Douglas, having made its name with inline flat twins, launched a transverse flat twin, the 494cc Endeavour, based on its inline Blue Chief.
Having sold the AJS name Harry and George Stevens launched 248, 348 and 498cc singles bearing the name Stevens. Innovations included the first megaphone silencer with a detachable baffle.
Punitive German import duties kept imported bikes away from the Berlin show where centre stage was taken by a 500cc parallel-twin twostroke DKW complete with electric start. DKW was now the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, producing more than 20,000 bikes a year. And Germany had become a global centre of motorcycling, with over 750,000 riders.
The final checkpoint of the ACU Rally moved from the Barnet Speedway to the new Donington Park circuit and this time the event went well – as it has ever since.
By the end of the year Britain was home to over 500,000 motorcycles with 45,845 new arrivals, including 16,960 250s, 13,233 over 250cc and 5,890 under 150cc with 4,567 sidecar combinations. But three-wheel cars were now outselling outfits with 5,195 registrations during 1934.
The British Industries Fair at Castle Bromwich was used as launchpad for the 98cc (50x50mm) Cyc-Auto, made in Park Royal, North London. Not a lightweight motorcycle but a powered bicycle, this was a British entry into the huge Continental Velomoteur sector. It weighed 68lb, compared with the lightest 98cc motorcycle at 110lb. A US firm had plans to convert Cyc-Autos into pretty lightweights for the youth market but when Scott bought the firm in 1936 the export link was severed.
Motorcycle roadtax was reduced (yes, really!) to 12s (60p) up to 150cc, £1 2s 6d (£1 12.5p) for 250cc and £2 5s (£2 25p) for anything over 250cc. Fuel tax also came down, by 1d (2.4p) a gallon.
Petrol was being made from coal using a low-temperature ‘carbonisation’ process. The home-brewed ‘Coalite’ proved itself an admirable fuel for motorcycles with useful anti-knock properties, but all supplies were snapped up by the RAF. Popular Science magazine reported that a gallon of petrol could be made from 24lb of coal; a plant being built at Billingham-on-Tees was expected to produce 80,000 gallons of petrol every day. And now we import our fuel. You know it makes sense.
In Denmark Nimbus resumed production of its rugged in-line four, which had been modified from ioe to ohc.
Enthusiasts in Morecambe, Lancs applied for permission to run a series of ’round the houses’ street races. Well, you can only ask.
The British bike industry was back on its feet, exporting three times as many bikes as France, Germany and the USA combined.
British bikes dominated international road racing too, but Ernst Henne rode the big blown Beemer to break his own world speed record and raise the flying kilometre bar to 152.90mph.
Henne was also part of the German ISDT Trophy trio. Having won in 1933 Germany hosted its first ISDT and won both Trophy and Vase. As part of its military build-up the Nazi regime was pouring resources into motorcycling, ensuring the German marques worked together to produce a complementary range of models and running military-style training camps for riders.
Cotton adopted the slogan: “Each model the Rolls-Royce of its class”. One wonders how Messrs Rolls, Royce (and Brough) reacted.
The Burgess Products Co of Leicester offered a screwdriver incorporating an electric light powered by batteries in its aluminium handle. Also new on the aftermarket was a unit combining rear light, brake light and indicators.
Francis-Barnett offered the Stag as a fourstroke stablemate for the enclosed Cruiser.
Norton had built a 350cc version of its cammy 500 to challenge Velocette in the Junior TT; now the Hall Green team returned the compliment with a cammy 500 which challenged Norton’s domination of the Senior. Walter Rusk was 3rd (behind Guthrie and Simpson’s Nortons) and another Velo was 4th. Cammy Ajays were 7th, 9th and 12th. But Norton’s 1-2-5 earned it the team prize.
Rusk, known as the Blond Bombshell (these were innocent days) rode his Velo to victory in the Ulster TT, setting a lap record of 92.1mph.
Husqvarna deserved a special TT award for perseverance in the face of adversity. The race bikes were being loaded onto a freighter at Gothenburg docks when a cable snapped, dumping them from a great height and causing catastrophic damage. Frantic efforts got some of the tidy 50º V-twins patched up but as soon as he reached the Island works rider Ragnar Sunqvist collapsed with appedicitis. During Senior practice Stanley Woods, who had caused a stir by moving from Norton to Husqvarna, rammed a sheep and snapped his front downtube (it didn’t do the sheep a lot of good either). Woods set a lap record and was running 2nd when he crashed, remounted… and ran out of fuel 10 miles from the flag. The Swedes’ only consolation was a brave 3rd spot in the Junior, courtesy of Ernie Nott (behind Guthrie and Simpson’s Nortons) despite a misfire and an oil leak onto the rear tyre which left him sliding all over the track.
Jimmy Simpson, who had recorded the first 60, 70 and 80mph TT laps without winning a race, had decided to retire. For his final TT appearance he rode in the Lightweight for the first time, on a Rudge. And finally, to universal acclaim, Simpson won a TT with his team-mates Nott and Walker completing a Rudge hat-trick.
