1908 ACU End-to-End Trial

Nothing better illustrates the speed of motor cycle evolution in the first decade of the 20th century than the ACU End-to-End Trial. In 1902 the first timed run from John o’ Groats to Land’s End was made by EH Arnott, the captain of the Motor Cycling Club (which had only been going for a year). Now the end-to-end was established as an ACU six days’ trial—but it was no piece of cake…

IVAN B HART-DAVIES (WHO WAS A VETERAN record-setting end-to-ender) offered some sartorial hints for competitors: “One can get exceedingly dirty after a few days on he road. Nevertheless, even the necessaries must be cut down to the finest point. I find a soft flannel collar is best, since a spare one takes up less room, and can be crushed. Pyjamas are a real luxury and must be barred, since they also occupy too much room. The touring outfit should…consist of hairbrush and comb, razor and brush, spare shirt to be used for sleeping in, pair of slippers, clean flannel collar, handkerchiefs, tooth brush and powder, and pair of socks. A bag should then be sent to the third stopping place,

“ACU competitors afloat off St Michael’s Mount on Sunday; a little water trip before the more important land journey. The only passenger motor cycle which started on the long journey from End to End. MW Randle (10hp Lagonda) being timed away by F Straight, the ACU Secretary.”

addressed to the official hotel, containing a complete change of underclothing, etc, and a spare tube (butt-ended). If this is sent off from Penzance by passenger train, the bag will be there in plenty of time, and can be forwarded on again to Wick if necessary. I tried this plan last year, and found it very successful, the change of clothes being a great relief. Carpet slippers are essential, for one’s feet get tired during the day, and, unless the boots are a loose fit, one usually ends by going to bed early or borrowing the landlord’s. A small silk scarf will be found very useful in preventing the neck being chafed by an umbrella coat, or for warmth should the weather turn chilly, incidentally keeping the hair and collar clean. An umbrella coat should be found room for on the carrier. As rain protectors they are unequalled, but too hot to wear in fine weather. With a first-class machine, careful driving, and the above kit, an easy journey should be assured, provided that the weather maintains its good behaviour, and I for one am looking forward to a sporting event which I am sure will appeal to every healthy motor cyclist. May we all get there, and, what is more to the point, all get gold medals.”


☞ “In practically every village in Scotland through which the End-to-End Trials competitors pass, there is a 10mph speed limit which must be strictly observed. Any rider against whom there is any complaint of reckless or inconsiderate driving will be disqualified from receiving an award.”
☞ “Miss Hind told us last week that she had been reluctantly compelled to give up the idea of driving her new tricar in the End-to-End, owing to difficulty in finding a suitable lady passenger. She does not, however, intend to miss the event, and has accordingly entered her motor bicycle. A lady who can ride 400 miles in 22 hours (witness the London-Edinburgh Run) should encounter no obstacles in a six days’ jaunt.”
☞ “Tearing round blind corners, rushing down steep hills, and driving fast through towns are signs of bad form, and if indulged in, greatly lessen a competitor’s chance of getting through.”

“Some of the End-to-End competitors at Land’s End on Saturday.

“THE COMPETITORS WERE EARLY ASTIR…and the old quayside at Penzance resounded with the reverberations of motor cycle engines being warmed up on their stands. The day was beautifully fine, but over to the westward some heavy threatening rain clouds were to be seen. This, together with the fact that the barometer had been falling steadily since Sunday morning, foretold that some rain might be expected before the day was over…Punctually at 8am the first batch of riders were sent off as far as possible in numerical order. All got away in excellent style, especially those whose machines were fitted with change-speed gears, and in 20 minutes all had departed on this, the first stage of their journey to the most distant point of Great Britain…Near the Cornish capital (where, by the way, the roads were very wet and greasy) W Ridler (6hp Leader) was seen to be in trouble, due, it afterwards transpired, to over-lubrication. A little farther on, Dr

“Lining up for the departure from Land’s End on Monday morning.”

