From time to time both The Motor Cycle and Motor Cycling published thoughtful, well-informed features considering the likely future of motor cycling. What you’re about to read is not one of them. Instead, here’s Ixion in whimsical mode, with some delightful illustrations by Geoffrey Shepheard. Enjoy.
THE MORNING POST asserts that a French professional has ‘flown’ a distance of 3ft 7in. at a height of 8in on a ‘winged bicycle’ or ‘aviette’. I ejaculate, with Dominie Sampson “prodeegious!”. I have ‘flown’ much further on a push bicycle utterly devoid of wings. My best flight on a motorless bicycle up-to-date measured about 20ft horizontally, and about 15ft vertically, and any aspiring rider can easily equal it
if he has the pluck. Suitable apparatus consist of a steep hill, a blood mare, a boulder, a bridge, a ravine, and a butcher’s boy. Arrange the bridge over the ravine, and set both at the foot of the hill. The size and location of the. boulder depend upon the limits of. the desired ‘flight’. When I set up my record, the boulder was about 1ft. in diameter, and was placed by the side of the road about 8ft from the bridge. The blood mare and the butcher’s boy are not absolutely essential, but in case the
aviator’s nerve fails him at the crucial moment when the take-off approaches, they have their uses. In my case the butcher’s boy drove the blood mare furiously up the hill. The blood mare shied at my machine. In attempting to dodge the blood mare my bicycle hit the boulder, which was suitably concealed in brambles, and in company with my machine I described a graceful arc over the parapet of the bridge, landing somewhat heavily in the stony bed of the torrent beneath. Even as practised with a push bicycle the sport is a trifle expensive.Here is my bill for the solitary flight: New Beeston Humber roadster, fifteen guineas. Surgeon’s bill, five guineas. Loss of salary for four weeks, £20.
Owing to a limited income I have not yet essayed the sport on a motor bicycle, but I estimate that its costliness will rise in a ratio depending upon the speed and price of the motor cycle employed. Many expert aeronautical engineers assert that the muscular powers of a human being cannot be so applied as to produce the horse-power requisite for sustained flights without the aid of at least a lightweight engine. These doubters would, of course, describe my own record and the French professional’s petty vol plane as a ‘hop’; but the fact that the French Aero Club has offered a prize of 2,500 francs for the best flight, and that 198 entries have been obtained, looks as if two opinions on the subject were tenable.
I commend the notion to British designers, as possessing certain obvious advantages, and lest these should escape general notice, I beg to draw attention to one or two obvious superiorities of the winged motor cycle, which may be provisionally christened the auto-aviette. (1) On sustaining a puncture, the auto-aviette’s wings will be unfurled by operating a Bowden lever, and the machine will fly gracefully to the next garage. (2) On encountering a patch of dangerous grease or a stretch of unrolled metal, a short flight will instantaneously surmount the obstacle. (3) Hairpin bends will lose their terrors; instead of risking the dangers of ‘leaning the machine in and the body out’, a hop of not more than fifty yards will land the machine on the straight immediately above the bend. (4) On espying an AA scout with an eloquent expression, the elevtor will be tilted, and the machine will pass over the police trap at such a height that its registration numbers shall be undecipherable. (5) If, when taking your second-best girl out in the sidecar, you sight a female in the distance who looks suspiciously like the best girl, the entire outfit may be raised sufficiently high for the planes to conceal the sex and lineaments of your passenger; this procedure will avoid exhausting and tearful recriminations. (6) The opening of gates on the villainous mountain roads lately so popular with trials organisers will be completely unnecessary. A short hop on quarter throttle will nullify a tiresome
obstacle. (7) A new rule of the road may be required to avert novel possibilities of accident under the new conditions, for should two auto-aviettes meet round a blind corner, and both simultaneously rise to the same height, a very pretty smash would follow. A precautionary rule could, however, simply be arranged. I am advising the Local Government Board to rule that “auto-aviettes going south or west hold the road in emergencies, auto-aviettes going north or east lift”. Perhaps the new secretary of the ACU will give the matter his best attention. I am ardently looking forward to the decrease of the cattle nuisance when I get delivery of my machine. Traffic stops in non- stop trials will no longer be a cause of friction. (8) No sane motor cyclist will in future trouble to thread city traffic. Without doubt each municipality will erect 90ft finger-masts in some central position, and on approaching a centre of population we shall ‘lift’, and flying over the centre of the town consult the finger-mast en passant as to our route onward.
Tramlines may now be multiplied ad lib without any opposition from us. Street improvement—a costly burden on the rates—may be abandoned, and historic cities may retain their narrow and picturesque streets without a tremor, for the benefit of American tourists and other back numbers. As motor cyclists will now eschew town riding, country inns and garages will profit and thrive on new custom, and the ‘back-to- the-land’ movement will receive a great impetus, even if motor cyclists whose belts break in mid-air will interpret the phrase in a fashion quite their own. (9) This last consideration suggests certain warning counsels to the novice. While the auto-aviette removes many inconveniences which have hampered the development
of the sport, it introduces a few novel perils. A fouled, sparking plug, broken valve or slipping belt is a mere bagatelle on the road; in the air it is a breath-stopping calamity. Riders will be well advised not to utilise their soaring gear unless they are absolutely convinced that the machine is in perfect tune from A to Z.
In the near future low flying will doubtless become the rule, when the results of a slight mechanical derangement will be limited to a gentle return to the adjacent earth. But until all telephone and telegraph wires have been relaid in underground pipes, low flying must be regarded as no less dangerous than moon-brushing, and it will further be necessary to render all barbed wire hedges illegal. The small red boards erected by hunts to signal the presence of wire are scarcely sufficiently obtrusive to safeguard the low skimming motor cycle, and for the present our motto must be ‘the higher, the better’. In conclusion I foresee a great slump in the stock of Burberry and other aquascuta. Instead of donning gaudv and odorous oilskins at the commencement of a heavy shower, we shall simply rise above the clouds, and descend on entering a fresh climatic zone, where the sun is shining brightly.