Rumblings, June 1951

Do you want 200 m.p.g.?

With the present savage tax on petrol and no alleviation of thc 25s. per h.p. imposition on the older ears, motorists must at times look with envy at the 200 -250 m.p.g. petrol consumption of their friends who ride motorised bicycles. At the risk of entering the preserves of our motor-cycle contributor “Carrozzino,” we feel disposed to enlarge on the more economical “cycle-motors,” which are obviously THE THING as subsidiary transport to a sports car, and which are really rather fascinating to boot.

For a long time the French scene has included tax-free motorised bicycles, which flit as a matter of course, and not so slowly either, along the long, straight tree-lined roads or dodge the Parisian traffic maelstrom.

This flair for economy-transportation was brought to England at the time of the 1948 Motor Cycle Show, by two riders of motorised bicycles who rode from Milan to London and got a very good Press by doing so. The following year, at the Trojan works at Croydon, manufacture commenced of the Mini-Motor attachment, based on Italian trends. The G.Y.S. “Motionite” followed, made in Bournemouth, and agents in Lancashire obtained the licence and offered this unit, as a complete cycle, under the name of “Mocyc.” After this these cycle attachments came thick and fast and today they are used by sporting youth and Aunt Agatha and seem to give great satisfaction. They have introduced Continental economy into English motoring, with the seemingly inevitable difference that in this country the humble and comparatively harmless (from a road wear aspect) motorised bicycle has to carry number plates, be licensed, carry L-plates until its rider has passed a test, and so on.

Nevertheless, the idea has caught on, and the motorist who craves 200-250 m.p.g. is particularly fortunate, because to him these little two-strokes will seem neither startling nor mysterious. For our part we marvel at the tiny size of these engines, remembering that, not so long ago, when, as callow schoolboys we visited Model Engineer exhibitions and watched model power-boats race in pleasure park ponds, model i.e. engines were usually of not less than 30 c.c. Nowadays engines of this sine propel bicycles at up to 30 m.p.h.! Engine size actually varies from 25-50 c.c. We also find it quite fascinating to try to distinguish the different: makes and sort unit the varied characteristics of some of the better-known attachments, in which the following table helps:-

The price of these attachments averages out at £20-£40 with p.t., and we know that had they been available when we were in our ‘teens they would have ranked as a NECESSITY!

The historically-minded will realise, of course, that nothing under the sun is new – recalling the Singer engine-in-wheel and the Wall motor attachment; just as the Harper Runabout. J.B.S. and Nomad Rytacraft preceded present-day minicars like the Bond, R.N.W. and Russon.

If your taste turns to economy motor-cycles you are well provided for, with many delightful miniatures from 98-197 c.c., including the popular 123-c.c. B.S.A. Bantam, made in “competition” form, and the refined 192-c.c. s.v. flat-twin L.E. Velocette. No double-purchase tax here, and prices ranging from less than £60, to £100, including p.t. The makes concerned are A.J.B., Ambassador, B.A.C., Bown. B.S.A., D.M.W., Dot, Excelsior, F.L.M., Francis-Barnett, James, Norman, O.E.C. Royal Enfield, Sun, Tandon and Velocette; the vintage-minded will know that eight of these makers pioneered small two-strokes, although 150 c.c. was considered small enough in those days. There are also some odd things, neither autocycle nor motorcycle, like the Douglas-made Vespa scooter, Swallow Gadabout, Bond Minibyke and Corgi. And, finally, the 98-c.c. autocycles -A.J.B., Autobyk, Bown, Cyc-Auto, Excelsior, Francis-Barnett, James, New Hudson, Norman, Powerbike, Velosolex. etc.

What m.p.g. do these give? Well, a friend tells us he lined his Corgi’s tank at Christmas and has since used it pretty frequently round the village and hasn’t run out yet! To quote definite figures for the motor-cycles, a contemporary gives the following at 30 m.p.h.: B.S.A. Bantam, 179 m.p.g. (it did 49 m.p.h. all out !); 197-c.c. James, 114 m.p.g.; 197-cc. Norman, 112 mpg.; 112-c.c. Tandon, 128 m.p.g. All this does rather make you think, in comparison with the 50 m.p,g, which thrifty Austin Seven owners crave, but do not always obtain. Tax, too, is 17s. 6d. a year!

However, we have a hunch that by now those who indulge in blower Bentley’s and “2.9” Alfa-Romeos are thoroughly vexed with us, so we will creep hastily away, saying no more …