The Position of the Motor Cycle

Published in the inaugural edition of The Motor Cycle, this is the first ever review of powered two wheelers: it looks to the future from the very beginning of the motor cycle story.

by George Lacy Hiller.
THE STUDENT OF the history of the sport of cycling is cognisant of the fact that almost every novelty when introduced has had a certain amount of opposition to encounter, has been criticised unfavourably, and, as a last resource, has been referred to as possibly resulting in the annhialiation of one or other of the popular forms of cycle. The reason for these arguments is clear.
The expert with a certain apparatus, possessing no knowledge of the new apparatus, without doubt does best on the formerand his attitude is useful. Take, for example, the introduction of the safety bicycle. The best that could be done upon the earlier samples was not equal to the best that could be done on the perfected high bicycle. That fact is indisputable. The faults of the crude safety were patent and obvious – the sensitivity of the steering, for example; but the criticism of the users of the high machine, and the demand of the users of the safety for improvement, soon produced the desired development, and the safety was improved in this and many other points until it finally ousted the high bicycle.
What made the safety a final success, of course, was the introduction of the pneumatic tyre; but the pneumatic tyre was also criticised, and with good reason. Punctures and bursts were serious matters when the tyre was first introduced. The unrolling of it’s wrappings, the cutting and subsequent sewing of the canvas cover, were cimplicated and troublesome tasks; and the users of the cycle in those days for the most part preferred the certainty and safety of the solid tyre to the uncertainty and danger of the air tyre.
This fact pointed out the necessity of improvement, and in due season improvement came. The machine has arrived at a point where any revolutionary departure seems impossible. It is dangerous to say so, because we are all convinced that the acme of perfection had been reached the day before the pneumatic tyre was introduced; nevertheless, except for detail improvements, the safety sycle of today appears as nearly as possible perfect in its main lines, and inventive genius is turning its attention to motor developments.
The motor cycle is going through the same series of changes. It has the immense advantage of starting where the man-propelled cycle left off. The experience of years in the building up of the ordinary cycle is at the service of the motor cycle maker, and with the modifications necessary to secure the provision of the required strength, the motor cycle is based upon well known and tested lines. As usual, there are criticisms – the motor cycle is going to revolutionise cycling, to wipe out the man – propelled vehicle, to make the latter as rare on object on our highways as a high bicycle; all of which statements are simply nonsense. A large number of old – time cyclists are taking to the motor bicycle undoubtedly, and in their cases the motor bicycle is merely a stage on the road to a car; but a vast number of new recruits are taking to the ordinary safety, and that type of vehicle will not be superseded by the motor bicycle in the manner that the high bicycle was wiped out by the safety.
It is rather a matter for surprise that the motor tricycle has not had a longer run. Of course, the earlier specimens were crude, and gave a good deal of trouble: but the element of stability and the comparative absence of sideslipping dangers should have given the tyre a longer life, and it is not at all impossible that a revival may take place in this direction, for undoubtedly the sideslipping danger does exist, especially for those who are not very expert in the art of riding. The notable absence of motor cycles from the road when the conditions are at all unfavourable is a proof that the danger is recognised, and it may presently be met by the manufacture of motor bicycles with appliances for fitting two wheels in place of the single front wheel for use in bad weather.
The motor bicycle, though it will draw many recruits, of course, from the ranks of cyclists, will also create a class of its own. Primarily, the cost is beyond the means of many, both as regard the initial purchase and the upkeep and cost of use. Then there is the question of stabling; and, bearing in mind the fact that the storage of a petrol – driven motor in a dwelling house invalidates a police of fire insurance, this will also somewhat limit its use. There remains, besides, a large class of persons who cycle for the exercise it affords – and albeit motor cycles on occasion afford a vast amount of exercise, when the machinery fails – and this class prefer the old and, at present, the more reliable mount. Despite the relatively short time the motor bicycle has been in use, it has developed with gigantic strides. It has in some forms become cheaper, whilst in other forms the cost has increased by reason of the improved and novel fittings which have been designed for it. The development has been relatively much more rapid than was that of the safety bicycle; but, as already pointed out, the makers have had a vast amount of detail work done for them by the cycle makers.
The tendency to increase the power of the engines fitted to motor bicycles is possibly to be deplored. High-powered engines call for more weight in the frame; and, after all, the ideal motor cycle should be a light vehicle, comparatively speaking. In fact, if it is wise to forecast the future, it seems probable that eventually more attention will be paid to keeping down the weight than to adding more horse-power to the propulsive engine; for, unless the vehicle is cmparitively light and handy, its owner would be better suited with a light car, if he can afford it.
Throughout the whole history of cycling there has always been a desire expressed for more auxiliary power, and many more or less ingenious inventors have tried to supply the want. Now we have it supplied by the motor; but the added weight is too great to allow us to assert that it fills the oft – repeated requirements. If, however, motor cycles users will be content to accept a motor as an auxiliary – that is to say, will be content with a limited amount of power – there is no doubt that they will be able to purchase a satisfactory machine at a comparatively low price which will not be over heavy, and which can be easilly handled.
The fitting of motors to tandems is yet in its infancy. Very few have up to now been seen upon the road; but this arrangement will make a vast difference to many users of tandems who have hithero been condemned to ride with a “passenger” instead of a working partner.
The position of the motor bicycle today, therefore, may be said to be pretty clearly defined : it is a vehicle which will tempt a certain number of old cyclists off the ordinary safety, a certain number of old cyclists back to the sport, and a certain number of new men into the sport; it will create a permanent class of cyclists, and will also form a channel through which a large number of people will pas to the autocar; it will not seriously affect a very large class of riders on the ordinary cycle, but it will do very useful work in experimenting with and developing parts and fittings for motor engines. The development of the cycle has brought about in this way: a man riding a cycle becomes of necessity observant, and the motor cyclist will develop a cimilar talent for recognising what he likes and what he does not like. He will demand what he wants from the motor cycle maker, and the maker will in due time supply it.
Improvements and developments are coming thick and fast. It will, I am told, be the programme of this paper to keep its readers informed of all such developments and to assist in every way in furthering the progress of yet another branch of sport, in the same way as The Cyclist has done good work for cycling, and The Autocar for the larger vehicle in the motor world.