Excelsior’s Mechanical Marvel was not easy to keep in tune so the two-valve ohc Manxman was developed as a 250, a 350 and a 500. The Manxman wasn’t the fastest bike on road or track but it earned a reputation for reliability that mader it a favourite among amateur racers.
Scott branched out with a 747cc twostroke in-line triple featuring Brampton forks which did 86mph. All that technology didn’t come cheap and, despite a later 1,000cc option, the Scott S3 didn’t sell.
All riders over a certain age will be familiar with the phrase “running on rails” to describe a bike with trustworthy roadholding; Firestone coined the phrase to promote its tyres for riders who “want to make faster averages in perfect safety”.
Ixion, in his own matchless style, condemned plans to curtail TT practice hours: “When we stage an international race over a 37½-mile course, we are bound in sportsmanship and honour to offer foreign entrants time to master the course.”
From the report of the Southern Trial: “JJ Scott (349cc Rudge) took the obstruction flat out and, as a result, travelled several yards on his rear wheel, with his front well up in the air.” A wheelie by any other name…
The (13th) Levis Trial included sections named Dead Man’s Lane, Satan’s Arcade, Gay Hill Swamp and Strip Jack Naked. Among the 100 entrants were seven women (described as “a veritable menace to the male domain”); nine heroes who scorned knobblies to ride on road tyres; three traditionalists who harked back to the event’s roots by riding single-speed belt-driven machines (including a 490cc, 194lb, 70mph Norton that completed the course in fine style); and RD Humber (249cc Velo) who put in a good performance despite “having only one leg with which to foot”. BSA star Bert Perrigo won by a narrow margin; the day concluded with a complimentary slap-up feed back at the Levis works.
The Edinburgh &DMCC decided to allow outfits with sidecar-wheel drive to enter the Scottish Six Days Trial.
George Brough came up with a ‘self-banking’ sidecar outfit which leaned to the left when the rider pressed a pedal.
Record breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell went gold prospecting in South Africa.
The French manufacturers’ union called for the abolition of all driving licences.
In an obituary of Belgian King Albert it was revealed that his love of motorcycling extended to incognito late night runs. And one snooty hotellier must have been mortified when he was told the identity of the mud-splattered rider he had just turned away.
East End manufacturer Lewis Benn & Co marketed a combined clutch lever and twistgrip gearchange of the type later adopted on many motor scooters.
The Motor Cycle put up a trophy for the first multi-cylinder British 500 to do 100 miles in an hour on British soil. Contenders included Ariel (blown Square Four); Douglas (ohv flat twin); New Imperial (ohv V-twin) and Triumph (two vertical twins, one of them supercharged, sleeved down from the 6/1 650cc roadster). Ginger Wood won the cup for New Imp at an average 102.3mph.
Harry Nash and his 125 New Imperial took a clutch of world records from 5km to 10 miles at average speeds up to 63.79mph – not bad for a standard roadster he’d taken in part exchange from a punter who wanted something faster.
The Ministry of Transport authorised the local council in Oxford to impose a 30mph speed limit and Southampton to enforce a 15mph limit on its dock roads. Transport Minister Hore-Belisha considered dropping plans for a nationwide 30mph urban limit depending on the success of the new black and white ‘zebra’ pedestrian crossings with their orange flashing ‘Belisha beacons’.
Some coil-ignition models were fitted with ignition keys. A pundit observed: “A key that you can take away with you when you leave the bus parked is an excellent scheme; you go away feeling happy because you know that no one will be able to start the engine.” But as those first ignition locks could be turned by a penknife blade or a coin they were, he admited, “just about useless”. Some ignition ‘locks’ were no better 30 years later.
The winner of the Around Japan Endurance Race covered 3,565 miles in 14d 16h.
Motorcycle insurance premiums rocketed by 50% to cover passengers because many riders hadn’t bothered to take out pillion insurance. One angry rider compared the move with imprisoning the entire population because some people steal.
The Manx Tynwald considered a proposal for a ‘stock TT’ race for bog-standard roadsters. There was even talk of ACU officials picking bikes from dealeers’ showrooms to rule out unauthorised tuning.
Cat’s Eyes were invented by Percy Shaw of Halifax who, according to legend, was inspired by the way cat’s eyes reflect the light. So if the cat had been facing the other way Percy might have invented a pencil sharpener.
In May 5,766 motorcycles were registered: up 25% on May 1933. In respone to the capacity-based roadtax system, the most popular classes were the 150s and 250s.
In Japan Mizuho Motors was one of a number of firms to visit the Rikuo factory which used modern production facilities it learned from Harley Davidson. Thus inspired it began production of the 500cc Cabton (which bore far more than a passing resemblance to the Ariel Red Hunter).
DKW came up with the RT 125 ‘Reichstyp’ or ‘National Model’, making it the two-wheeled equivalent of the Volkswagen ‘People’s Car’. It featured the ‘loop scavenging process’ and was a leader in its class. Adler and TWN were among German manufacturers to copy the technology; this is the design which, as part of pst-war reparation would be put to good use by MZ, BSA, Harley-Davidson
WFM in Poland and MMZ in Russia. As MZ technology was copied by Suzuki the RT 125 remainsone of the most influential motor cycles ever.