1929…and there’s more!

Having, as I thought, completed my review of motor cycling in 1929, I was putting the handful of 1929 copies of the Blue ‘Un and Green ‘Un from my collection back on the shelf when I came across a show issue of The Motor Cycle. New bikes, accessories and examples of riding gear were duly added, along with a couple of excellent features including sound advice on surviving winter from Wharfedale and a charming piece on motor cycling clobber for ladies. Magic. Time out to tinker with the bikes and on to 1930. Then Peter Whitaker from Old Bike Australasia sent me a great yarn about John Gill and Phil Irving’s trek across Canada on Gill’s HRD-Vincent combo. And for good measure he included the tale of two heroes who lapped Australia on a Harley combo. Nice one, Peter. But now, I hope, I can try and sort out the kickstart assembly on my MZ and move on to the post-vintage era. See you there

“…The Vincent was hitched to the car, leaving the Indian at the end of the line.”

1932: Plenty to see (with some cool 19th century pics)

Finally, I’ve made a start on 1932. The first big trial the year was the snowbound Colmore Cup; you’ll find a report and pics, along with coverage of the TT (Stanley Woods did the double), the ISDT (Britain did the double), the Senior Manx Grand Prix (the wettest Manx race on record) and the Southport sand races (which sorted out which marque was top dog). There are a number of new models including, shock/horror, a Douglas single. I’ve also started on the backlog of pics received from my amigo Francois, starting with some wonderful images from 1896, 1898 and 1900.

“The enclosure of the engine, and the deep tank and large brakes, give the new 150cc Douglas an extremely pleasing appearance.”

Another day, another rabbit hole.

Yes, I know, it’s time to press on with a review of 1932. But no sooner had I finished a hugely enjoyable excursion back to 1904 than I came across some fascinating details of the first TT. If you’d care to take a gander at the updated ‘first TT’ feature in (when else?) 1907, you’ll find a detailed post-race report courtesy of the Blue ‘Un’s ‘special correspondent’ and a forgotten footnote of history—it seems Rem Fowler never got his trophy. Fortunately his clubmates rallied round with a rather fine silver hip flask that’s been bought for £25,000 and is now safe in Manxland. As soon as I’ve uploaded another batch of pics to the Melange and sorted out some extra stories that have come to hand from 1930 I really will get to grips with 1932.

Rem Fowler, wearing the spare inner tube he would fit during the race, pictured with James Norton. This being the Tourist Trophy, the Norton is equipped with mudguards, registration plate and horn. After the event James claimed half of Rem’s prize money.

Into reverse for 99 years

I do try to stay focussed, I really do. But my dedicated team of researchers (thanks Allie) unearthed a 1904 copy of the Blue ‘Un that was packed with delights, from a description of a run to Land’s End (slowed down when the guide was run off the road by a cow) to a clutch of smashing ads (the classifieds are a treat) by way of a fascinating batch of technical queries (a chap planning to ride across the USA wondered what sort of motor bike he should buy, and asked where he could find a map). I’ve just finished uploading the editorial and ads; the new yarns are all at the end of the year, the new ads are at the start of the advertising section. Diverting to 1904 reminded me how fast motor cycling evolved but the obsession bikes aroused in their riders was clearly as strong then as it is now. I’ve also been adding more pics to the melange—mon ami Francois unearthed some fab images from the great war—and I’ll work on the backlog before getting on with 1932.

I suspect this is a contemporary sketch and, judging by the contract between the chinless British officer and the sturdy poilluts, I reckon the artist was French. Note the way that demoselle is using her riding crop…

1931’s in the bag

Yes I know, I keep saying I’ve finished a year and then I keep finding more yarns and pics. But for now, at least, 1931 is completed (apart from a handful of pics which will turn up in Le Melange in due. Before moving on to 1932 I’ll make some inroads into the hundreds of pics from mon ami Francois’ endless archive which are bursting out of my ‘in’ box. They include some gorgeous pre-WW1 colour postcards and ads and so very much more. I’ve also unearthed a 1904 issue of The Blue ‘Un which is bursting with great yarns; there are additions to the A-Z to be sorted out and…you get the picture. As material is sorted and uploaded I’ll mention it here. Do entertain yourself in 1931 while I try to catch up.

