SPORTING MACHINES ON TEST.
THE 172c.c. BAKER. By R. L. WALKERLEY. FE,W years ago it was said, by those who con sidered themselves authorities in such matters,
that the day of the two-stroke was done, and had one murmured anything concerning the use of a small two-stroke as a high-efficiency sports motor, one would have been greeted with derisive laughter. The idea of a two-stroke and speed was regarded as incongruous, impossible and absurd. To-day, a glance through the catalogues of the leading manufacturers, hitherto famous, many of them, for the production of large four-strokes, and in two or three cases for the manufacture of big twins, would show a sudden and unmistakable interest in the smallest of
motor-cycles—the 175 c.c. two-stroke. Nor do these catalogues designate these models only as utility touring machines but also as sports models!
This state of affairs has been brought about largely by the constant and unswerving efforts of the Villiers Engineering Company, whose faith in the possibilities of the small two-stroke seems well founded.
Our respect for the products of this firm has always been great, and we reviewed, some months ago, a well known marque incorporating the Villiers engine in the design. This machine was interesting as regards its triangulated frame, and we now have had the pleasure of testing another Villiers-engined motor-cycle, again with a frame which is noteworthy in its unconventional lay-out.
By the courtesy of Mr. R. S. Inglis, the London distributor, we were able to road-test the 1928 172 C.C. Baker, with Villiers super-sports engine.
We have often ridden astride a Villiers 172 c.c. supersports engine and been impressed by its astounding power and capacity for sustained revolutions at tremendous speeds per minute, and our chief criticism, hitherto, has been the somewhat uncertain steering when flat out, or over rough stuff, owing to the light weight of the machine. As soon as we sat astride the Baker, the feeling of being seated on a ” miniature ” disappeared, and we had the impression of a medium-sized sports machine,
low built and compact, with a low saddle position. This is, no doubt, due, in some measure, to the 25 X 3 inch tyres fitted.
Our way lead us through London’s densest traffic, and we found the Albion three-speed gear-box to be a joy to use. A slight touch sufficed to move the lever from notch to notch, and the lever, being mounted low down on the saddle tube, was easy of access but out of the way when not needed.
The two levers of the Villiers carburettor proved invaluable, as the jet could be closed right down for traffic work:on the lowest gear of 19-1, on which the engine continued to turn over without the slightest splutter, if the throttle were regulated to a nicety. As we slipped out of London, darkness, with grey
wisps of mist, fell upon us. Then we switched round the plug at the base of our little headlamp, and instantly the road was flooded with light. The flywheel lighting system proved perfectly efficient and provided a quite adequate driving light for speeds up to about forty miles per hour. If middle or bottom gear were engaged, the resultant illumination was simply extraordinary in its brilliance, and on steep, rough hills we blessed this peculiarity of the lighting system.
As always, we were immensely struck by the utter mechanical silence of the machine. There was no sound except the high-pitched drone of the engine and the subdued hum of the large tyres on the frost-bound roads. The gear-box seemed non-existent from aural evidence, and the swish of the chains was scarcely noticeable.
The feeling of being astride a large machine, which had struck us immediately on taking over the Baker, was rendered even more positive as we hummed along, maintaining a steady thirty to forty miles per hour. We knew the road as the palm of our hand, and every bump, rut and pot-hole was charted in our mind. Time after time we traversed sections of road which were riddle with rain-worn holes, and we instinctively gripped the machine the tighter with wrists and knees. But to our unbounded astonishment, the crushing jar we expected did not materialise, and we glided smoothly over bumps which had shaken us on many 500 c.c. machines. What greater argument can be extended in favour of large tyres and large saddles on small motorcycles?
On the Trials Course.
Pleased with our run of the night before, we next day, in a steady down-pour, set out to cover a trial’s course in the neighbourhood, over which we have tested many machines. Having had experience on this course, when wet, riding other 175 c.c. machines, we fully expected to part from the model” on many and various occasions.
Nothing of the sort happened. We slipped along greasy, twisting lanes at an excellent pace, the machine adhering to the road like glue, and although heeled over on corners as to touch with the foot-rest, there was never a suggestion of an uncontrollable skid. We slipped a little here and there, but this was due to a certain recklessness, born of our enthusiasm for this little motor-cycle.
Half the course was accomplished in excellent time, the engine running absolutely like clock-work, although pushed hard and driven flat for miles at a time.
At length we arrived at the Colonial section which commences on a steepish gradient composed of large ruts running longitudinally interspersed with loose stones and outstanding flints. The gradient flattens and the track becomes a field, which, in wet weather, develops that oozy slime peculiar to sodden, worn grass. On this section every machine we have ever ridden
has developed extraordinary antics. Machines of great repute, as regards steering, have turned right round, and others, lauded for their road-holding, have incontinently turned upside down.
No, the Baker did not go through without deviating from the straight. We did not accomplish a feet up— smoking a cigarette—waving to admirers—passage. Nobody ever has when the course has been wet for long. The Baker was defeated by gravity precisely three times, but on none of those times did we sit down. Herein lies the great joy of the ultra-lightweight : each time the machine slid from under us, we stood up over it yanked it up again, and were proceeding on our acrobatic way in as many seconds as it takes to read this.
We emerged from the Colonial section tremendously impressed with the handiness of the Baker, and thought of the heavy weight of powerful motors over the same ground.
We completed the course without further incident and without stopping the engine since we started. Even when the Baker sat down in the Colonial section we retained our hold on the clutch with the engine firing. We finished the course of just thirty miles in one hour, twenty five minutes—twenty minutes longer than on a racing soo c.c. machine on a dry day. We found the Baker easily capable of 50 m.p.h. and possibly 55 m.p.h. under good conditions. At the close of the test the engine was as fruity as when we embarked upon it, desl-ite continuous full throttle, and a steady gear-winding procedure through out the test. We must confess that the acceleration of the engine enticed us into much needless gear-changing,
but we were simply fascinated by the jump-away and aeroplane sound from the engine when we changed down for acute bends and steepish hills.
After our test, we examined the petrol tank, and were astonished to see that apparently we had used no spirit
at all, as there appeared to be exactly as much in at the finish as when we left London the day before. The makers claim of approximately a, hundred and fifty miles per gallon seems well authenticated and. extremely probable.
There was only one point we have to criticise on the Baker, and that was the sight-feed of the oil pump, which is let into the top of the tank. We knew the engine was being adequately lubricated by the bluish haze from the exhaust, but we were quite unable to see the drip, drip of the oil as we were in motion. This we feel sure, can, and probably will, be easily altered in the coming year. The Baker frame is well-known and needs no introduction here. Suffice it to say, that including the forks, the whole frame is built up of straight tubes bolted together, and is of duplex construction. The handlebars are adjustable, and the same applies to the footrests. The brakes are operated by foot and hand on the rear and front wheels respectively, and are perfectly up
to their work. The machine may be had in two finishes of cellulose enamel, either in an attractive light buff, or all black if desired. The machine we tried, and which impressed us so
greatly for its steady power output and its feeling of “bigness,” is known as Model A, and costs £37. The sole London distributor is R. S. Inglis, 26, Upper Marylebone Street, Great Portland Street, London.
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