The K.T.T4 Velocette ON THE ROAD. By THIZ EDITOR.
WHEN a manufacturer styles one of his models ” T.T. Replica” one is inclined to wonder whether the similarity to his actual I.O.M. machines extends beyond the external features or whether the machine is designed for the benefit of that obnoxious product of recent years, the ” high-street ” type of ” racing ” motorcyclist.
In most cases it is impossible by any ordinary road test to ascertain, whether the machine in question is a genuine long distance racer or not, and so the man who wishes to buy a machine with a view to serious speed work is left in the dark as to whether the successful marque which takes his fancy is anything approaching the “same as you can buy.”
It is for this reason that our impressions of a K.T.T. Velocette under actual racing conditions should prove of interest to prospective speedmen. Early in this season, we had been discussing the question of a mount for the T.T. with Mr. Dunham, of Dunham and Haines of Luton who, as many of our readers are already aware, are distributors of Velocette machines for a considerable area in that part of the country, and it was suggested we should ride a machine entered by his firm. However when Veloce, Ltd. were acquainted with the plan they polite13, pointed out that they had three entries of their own, whose machines incorporated some experimental modifications and they could not see their way to produce any more “specials,” adding however that if we cared to buy a K.T.T. machine and enter it, they could not stop us riding and stating that all entries except their own were also standard models. Such was Dunham’s faith in. the machine that he decided on this course and the result was that yet another Velocette was munbered among the Junior T.T. entries of this year.
Our first impression of the machine on the road was its amazing smoothness of running, and almost complete mechanical silence. Readers may remark that such features are hardly points of importance on a racing machine and that some harshness is only to be expected. However anyone who has done any long distance racing will agree that mechanical sweetness and good balance play a tremendous part in easing the strain of a long race, and the pleasurable feeling that the motor is quite happy and not becoming “hot and bothered” enables one to concentrate on the business of riding with an easy mind, and really enjoy navigating the machine at speed.
Of course the engine is by no means the only part which must inspire confidence, and we can truthfully say that we have never ridden a fast machine on which we felt more completely at home from the first time of riding it, and every detail of control and position shows that the designer really knows the requirements of a T.T. machine, as few men can know it. One of the features which is of the greatest help in saving valuable seconds is the foot gear-change of the “one hick-one gear” type, first introduced by this firm and now widely recognised as an almost essential feature of the modern roadrace r .
It was only on changing back to a machine with the more conventional hand gear change, that we were able to realise the great amount of time wasted at corners with the old type of control, which a year before we had. used without complaint, though we had long been convinced that more than two hands were required if the quickest possible course was to be taken.
When braking for corners with one foot and one hand brake it is necessary to leave go of the hand brake to change gear, and so considerable braking effort is lost and braking landmarks farther from the corner must be chosen. Many people suggest both brakes operated by foot, but although we once regarded this as a solution we are now in favour of hand operation for the front brake as being more accurate than a foot encased in a field boot. Another point is that a foot gear change obviates the necessity for removing a hand from the bars at any time.
The Velocette steering was irreproachable at all speeds but we must confess that at speeds over a mile a minute on bumpy sections or when, braking violently, the fact of having both hands in their appointed place on. the bars, gives a pleasant feeling of security which does much to keep our brow tmfurrowed and our nerves well padded.
Harder men may consider the above points of refinement a trifle irrelevant when discussing a fast motor ; but though we have a wholesome respect for those who will cheerfully ride a none too navigable machine all out down Bray Hill holding it with one hand, we have no wish to emulate them ; in fact until we rode a Velocette, going all out down Bray Hill except in, the actual race was never a habit of ours, and the fact that it became a habit in practice on, this machine as well as when racing, and moreover quite a pleasant habit, is a wonderful tribute to the steering and road holding qualities of our mount.
By this time we can hear many readers saying ” Yes this is all very well but the point is how fast does the machine go ? “and we must tread delicately, for nothing is more subject to rumour and conjecture even among those who should know, than the maximum speed of a T.T. machine. We have heard that Hick’s machine, the winning Velocette, had maximum speeds vouched for by sundry knowledgeable persons of varying optimism of anything from 84 m.p.h. to 96 m.p.h. on the level. We can only suggest that the truth lies between these two limits, and in answer to the oft repeated question of “How did the standard K.T.T.’s compare with the alleged ” specials ” in the island ? we can only give some extracts from our own experience in the actual race. Practice performances are of course interesting but as no one will ever believe that anyone else is all out in practice, they are not usually considered as evidence.
