger’s cat, this one definitely died when the rig blew itself to pieces.

British motorcycle production totalled 145,861, a figure that would not be exceeded until 1950.

Dirt track racing arrived in England from Australia; nearly 20,000 thrill-seekers packed into the King’s Oak Speedway near Loughton, Essex for a demonstration of the new sport. The Blue ’Un reported: “There was no real broadsiding but there was thrill upon thrill… the crowd rocked with laughter as LP Wilson (172cc Francis-Barnett) had the impudence to harry HM Smith (ohv Sunbeam)… heat 7 made the most staid spectators gasp and women scream…” The fastest lappers were a 348cc Douglas, a 493cc Sunbeam and a 497cc Ariel; quickest combo was a 498cc Triumph. When an Aussie and two Brits gave a demonstration of broadsiding a contemporary report opened: “Thrills! Thrills!! Thrills!!!”

Women took to the dirt too, including the memorably named Vera Hole of Watchet, who rode as Sunny Somerset. On the whole they were seen as an amusing novelty until Irish lass Fay Taylour, already an established competitor in trials and grasstrack, switched to speedway. She went Down Under and beat many of the top Aussies and Kiwis on their home ground, then proved herself one of the top riders in Britain riding a Douglas. But within a couple of years women were banned from speedway and she switched to racing cars. Taylour said the day she met a man who was more difficult to handle than a racing car, she would probably give up racing. She remained unmarried and was still racing in the 1950s.

Before long International Speedway Ltd was running events six evenings a week at Wimbledon, Harringay and White City, featuring Aussie star Frak Arthur and American ace Art Pecher on his Indian.

There were thrills aplenty during a race at the Edsviken Ice Track near Stockholm when a Harley and an FN were clocked at 112mph (this was also the year that Harley finally fitted its roadsters with front brakes as standard).

OK-Supreme snapped up the ailing HRD but only wanted the factory space.

Philip Cyril Pullin, creator of the ill-fated Danum All Weather (1919 if you want to flick back), came up with a luxury motorcycle that was a hymn to modernism, but the advanced design of his enclosed Ascot-Pullin was more than skin deep. Its 500cc ohv unit-construction lump was mounted horizontally a la Guzzi, giving a rock-bottom centre of gravity. Frame and forks were pressed steel; the wheels were QD and interchangeable; both brakes were hydraulically actuated; the kickstart automatically engaged the valve lifter; a screen (with wiper) and legshields came as standard; instruments were tidily mounted in a dashboard. You could even have a matching monocoque sidecar.

There were five in-line fours at the Olympia show. From the USA came the well-proven 1,301cc Henderson and the 1,265cc Indian-Ace. Brough had mounted a sv Motosacoche car engine in a cantilver sprung frame. From McEvoy came a cammy 498cc with optional electric start, while AJW’s Super-Four used a 985cc, watercooled sv British Anzani car engine with the fuel tank under the saddle and a dummy saddle tank.

More suited to the harsh economic environment were a clutch of new British lightweights including a 174cc two-stroke Beeza, a 250cc JAP-engined Rudge, the 200cc Ariel Colt and Villiers-powered models from Panther and Coventry-Eagle.

The War Office sent scouts to the Show to look for WD candidates but found nothing that fully met their requirements which included a sub-300lb weight limit.

Triumph’s Siegfried Bettmann was elected president of the British Cycle and Motorcycle Manufacturers and Traders Union association.

Flat-twin Douglases with their low centre of gravity were dominant on the first dirt tracks though they were soon challenged by Rudge, and JAP-powered machines. Other dirt track contenders included Scott, Zenith, Royal Enfield and Triumph.