Mayo (5hp two-speed Vindec) was found inflating his tyres. His troubles in this direction began early, as immediately before the start he drew two nails from his back tyre. From Truro onwards the roads were fair at times, and then treacherously greasy…between Okehampton and Exeter the surface was perfectly appalling, and, in addition, was abominably greasy, rendering this portion of the journey excessively fatiguing. On the whole, the machines appeared to be behaving much better on the hills than was the case two years ago, thus showing that the ACU trials are having a good effect upon design and construction. Though this is the second time the End-to-End trial has been run, the interest shown by the inhabitants in the towns and villages through which we passed seems to have in no way abated. Among those seen in trouble after lunch were Miss Hind (5hp Rex), who was dismounting the inlet pipe from her engine. She also had trouble later with the spokes of the rear hub and has returned to Exeter to have them replaced. She subsequently arrived at Taunton late at night…all who left Land’s End on Monday duly started on the second day, on which the largest number of miles in any one day’s run was covered…Miss Hind had again much trouble with her clutch, and Dr Mayo, the possessor of the unlucky number 13, had had his carburetter on fire on several occasions. J Tassell experienced punctures, JOM Dixon loose spokes and other troubles, but, on the whole, most of the problems were of a trivial nature. After lunch the going to

“Capt Sir RK Arbuthnot, Bart, RN, cleaning his Triumph in the hotel yard at Tain, ready for the last day’s run. FW Barnes (3½hp Zenette with Gradua gear) at Pitlochry, the finish of the fourth day’s run. Some idea of the severity of Berriedale Hill can be gained from this illustration showing Miss Hind negotiating the last bend on her twin Rex.”

Kidderminster was excellent, but after leaving this town two severe hills had to be negotiated. The first of these, which is the steeper, had a very loose surface, and on it and its fellow many spectators had congregated. All the way along the route great enthusiasm was displayed, and through Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Shropshire the police gave every possible assistance and carefully guarded the crossroads. In Cheshire, however, they were slightly inclined to treat the matter differently…Just outside Wellington a rainstorm of exceptional severity was encountered, but from this town to the destination for the day the roads were good and wonderfully straight. Warrington turned out in its thousands to witness the arrival of the men, but some difficulty was experienced in accommodating them. The machines were garaged in the yard of the Lion Hotel. At 11.15pm all had arrived except Messrs Ridler, Randle, Nelson and Cutler. Randle’s delay was due to ignition troubles, and Cutler’s to a burst tyre…Outwin was run into by a cart, which passed over his front wheel. Douglas, on the 2¾hp Douglas, found the bad surface rather too severe on his front forks, which broke and threw him over, fortunately without damaging him seriously…From Penrith right up to Moffat the going was magnificent, the roads were straight and remarkably smooth, and with the wind behind them the men had all they could do to keep the pace down. All day the rain kept off, and the weather was fine but cold, and devoid of sunshine, but a heavy downpour was experienced by all but the earliest arrivals at Moffat. With regard to the troubles experienced by some of the competitors, Phillips, the rider of the other Douglas, broke the forks of his machine near Shap, and had to retire. Both the Douglas machines are therefore hors de combat. Miss Hind experienced no further trouble, but the back wheel of her machine is sadly out of truth. FW Barnes had five punctures; L Cutler had six punctures and a broken exhaust valve, which for a long time refused to be withdrawn; Applebee’s pulley blew off; and one of the Roc riders had a troublesome short in his magneto. At dinner time at Moffat a wire was received from Nelson to say he had been on the road since 3am, his carburettor had caught fire, but he hoped to arrive that night. Randle arrived very late, hopelessly out of the competition and wet through, but plucky, and determined to finish somehow…The fourth day’s run was ridden in rain throughout and over soddened roads. Twelve miles uphill faced the riders from the start, and owing to the falling rain very little interest was, we fear, taken in the surrounding scenery. Miss Hind, who is riding with indomitable pluck and perseverance, unfortunately experienced trouble just before Perth with a buckled back wheel. She waited in Perth for

“Group of survivors at Moffat after competion of 511 miles in three days. Up to this point only five competitors had retired.”

the wheel to be repaired, and left that town at 3am on Friday, arriving at Pitlochry at 7am. We understand that while the wheel was repaired at a garage she took 40 winks and resumed the journey immediately the machine was ready…Through Crawford and on the roads were so excellent that the men had great difficulty in keeping their speed down; in fact, we came upon a large batch of riders just outside Lanark who were considerably ahead of minimum time, and one of them who is notorious for always keeping in the front rank, crouched down behind the parapet of the bridge over the Clyde, on which his machine was standing, as the official car came by, much to the amusement of the occupants, who saw it all…At Lanark, the first control, the sky became overcast and rain began to fall heavily, rendering the rest of the day’s run (which was fortunately comparatively short) as miserable as could be. The good going met with on the previous section was over and done with, and mud, slosh, and greasy roads, and all the abominations of the colliery districts through Newmains, Carluke, and such like towns had to be encountered. The surface at times was abominable, but except in and near the towns the roads were not of a particularly slippery nature…The rain still came

