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.”

1902: Bio-fuel, a hybrid and a nice big bun

“The first race meeting in England confined to purely motor bicycles”—read all about it in 1902. There are also warnings to heed: wrapping your legs in brown paper will make you rustle—and take care when handling petrol “which to the observer appears about as harmless as water”. Plus news of a carb incorporating a spinning brush in place of jets; a two-speed gearbox; a folding teak paddock stand; a poem lauding bio-fuel (“It’s my artichokes and turmuts What’s a-driving that there car!”; a 65mph record; and a petrol/electric hybrid. And don’t miss my favourite caption of 1902 (thus far): “Feeding on a big bun.”

Carb designers—don’t bother with jets…switch to a brush!

Picture post

Another batch of American iron has been added to the Melange; you’ll find them under their respective logos. And a good number of assorted snaps await your attention in the second melange. Meanwhile in 1902 you’ll find a report on the race meeting that was held during the Crystal Palace show—the sketches that illustrate the report are well worth a look.

“In a quiet corner. Westlake’s peculiar position. Tessier.”

1902: A first for knowledge

If you’re reading this you’ve probably read any number of motor cycle magazines, packed with readers’ letters, new product pages, bike launches, technical advice features, show reports and the like. If you’d care to take a look at 1902 you’ll find the first letter to be published in a bike mag (you’ll recognise the writer’s name). You’ll also find handy tips (sound advice to keep your hands off the engine and use fresh petrol); new products (starting with a ‘catalytic plug’); a new model (from Precision) and a show report (from Crystal Palace). There’s also a series of delightful yarns along the lines of “aren’t these new-fangled motor bicycles BRILLIANT!’. Which, you’ll agree, they are.

“J Van Hooydonk. Specially photographed for Motor Cycling Mr van Hooydonk is depicted rigged out and with his motor bicycle in trim for the 200-mile non-stop run on the Crystal Palace track during the Motor Show.”

1902: There’s no place like ohm

Before there was electronic ignition there were coils. Before coils there were magnetos. And before there magnetos there were…coils which trembled. And before tremblers there were hot tubes that combined with top-heavy bikes to make fires a daily hazard. Motor Cycling set out to introduce the first generation of motor cyclists to the intricacies of ignition systems. [Sorry about the ‘ohm’ pun, by the way, it’s 3.30am, I’m way past my best and I couldn’t resist it.

This isn’t any old wiring diagram, this is the first wiring diagram to be published in a motor cycle magazine. And yes, as indicated by the arrows (and as I vaguely recall from my Grade 6 General Science O-level) electrons actually move through from the negative terminal of a battery to the positive.

1898, looking back to 1895

OK so I’m currently concentrating on 1902, but I was delighted to come across an 1898 essay in The Cycle Age And Trade Review reviewing the motor-cycle market since 1895. I stuck it at the top of the year so it’s easy to find. Well worth a look.

State-of-the-art motor cycling circa 1898—the top-heavy Werner was inclined to fall over, at which point its hot-tube ignition would invariably burst into flames. Not for the faint-hearted.

1902: Every journey starts with a single step

You’ll find the first features culled from the first volume of Motor Cycling, starting with a column justifying the idea of a specialised magazine for motorised bicycles and, unsurprisingly, an article extolling the virtues of motor cycling. I’m now summarising a yarn predicated on the need to make motor cycles lighter and simpler. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, n’est ce pas?


Back to the beginning

The review of 1932 is, for now, just about complete apart from a few pics and some more ads. I’ve been busy adding pics up to and including the Great War and making a start on the hundreds of pics awaiting publications dans Le Melange (merci Francois). And, inevitably, I’ve been planning to move on to 1933—but not yet awhile. First, looking for caption material on one of Francois’ pics, I came across a lengthy report on the 1905 “Tour de France pour motocyclettes”. Then, in on old issue of the Association of Pioneer Motorcyclists excellent journal I found a smashing review of the motor cycling scene culled from an 1898 American cyclists’ magazine. Fair enough, a couple days’ work and back, or forward, to 1933. Thing is, late April brings the annual Stafford classic bike show, which features a Bonhams auction of motor cycle treasures. No harm in a little window shopping, I thought; why not press my nose against the window of the auction website? Which is how come I’ve just spent the kids’ inheritance on four volumes of Motor Cycling, covering 1902-4. Never one to fight temptation I’ve turned my back on the ’30s—for as long as it takes the timeline will be strictly Edwardian (apart from batches of Francois’ pics of course). Excited? I’m positively tremulous.

Giuppone on the Peugeot he rode to second place in the 1905 Tour de France.

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…