The Tinkler brothers of Liverpool came up with an unusual variation on the Guzzi-style ohc horizontal-single theme. They opted for watercooling, which allowed the engine to be fitted ‘back to front’. The crankcase was at the front just behind the radiator with the head at the rear next to the gearbox. With the gearbox fitted in unit with the head the camshaft drive was also the primary drive. Strange but true. A fuel tank was bolted to the top and, thanks to a deal with OEC, the whole assembly was dropped into an a duplex cradle frame with hub centre steering. It had a lot going for it but was stillborn due to lack of funds. The War Office evaluated an OEC with a more conventional engine but featuring two inline rear wheels running inside a caterpillar track.

Motorcycle production peaked at 147,000; by the end of the year exactly 712,583 bikes were registered on British roads, representing a third of the global total. The USA had about 110,000.

Ariel won the Maude’s Trophy by running a 500 non-stop for 5,000 miles. Exact running time was 251.5 hours during which time the engine turned over 40 million times.

Calthorpe brought out a pretty ohv twin-port 350 single at a rock-bottom price; they painted it white and sold it (successfully) as the Ivory.
Japan could muster 7,670 motorcycles, of which two-thirds were British.

The German government exempted motorcycles under 200cc from road tax and riding licences. DKW quickly developed the E200 model to take advantage of the new laws and offered a conversion kit so riders of older models could stop paying tax. Demand for DKWs rocketed, more than 60 German motorcycle manufacturers used DKW engines and output from the Zschopau plant grew from 5,000 to more than 65,000 bikes a year, making it the largest motorcycle factory in the world.

BSA transferred all motorcycle production to Small Heath.

Alec Bennett won the Junior TT to set a record of five TT victories; another Velo was runner-up. They sported the new foot gearchange that was said to save 30sec per lap.

Foul weather knocked out a lot of machines during the Senior, including Graham Walker, whose ohv Rudge led the field until breaking down with a few miles of the flag. Charlie Dodson snatched the lead, on an ohv Sunbeam. His average speed of 63mph was the lowest winning sped for five years, reflecting the conditions. Frank Longman led the Lightweight from start to finish for OK-Supreme.

Dodson proved his ohv victory was no fluke by winning the Belgian and German GPs; he was second to Walker’s Rudge in the French GP. But in the Italian GP five 500cc Guzzis dominated the event, finally sweeping over the line in close formation, to the delight of the home crowd.

The Dutch TT was a British benefit. Graham Walker (Rudge) won the Senior, just 1.4sec ahead of Tommy Spann’s Ajay; Stanley Woods won the Junior on a new 350 cammy Norton; SA Crabtree (Excelsior) led the 250s and his brother LC Crabtree’s Excelsior crossed the line ahead of a trio of watercooled DKW twostrokes.

The German government exempted motorcycles under 200cc from road tax and riding licences. DKW quickly developed the E200 model to take advantage of the new laws and offered a conversion kit so riders of older models could stop paying tax. Demand for DKWs rocketed, more than 60 German motorcycle manufacturers used DKW engines and output from the Zschopau plant grew from 5,000 to more than 65,000 bikes a year, making it the largest motorcycle factory in the world.

OM Baldwin set a flying-mile world record of 124.6mph on a 996cc Zenith-JAP. Then Bert Le Vack upped the ante to 129.1mph on his JAP-engined Brough Superior.

Rear lights became compulsory. As well as motor vehicles the light law covered horsedrawn traffic though other slow moving, hazardous traffic such as bicycles, handcarts and livestock drovers, were exempt. Self-contained rear lights with their own batteries were soon available.

Pietro Ghersi, who had had such an unfortunate time at the TT on a 250 Guzzi beat his own lap record at the Italian Senior TT – but he was riding a Sunbeam, and another Sunbeam won. Bianchis came 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Junior; Nuvolari, in third place, despite losing third of the spokes in his rear wheel.

Phil Vincent bought the name, components and tooling of HRD from OK-Supreme (his family were well-heeled ranchers in Argentina). Vincent, a Cambridge engineering graduate, had patented a coil-sprung cantilever duplex cradle frame. Powered by JAP engines it got HRD-Vincent off to a powerful start.

