CAMBERLEY, 1927. Obscure Observations on a Nightmare Event.
THE first essential to carefree trials riding, especially in events of the scramble variety, is that the machine must emphatically belong to someone else. It does not really matter what the machine is, though it is advantageous to have at least 3-speeds to start with, (you will probably lose some of them en route, as I did in 1926 !), also as many ” horses ” as can reasonably be squeezed into a small frame. With regard to gear ratios, these should be very close and all at the bottom end. Bearing these points in mind I started in the 1927 Camberley scramble on a borrowed mount ; really the fact of its belonging to someone else was the only item in which it answered to the above requirements. It had not quite enough power, its gear ratios were wide and top gear was almost useless, but it. was at least remarkably easy to handle. Two team mates (associated with MOTOR SPORT) started in front of me, one, on a 250 c.c. machine of extremely spidery type, hereinafter referred to as the Wart, and one on a cumbersome 500 c.c. ; the latter is known as the Rook. Everyone knows by now that it was wet. Even if it had not been, we should have been, because the Heath was, if I make myself clear. Now the mounts of Jonah and the Rook both suffered from front wheels which had a distinct preference for sideways motion, so that it seemed and indeed proved
that we were in for a thoroughly interesting little tour. We had often wondered what a wet Camberley would be like—now we know and to this day our nether limbs bear silent witness, in the form of bruises, scars and abrasions, to the pains and travails we endured.
The recognised tit-bits of the course were not noticeably more difficult than in previous years, with the exception of Wild and Woolly, which was only climbed unassisted by Jimmy Simpson (A. J.S.) and G. E. Beard (Sunbeam) ; the real difference made by the rain was the imperilling of equilibrium on the fast and fastish sections of the course, usually covered at such a speed that a fall meant something worse than a bent footrest.
For my own part I was dogged by a peculiarly exasperating and apparently unavoidable trouble ; due to the lightness of the frame of my” cutprice ” model, the rear chain simply would not .remain on the sprockets. Always at the most inopportune moments, on 1 in 2 gradients, off it came, necessitating much exhausting pushing by spectators and self until level ground enabled a refitment. Had the chain behaved itself, my own efforts, coupled with those of the engine would have enabled me to maintain reasonably good progress. Apart from this, in common with many others I suffered from mud-jammed throttle slides—thoroughly recommended for providing thrills at Camberley !
The Rook suffered chiefly from his motor’s weight and absence of ground clearance, which necessitated a tremendous expenditure of physical energy and hitherto undreamed of blasphemy !
Our third man on the spider-bike enjoyed himself thoroughly, although it was his own machine, and finished very creditably ; his only trouble was a delay of 15 minutes at ” Venice ” with water in the magneto.
Speaking of” Venice,” what a wonderful bog it was ! Machines sank bodily up to the hubs and riders were immersed to well above the knees ; some humorist had placed a small plank over one of the easier ” canals” which only served to tempt people into thinking that the other ” canals” were even more bottomless—needless to say a complete delusion. A. B. Bourne (ex A.C.U. Engineer) now a press-man, did yeoman service as coastguard, life-boatman or Gondolier (what you will) at this spot.
Between us, of course, we contrived to see quite a lot of the trial, by which I mean the other competitors.
Bonzo Heath on his Henderson did not seem as happy as usual—we saw him do some really beautiful “fall offs ” and his piteous scream, from just behind us on some fearful descent, of ” My God ! I can’t stop ! ” will ring in our ears for ever, while the sight of him hurtling by, separated from his motor and missing us by inches only will never be forgotten I Alec Jackson seemed as fast and unflurried as usual though naturally we only saw him once on each circuit !
Yes, and the ladies ! Mrs. McLean and Miss Taylour were well worth watching, but we saw Miss Cottle trying to find a main road back to Camberley town ; petrol in the lubricating oil doesn’t improve things very much. It was a field day for the acknowledged Scramble experts, G. Barnwell (B.S.A.), Wilmot Evans (Triumph) and F. W. Neill (Matchless), really hard men, on bikes built for the job, men who revel in grease, and bikes which go where they are told ! The results are well known ; as for ourselves we finished—just ! Two of us were so late that we had to hunt round for the timekeepers, who had long given up waiting for us, while the
Wart’s” front tyre subsided gracefully as he crossed the finishing line.
The Rook and Jonah were last but one and last respectively, due to their troubles, but it must not be forgotten that one third of the entry did not finish at all.
The spider bike was found to have a broken rear spindle next morning ! Jonah’s hike had eight new spokes fitted during the next few days
The Rook’s machine is still at Windsor where it was abandoned after the trial !
What ho !
Next year ? Ask the Rook ! For my part—I shouldn’t wonder