“R Moore (3½hp two-speed P&M, winner of a gold medal. This rider has performed successfully in four consecutive ACU six days’ trials. The Newcastle-on-Tyne representatives were Capt Sir RK Arbuthnot RN, AD Nicholsn, SW Carty and WH Outwin. All are members of the local motor cycle club and all gained gold medals. JV Robinson on his 1¼hp Motosacoche. He gainedthe highest award by any rider of a lightweight in the trial. His other excuses include a non-stop run in the ACU Quarterly Trials and a gold medal in the MCC London-Edinburgh twenty-four hours’ run.”

down, and the road conditions were worse than ever, causing the coloured tam-o’-shanters to run and dye the men’s clothing, while the mud was inches deep in places. It was an unfortunate day for many of the men. In the morning Newman (4hp Roc) had trouble with the ball bearing of the connecting rod and had to retire. He was towed seven miles to the nearest station by his confrere, Palmer, riding a twin-cylinder Roc, who accomplished this Samaritanlike action without losing a mark. Cox (7hp Minerva) retired owing to engine trouble and a side-slip. In Aberfeldy, Craig (5hp FN), who hitherto had had no trouble at all, broke down, and after trying everything, walked into Pitlochry, arriving there just before 9pm. At Dunkeld, Fletcher (2hp Moto-Reve) broke a fork spring and is said to have withdrawn. At Perth, Ellison (1¼hp Motosacoche) burst his back tyre. Phillips’s Douglas again suffered a breakage and he has had to withdraw. AD Powell (3½hp BP) had trouble with his two-speed gear owing to some odd size balls being put into the gear with the grease, the fault of a careless assembler, most of the teeth of the gear wheels were stripped…At Dalnaspidal it rained heavily, and continued for some time. At times the distant mountains looked grand through the mist and rain, but all the beauties of the Drummochter Pass, so conspicuous on a sunny day, were absent. After Newtonmore the rain eased a trifle, and a glimpse of two of the pretty lochs situated between Aviemore and Carrbridge was afforded… At Carrbridge there was an exceedingly long and stiff pull over the mountains, and a further stretch of barren, exposed, and yet beautiful country had to be traversed. The rain here descended in sheets, drifting across the route and rendering the surface of the roads a perfect quagmire in places. Here and there men were seen temporarily stopped by the roadside, and a good deal of trouble was experienced. This section was particularly trying, and how the men got through it at all is difficult to understand, as the roads were exceptionally hilly and the gradients were all the more difficult to negotiate owing to the thick mud, rain, and cold head wind… The writer has been through every ACU Trial since the first one in 1903, and he has never seen such weather or such roads…all are showing extraordinary pluck and determination, and yet many had to get off and push through the mud. On one patch one man, who was driving down the long hill into Inverness with his throttle almost shut, had the engine suddenly stop in reaching one of the worst patches of mud, entirely owing to the increased friction caused thereby. Despite these

“Are motor bicycles reliable? Yes! A record was created by a score of riders of 3½hp Triumph motor bicycles. The top photograph shows the riders at Land’s End at the stary of the 893 miles run and the bottom photograph all competitors to a man at John o’ Groats six days later. Sixteen were private owners; the trade riders are seated on the grass.”