The once mighty US industry was now down to Harley, Indian, Excelsior, Henderson and Cleveland – and the final Cleveland (a 996cc version of the factory’s well established 746cc four) rolled off the line before the end of the year.

A rider claimed a record skid: after his front tyre came of and locked the front wheel of his 493cc Sunbeam he left a 104yd skidmark before wrecking his forks on a grassy knoll. Another rider claimed a record “toss”. After snapping a fork link at 55mph he flew through the air to land 69ft from the bike, according to a bobby who was clearly obssessive about measuring things.

Soviet Russia’s first Five Year Plan called for intensive mechanisation including the establishment of a motorcycle industry. Among the first products of the new state factories were the 300cc twostroke Krasnyj-Oktabr; the 600cc sv Tiz-Am; and, for police and military use, the 1,200cc sv tranverse V-twin Izch featuring shaft drive, leafspring forks and a pressed-steel frame which incorporated a silencer. Izch, like BSA, was rooted in firearms. It was set up in 1808 by the Czar and went on to make everyone’s favourite assault rifle, the AK47.

Many motor cycle clubs, with the support of the RAC, were organising annual runs to give deprived kids (they called them ‘poor’) a day in the country. Clubmen were also staging gymkhanas and other events to raise cash for their local hospitals – this was long before the birth of the NHS.

Two BSA G14s outfits making a global promotional tour reached Malaya where, it was reported: “The majority of motor cyclists are either Chinese or half-castes, though a large number of impecuniouis British assistants on rubber estates use two-wheelers from necessity”. Poor things.

Villiers celebrated the production of its 200,000th engine. Its range of seven engines was in use with more than 20 manufacturers.

Alex Finlay won the Australian TT 200-miler aboard a 500cc Beeza sloper.

The Transport Minister was empowered to require headlights to incorporate anti-dazzle (dipping) devices as soon as they became practicable.

Rudge marked its success in the Ulster TT with the race replica Rudge Ulster.

From Sunbeam came the twin-port ohv Model 90, also based on its successful racer.
From Spain came a 350cc engine with just the one valve to control the inlet and exhaust ports. Said valve was described as “of an exceptionally large diameter”.

The Timken company was advertising its taper roller head bearings [and 50 years later we were still messing about with cups, cones and ball bearings… go figure – Ed].

In response to claims that 75% of “accident ward cases” were the result of “motoring mishaps” the Middlesborough MCC launched an insurance scheme to cover the cost of patching up its members.

The Blue ’Un published a British Supremacy number, reporing: “Everywhere else (but America) you will find the British bus well on top”. And the USA imposed 45% import duty.

The Yorkshire Centre of the ACU considered seceding from the union in protest at “the recognition of promoters of commercialised events” and the ban on Sunday events.

Nimbus, Denmark’s sole motorcycle manufacturer, ceased production of its in-line fours to concentrate on other work.

After several years’ development work AD Draper patented a cantilever frame suspension system which was adopted by George Brough on the Alpine Grand Sports.

A blizzard forced the Motor Cycling Club to postpone the London-Exeter trial. Some diehards rode cross-country to starting points when roads were blocked by snowdrifts – one farmer charged a couple of determined clubmen a bob each to cross his land.

Jack Sangster invited Edward Turner to join Ariel.

The first traffic lights were installed, in Wolverhampton, four years ahead of the capital.

American cars appeared gleaming with chromium plating.

A KTT Velo was the first 350 to do 100 miles in an hour.

Ariel won the Maude’s Trophy by running a 500 non-stop for 5,000 miles. Exact running time was 251.5 hours during which time the engine turned over 40 million times.

Japan had just over 7,500 bikes on its roads; 60% of them were British.

To cope with rising traffic levels the Ministry of Transport was doing away with toll bridges and replacing level crossings with bridges.

The lack of a quantified noise limit led to riders of bog standard bikes being fined for excessive noise despite.