Preparing for a Run

Motor cycles were rapidly evolving from playthings to practicable transport but the wise rider still took precautions before venturing away from home.

WHEN PREPARING FOR a run on a motor cycle, the length of the proposed run should be taken into consideration, and then the greater the distance the more thorough should be the overhauling, always remembering that “a stitch in time saves nine,” and that a little adjustment which may be easily done in a few moments at home may cause a delay of as many hours on the road.
Even when going for a short run of a few miles, it is policy to keep an eye on the more vital points, such as ignition device, but in this instance the quality of the rider’s knowledge of his machine will stand him in good stead. The experienced motor cyclist has usually no difficulty in appreciating to a nicety the running condition of his machine at any given time, and will rely on his judgement to carry him a certain distance without serious roadside trouble. But with the novice it is an entirely different matter, and if he wishes to preserve his temper and liking for the sport he must devote more or less time to preparing and testing his machine.

1903 preparing
Motor cycle dealer and experienced rider FR Butler of Baldock, Herts with a 1902 Royal Enfield which had been in constant use as a hire vehicle without missing a beat.

The old hand.
The experienced hand, to all appearances, will use his machine on ordinary short runs just as he would an ordinary bicycle; but if he could be watched preparing for a special long-distance or non-stop run, the novice in all probability would be amazed at the scrupulous care bestowed on the most trivial matters.
To prepare for a long run, the bicycle part of the machine should be thoroughly examined with regard to the adjustment of the bearings and thorough lubrication, the machine for this purpose being placed on the stand, with the belt removed. The tyres should next be the subject of a special scrutiny, the thoroughness of which to a great extent will all be dependent on their recent behaviour. All nuts, lock-nuts, handle-bar, and seat-pillar adjustments, together with mudguard attachments, will well repay any time devoted to them.

Clean the belt well.
The belt should be well cleansed with petrol the night previously, and in the morning dressed with castor oil on the back only. If it is a chain drive, a few hours bath in parafin, followed by a bath in lubricating oil, or, better still, in melted Russian tallow into which has been stirred a little powdered graphite, will be found beneficial.
During the period the belt or chain is off the machine, a fair idea of the internal condition of the motor may be formed by turning the engine by hand, after having first thoroughly washed out the crank chamber and liberated the piston rings with paraffin or petrol, for then, after replacing the drain plug, the degree of compression will be discoverable, as also the freedom of the various moving parts. Even should the compression appear satisfactory, the opportunity should be taken to clean, and slightly grind up the valves, not necessarily with emery or other abrasive, as these are best left alone until circumstances compel their use, and it is far better to wash in petrol, use a keen eye for pitting and unequal wear, and then endevour to get a good fit by grinding in with oil or paraffin.

The electrical side.
So far the mechanical side of the matter only has been touched, but the electrical is even more important, because any roadside repair shop may provide mechanical replacements, but if the supply of electricity in the accumulators should run out it will entail a matter of some hours’ delay, even if facilities for charging should be at hand. In this direction, too, some experience is required, in order correctly to detirmine the condition of the accumulators, the mere fact that an accumulator shows four volts being no criterion that the cells are good for their normal rate of discharge and distance to be covered. Therefore it follows that the rider should make frequent observations when using a new accumulator as to its behaviour and capacity for holding the electrical current, and should there be any great leakage a search must be at once made for short circuits either in the wiring or in the accumulator itself. The level of the acid solution must be maintained, sulphating watched for (will be known by a deposit of a powdery nature at the bottom of the cell), and any creeping or corrosion of the terminals corrected. Then, finally, the whole of the electric wiring, terminal connections, and the contact breaker and the sparking plug tested.


1903 riding gear
Specialist motor cycling was coming onto the market. This outfit, by Messrs Holding and Son of London’s West End, comprised “a short kind of covert coat made of light but strong mackintosh having a high collar which can be closed tightly round the throat…with two vertical slits on each side, by which means tools, etc can be taken from the pockets of the inner jacket without entailing the unbuttoning of the front, The lower ‘weather defences’, which are made off lighter mackintosh than the coat, recall somewhat the old-fashioned gaiter trousers and overall so dear to our sporting grandfathers, and are obviously none the worse for following the lines of such old and well-tried types of ‘bad weather’ garments.”