Women in the saddle

This feature was headlined The Motor Cycle from a Lady’s Point of View (bylined ‘Diana’) and it makes interesting reading—women on bikes were still few and far between but some of them, at least, were earning the respect of the chaps, and some plucky gels were ready to get their hands dirty.

ONE DOES NOT require the genius of Sherlock Holmes to perceive that the motor cycle is daily becoming more and more popular with the weaker sex, and rightly so, for now that makers have realised that the lady motor cyclist is worthy of consideration, they have produced many excellent machines of all weights with open frames suitable for ladies’ use…Some ladies even reject the machines specially designed for their use, and make their choice from the bicycles built for men. This practice, however, can be condemned for two very good reasons: (1) The difficulty of satisfactorily and gracefully disposing of the skirt—few ladies care to wear a costume which can be considered suitable for the purpose, as, although it may be inconspicuous when riding, it will invariably attract unpleasant notice when off the machine. (2) The impossibility of mounting and dismounting really quickly; in the case of mounting this is a minor consideration, but there are sometimes occasions when one’s safety may depend upon the ability to dismount quickly. On the other hand, with the open frame no fantastic garb is required.

The Nottingham &DMCC speed trials on Mablethorpe Sands, Lincs, included a ladies’ race. From left: Mrs K Simpson (Rudge)—the winner—Miss Kettle (Premier) and Miss Shipside (Premier), “who is but 16 years of age”.

The skirt, a rough tweed for preference, should be fairly short. A Gabardine or waterproof coat should be worn, according to weather conditions, and a leather or wool waistcoat with long sleeves adds much to the rider’s comfort on cold days. The hat should be small and fit closely.
Another open question is whether reliability trials and hill-climbs are really desirable from a lady’s point of view. There is not much, perhaps, to be said against the former, though the majority of lady riders prefer to use their machines only for rides and tours with their own friends. Some ladies, however, enjoy entering competitions, preparing their mounts for the event, the excitement on the day, the chance of a winning place—all these things appeal to their sporting instincts, and it must be granted that they often perform particularly well. Motor cycling is undoubtedly a fine sport for both summer and winter. What is more invigorating than a run on a bright frosty day? Answer: Two runs. Practically the whole day can be spent on the road in summer without undue fatigue.

“Baroness de la Roche, the first lady aviator, who rides almost daily in the Bois d Boulogne, Paris, on hert Motosacoche. She is usually accompanied by a faithful hound of the ‘police dog’ breed.” The self-styled baroness, Elise Raymonde Deroche, was described in contemporary reports as a “young and pretty lyrical artist”. In any case she was clearly plucky; having become an accompolished balloonist, she won license No36 of the International Aeronautics Federation. The Tsar praised her for her “bravery and audacity”.

It has often been said that ladies have no mechanical turn of mind, and so motor cycling would not appeal to them. The following will show that they are not so helpless as they are supposed to be. Two ladies had been using a sidecar continually in rain and mud, so one can judge the condition of their mount after such weather. It was decided that for the New Year it should be completely overhauled, and they themselves should do it. The machine in question is a 3½hp (two-speed Roc) Brough (ladies’ model) and sidecar. The first thing was to rid the machine of superfluous mud, which had found its was into every possible nook. Next is was thought necessary to adjust the gear, so it was decided that the back wheel should come out and be thoroughly cleaned before any adjustments were carried out. This completed, both front and sidecar wheels were cleaned and the hubs lubricated; also the spring forks were in need of oil.
Now the most important part, the engine. First the plug was taken out and the points cleaned and put together for easier cleaning. Next the valves were ground in and new valve springs fitted; then the carburetter was taken off, the jets cleaned and the shutters and springs of the B&B control oiled. Replacing the back wheel proved to be the worst part of the while business. However, it was managed; then, after careful adjustment both gears worked perfectly, and the brake acted as it had never done before. Finally a run on the stand completed the preparations for further enjoyable trips.
Ladies’ machines have not yet reached the same degree of perfection as those of the opposite sex, the open frame and the necessary protection for the dress, simplicity, cleanliness, etc, being in a large way accountable for this. Manufacturers are now alive to the fact that there are many ladies who would rather drive and look after their own mounts than sit snugly in a sidecar, watching the sometimes futile efforts of a companion to coax an underpowered combination uphill.