“An athletic man in good training can develop about one-seventh bhp over short periods…” (Right) “During that minute he will have moved that weight…563 feet…yet our plucky motor cycle does not think over much of it.”

…and back to 1929

I suggest heading back to 1929 where you’ll find a treasure trove: Graham Walker’s blow-by-blow account of his Senior TT, which was ended prematurely by a snapped pushrod but is possible the most enjoyable description of roadracing ever written—written brilliantly by the future editor of Motor Cycling—and the accompanying illustrations are an additional delight. Then there’s the adventures of an ISDT competitor who burned out his clutch, repaired it (with wine corks from his hotel bar) and had an adventurous time catching up with the trial (a task made more interesting by the lack of a passport)—at one point he faced a night on a bridge between between Italy and Switzerland. Great fun. We haven’t finished yet—there’s a report on the Scott Trial (so tough it was known as ‘The Tragedy’) which is simply delightful: don’t miss the magnificent poem that follows it, ‘On Denton Moor’ (Denton Moor, part of the trial, was described as “five miles of frightfulness”). Also added to the review of 1929 is a test of a well-mannered Royal Enfield 500cc side-valve combo, which I’ve inserted after the roadtest of the cammy 490cc Norton. It makes an interesting contrast. You can, of course, go straight to these features by wordsearching “Walker”, “ISDT”, “Scott” and “Enfield”, or just read the whole year again. In either case, enjoy!

1929 ISDT YARN 1
“…with the assistance of the proprietor’s daughter…”

Onwards to 1931

Another year done (not that any year in the timeline is ever complete; more stories and pics are being dropped in all the time) another year started. I’m busy uploading material from 1931, so far including a gallery of pillion seats which, under the latest Road Traffic Act, had to be properly made and fitted. You’ll also find roadtests of the 490cc ohv Norton and the third-generation Ivory Calthorpe. Then there’s a report on a snowbound Bemrose trial, an autocycle with Sachs appeal, Burman’s latest four-speed box and an RAC patrolman who stopped a runaway horse-drawn milk float on his motorbike. And I’ve barely started. There are also more pics to browse through in the second melange picture gallery.

“Journey’s beginning. Edward Farrell and W Johnson, of Widnes, Lancs, are setting out on a world tour via Turkey, the Sahara, Capetown, India, Australia and America. Their machine is a ‘Sloper Ariel’, and they are seen receiving a send-off from the makers’ works at Birmingham.”

1930: Second dose

It’s official: the first Junior Manx Grand Prix was the wettest, murkiest, slipperiest Manx race to date. Great yarn though. Rudges were strutting their stuff big time. Ixion penned a superlative analysis of the British bike industry as displayed at Olympia, while his Northern team-mate Wharfedale made some observations on motor cycle design and maintenance that still ring true. Of course we’re saying hello to the first Squariel and the Matchless V4, but you’ll also find word of a Scott 650 vertical twin and a roadtest of Scott’s 300cc single. The test of the Panther Model 100 will have every Panther owner, me included, grinning with pride. There’s loads of bikes, loads of races, loads of off-road jollity and much more to come. I’m enjoying 1930, hope you are too.

Joe Wright took a ride at 150mph.

1930: First instalment

You’ll find roadtests of two utility mounts in 1930 along with a non-stop 350-lap winter run on the Island, a unit-construction Puch with a forked conrod, a four-speed Sun, an early use of throwover panniers and a tankbag, a woman taking her first, and only, lesson on a combo—and a deco-styled streamliner that will knock your socks off. It’s going to be a busy year. And there are more pics to browse through in the second ‘melange’ page.

Beneath the skin of this art deco beauty beats the heart of a 1,200cc four-pot Henderson.

Deux melanges de photos

The Illustrative Melange now contains more than 600 pics so I’ve opened a second page for mixed pics which you can reach via the main menu. There’s a batch of photos to browse through; more will be added soon as will material for 1930.

First pic out of the box dates from about 1930 (which at the time of writing is the year I’m working on in the main timeline). These enthusiasts are posing on a 350cc Harley Model D.