trials the vanguard reached the Station Hotel at Inverness with the punctuality of a train. Half-drowned and tired of the weather, the men had luncheon and started on on the last section of the day’s run. It was no ordinary run of 89 miles between breakfast and luncheon, as it entailed climbing two mountain, passes, many other severe hills, encountering heavy rain and strong head wind, and roads of the worst possible description. All through luncheon time as the men came in one by one it poured in torrents, and so bad were the weather conditions that the men were told they need not adhere strictly to minimum time during the afternoon section, and had extra time to clean their machines on their arrival—a pronouncement which afforded them no small amount of comfort. Just as the first batch of riders was leaving the Highland capital Miss Hind arrived, loudly cheered by the other competitors and onlookers…Naturally, a good many people have been in trouble. Milnes (3½hp P&M) had his tank filled up with water instead of petrol. It appears a car driver had been replenishing his radiator from a petrol can filled with water, and a garage man had taken this up by mistake and had poured it into Milnes’s tank, with the result that he was three-quarters of an hour discovering the trouble and remedying it. Outwin (3½hp Triumph) had several falls through the greasy condition of the roads, and had his magneto down. Barnwell (3½hp Rex) had the low speed out of action, and his luggage carrier broken. Weatherhilt (3½hp Zenette) wired from Carrbridge that his coil was shorting internally, and he was thought to have retired. Randle had a puncture, and had almost entirely worn away the teeth of the sprockets of his tricar owing to grit from the muddy roads…Dr Mayo (5hp Vindec) was misdirected, ran short of petrol, and had to push two miles…Miss Hind (5hp Rex) arrived at about ten minutes to nine. She had had the carburetter on fire, which had given much trouble…Unfortunately, a north-westerly gale blew down the route with considerable force, rendering the climb over the Ord, 747ft above the sea, exceedingly trying. All the competitors were stopped on the summit and sent, after a short delay, to Berriedale, four miles further on, this section having to be covered without dismounting, so that the hill could be climbed under ordinary touring conditions. Those who stopped and restarted during this part of the journey were ineligible to compete for the special prize offered for the best ascent of the hill…After lunch at Meredith’s Hotel, Wick, the competitors proceeded to Keiss, six miles from John-o’-Groat’s. From this point Mr Levick’s 40hp Napier led the procession at about 18mph to John-o’-Groat’s House. On the way Clark (2¾hp Leader-Douglas) was discovered with a broken steering tube. It was exceedingly hard lines to fail to finish so near the end of the journey. Leaving the Huna Road at Wart Hill, the men were led over a rather poorly surfaced road to John-o’-Groat’s House, and there finished what had been a most arduous but very successful trial. The total number of starters was 58. Of these, 48 finished; 37 gained gold medals, five silver medals, six bronze medals.” Gold medalists included Vindec boss Billy Wells; P&M boss Richard Moore; Martin Geiger, who had been shot at during the 1907 Six-Day Trial; J Marshall, who was runner-up in the 1907 TT; TK Hastings, vice-president of the American Federation of Motor Cyclists and an award winner in the 1907 Six-Day Trial; and Captain Sir Robert Keith Arbuthnot, KCB MVO, who was a member of the MCC and captain of the brand new battleship HMS Nelson (he kept his bike in his day cabin). Freddie Barnes, who designed his Zenith’s revolutionary Gradua gear, won a silver. And Muriel Hind, who deserved a medal for pressing on against all the odds, won a bronze. The figures reflected the improvements made since the previous End-to-End run: Triumph, 20 started, 20 finished, winning 19 Gold medals and 1 Bronze; Rex, 8/9, 5 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze; Vindec, 5/5, 3G 2S; NSU, 2/2, 2G; P&M, 2/2, 2G; Matchless, 2/2, 2G; FN 2/2 1G, 1B.

“The survivors, numbering 48, at John o’ Groats House. It will be noticed how few dropped out, notwithstanding the severity of the ride and the very adverse weather conditions.”

The 48 finishers comprised 33 singles, 13 twins and two fours; 45 of them featured magneto ignition (43 Bosch, 2 Eismann). And The Motor Cycle’s correspondent reported: “HD Scale, who had not ridden a motor bicycle for a year, entered for the End-to-End, and tried to get a machine. Failing to get delivery after trying two different sources, he arrived at Penzance with clothing, spares, and everything save the one important factor, a mount. Happening to find a 3½hp Triumph which had been some weeks in stock in a shop in Penzance, he bought it on the spot, and brought it through the competition without losing a mark. Dr Adams, another Triumph rider, had but 100 miles’ experience, and he was quite as successful as Mr Scale. Nelson, who had spent 48 hours on the road at a stretch, and who arrived at John-o’-Groat’s when everyone was leaving, spent a happy day motor cycling in company with many others who had not had enough of their favourite pastime. Two years ago broken valves, broken valve lifters, choked jets, punctures, ruined sparking plugs, etc, were in daily evidence. The road was littered and strewn with feverish tinkerers. This year, up to the point I left the route, I did not hear of a broken valve, a choked jet, or a changed plug.” Although punctures were still a major problem on those flinty roads, strewn with horseshoe nails, help was at hand: “At Land’s End many competitors were seen injecting Miraculum, and it successfully sealed many a puncture during the trial. The collapsible tube screws on to the valve after the plunger has been removed, and the tube is then folded up from the bottom, pressing all the Miraculum into the tyre. This process takes about 20 minutes. The compound is then distributed all round the tube by kneading with the hands, the valve seat cleansed, and the plunger replaced. In the event of a gash, it does not make, patching difficult, as previous ‘sealing’ solutions have been known to.”
PS “A postcard from Mr TK Hastings, of New York, says ‘Best wishes from a ‘Pro’, my penalty for competing with the only sportsmen in the motor cycle world—my English friends.’” Because some of the ACU prizes had a cash value the Federation of American Motorcyclists immediately banned Hastings from competing in any future US events as an ‘amateur’.