Muriel Hind and R Lord with their 6hp Rex twins; Ms Hind was clearly accepted as an equal by the hard riding competitors in the long distance trials.

To my mind the three chief factors which seem necessary for the making of the ideal machine for a ladiy’s use are very low saddle position, simplicity of control and lightness with plenty of power. It ought to be possible to put the foot flat on the ground and yet be seated comfortably in the saddle—a position in which it would not be difficult both to steady the machine and push off while letting in the clutch.
A short time ago I noticed a young lady struggling with a machine turned out from the factory as a lady’s motor cycle. She could only just reach the ground with the toe of her shoe, and thus could not properly support the weight of the machine. The control of the clutch was on the handle-bar, and the lever actuating this dropped so far down that it was well nigh impossible for the small hand to grasp both and pull them together to declutch. She, however, succeeded in performing this feat. Then came the grand final, viz, pushing the machine along while gradually letting in the clutch, and at the same time controlling the engine to take up the load by means of the other two levers on the opposite side of the bar. Needless to say, when the clutch lever was let down as far as the dainty fingers could reach, it was loosed, with the result that the already hot engine, after one or two plucky attempts to keep going, accompanied by terrible knocks, stopped.
This proceeding was repeated twice before the usual inquisitive crowd, and then the lady’s efforts were successful, and she sailed away, the poor little engine still knocking. This incident makes it evident that there are many extra little details to consider when designing a lady’s motor cycle. When you read of, and meet on the road, ladies riding men’s machines, it seems very much as if the demand for ladies’ machines exceeds the supply, or is it that a man’s motor cycle is so much more reliable?

A Run on a Ladies’ Heavyweight.

THE PREMIER CYCLE Co, of Coventry, is one of the few firms who have laid themselves out to construct a 3½hp ladies’ machine, and they have done this in response to numerous enquiries which they have received. It is, of course, more difficult to construct a neat-looking ladies’ heavyweight than a lightweight, but the Premier Cycle Co is to be congratulated on its success.
The front down tube has been replaced by two tubes of smaller diameter, and that the model may be fitted with either the Premier free engine or the Armstrong three-speed hub. It was the latter type which we were invited to try one morning last week, the road conditions at the time being adverse.

The low saddle and open frame made the Premier a comfortable ladies model, but the 499cc engine ensured there was no compromise in performance.

Having started up the engine, we took our seat, and were at once struck by the comfort and the ease with which the controls came to our hands. The machine glided away, and we were soon on the high gear, but deemed it advisable to drop down again to the middle or direct gear on account of the treacherous road surface. The engine pulled beautifully, and we found no necessity for racing the engine when starting up, the heavy flywheels taking up the drive comfortably and easily. As a test for the engine power, we changed into the high gear close to the foot of a fairly steep rise, and were delighted with the way in which the engine picked up and the machine sailed over. This will cause no surprise when we state that the 85x88mm (499cc) engine is of identical design to the 3½hp engine fitted to the diamond frame model.
We found this mount handy in traffic and, above all, clean, thanks to the wonderfully efficient belt guards, which are formed like tunnels, the belt running through them. This, of course, is an important feature for a ladies’ mount. The absence of mud may be judged from the fact that, although we were wearing a long coat, it was as clean on our return as at the start, which can only be attributed to the guards. Tanks are usually a difficulty on ladies’ machines, but in this case the petrol tank will hold a full gallon, and the oil tank is in proportion. Accessibility has been carefully studied, and it is possible to reach easily all parts which may require attention.
Ladies who require a mount with plenty of reserve power—and there are many such—will do well to examine the 3½hp Premier.