Soon after 10 a.m. on the day of the Junior T.T. we set off among a band of other hopefuls to attempt to cover some 264 miles of road on a motorcycle, which, as the object is finally to arrive at the starting point again, seems an unnecessary and pointless amusement to the uninitiated though to those who have tried, or even watched it, the T.T. stands alone, and always will, as THE Motorcycling Event. Not wishing to damage a perfectly good engine by illtreating it when cold, we took things quietly at first,
letting the next competitor behind come past in the first few miles, and refraining from repassing him again until about a third of a lap had been covered, and things being then pleasantly settled down we proceeded to go all out to the best of our ability, and found that the Velocette every now and then caught and passed sundry other machines in a most agreeable manner. (We are not only referring to those which had stopped by the wayside, what time their riders were thinking of a good yarn to spin to the nearest marshal as to their cause of retirement). However, few are they who can do many laps in. a T.T. without being passed, and after sundry scraps in which we found the Velocette could hold its own, we were humming nicely down the long slope to Kirkmichael on our third lap when a new exhaust note became manifest, and Alec Bennett came gently by in answer to our enquiries as to the relative speeds of our machine and those of the works team. Benn.ett’s machine was pulling a slightly higher gear than ours, this being possibly due to his light weight, and the result was that his motor was definitely faster down hill. However once through Michael we were on the level once more, and we were pleased to find that by lying down as far as possible (and no one knows how much it can be done till a real scrap is in progress) we were just able to keep on his tail. So through Ballaugh and Sulby the space between the two machines hardly varied a yard, and at Ramsey we were
still about 50 yards apart, and for our own part having a most enjoyable and instructive ride, as one cannot race many miles behind Bennett without picking up some useful information about the way of negotiating the I.O.M. circuit. We had expected that we should lose a bit on, the mountain climb but after the Gooseneck Bennett took top gear, possibly to save his motor a bit, but we were still in second which suited the gradient perfectly while our opponent was a trifle overgeared, and we proceeded to gain ground.
Alec Bennett, however much he may believe in. driving to schedule, etc., is after all only human and when our front wheel drew level with his rear wheel he glanced round, his right foot pressed gently on his gear lever, up went his revs, and he drew gently away to his previous station in our line ahead formation.
Thus across Snaefell, but when we started on the drop down the other side, his higher gear showed its value and he drew steadily ahead all the way to the start, and as we drew up at our pit to refuel he was just leaving his, not to be seen again by us till after the race. Later Nemesis, in the guise of a patch or sticky tar on a bend overtook us and we performed an unrehearsed broadside, followed by a loop which distinctly marred the showroom finish of our model. The left handlebar was roughly parallel with the fork blades, the tank was split open and our rear brake among other things no longer functioned as the makers intended, as the pedal mounting and footrest had tried to tie themselves in, a knot. However a temporary kicking straight followed
by a more elaborate attack on things at the pits, enabled us after some delay to join in, the fun once more.
One of the next things to overtake us was another Velocette piloted by F. G. Hicks who looked round with a cheerful grin as he passed and disappeared into the distance without further ceremony, proving that his machine was undoubtedly the fastest Velocette, but seeing that his small but vital margin of speed was the result of his own efforts we could only think” Good luck to you,” and were not in the least surprised on pulling in eventually after 7 laps to find he had won, at well over 69 m.p.h. With regard to the actual performance of our own model the engine was still in excellent condition after the race and going nearly as well as at the beginning. The average for the race of just over 64i m.p.h. is, it is true, nothing remarkable, but it must be remembered that anything in. the nature of extensive repairs and extra fill ups are liable to spoil average speeds, and there is no blame attaching to the machine for not getting in sooner. During practice several laps were completed in times under 34 minutes, without any hectic moments, while the fastest laps in the race which included pulling in. at the end of it to fill up, was 33 minutes Ii secs. or a fraction under 69 m.p.h. which for a machine which can be purchased by anyone for 00 is we think a performance which cannot be complained of. No trouble was experienced with any part of the machine during the whole of practice, with the exception of the brake linings which were inclined to spread, and this trouble
was obviated by changing to the product of Brake Linings Ltd., and it never recurred, and the machine was always a pleasure to ride at touring speeds as well as fast, a point to be considered by the man who wants to use a machine on the ordinary roads without having the annoyance of driving an intractable and noisy engine.
However further comment on the suitability of the K.T.T. for the amateur speedman is rendered superfluous by the fact that the Junior Amateur T.T. was this year also won by one of these machines, with several other Velocettes to chase the winner home.