SPORTING MACHINES ON TEST. THE SPORTS MODEL ” NER-A-CAR.”
By ARNOLD RADCLYFFE.
WHEN it was suggested that we should review the Ner-a-Car for the Sporting Machines on Test series, I was tempted to offer a remark to the effect that ” scooters ” hardly came within the province of this journal, but am now very glad that my tongue was not permitted to express the thought. Now, after riding the Ner-a-Car for 800 miles over a course only to be compared with the “Scottish,” there is no doubt whatever in my mind that this unorthodox machine is one which deserves the closest consideration from our readers. As the time chosen for this test coincided with the period of the A.C.U. International Six Days’ Trial, the machine was used to follow the
competitors for the first three days, as this would provide an opportunity of bringing out any weak points whilst driving it over a far more strenuous course than would ever be encountered in ordinary competition worls. Let me. say, at the outset, the manufacturer had no indication whatever as to the nature of the test I intended to carry out, and whilst placing no restrictions in this direction made no special preparations—the machine, in fact, being a new one from stock.
The Sports Model Ner-a-Car is now fitted with the 348 c.c. O.H.V. Blackburne engine, a Sturmey-Archer three-speed gear box, the other mechanical features remaining unaltered; so without wasting space on technical details, I will proceed to give my impressions of its performance.
Remarkable Steering Qualities.
One hears various comments concerning the indirect steering of this machine, and whilst the experience of turning the front wheel without a corresponding movement of the mudguard is perplexing for the first few miles, the objection quickly disappears when one finds the steering becomes entirely automatic, except when hairpin bends are encountered. Time after time during the test I produced pipe, tobacco and matches, the process of filling being accomplished at a speed of about 40 miles an hour, without fear of wheel wobble. When actually lighting up, the machine could be slowed down and then it would look
after itself, irrespective of rough surfaces, until called upon to accelerate.
When driving the Ner-a-Car it would be almost possible to knit jumpers or improve the shining hour in various other ways, so steady is the steering, an imperceptible movement of the body alone being necessary to take it round most main road bends. Here at least is one machine in which the steering problem has been solved, for vanished is the fear of speed wobble or any other of the disconcerting effects known to those who drive fast.
A Front Wheel Brake Suggestion.
During the course of my test I came to the conclusion that the provision of a front wheel brake would be an
improvement, but a casual inspection of the front wheel design shows that the addition of a brake would not only cause the designer many sleepless nights, but also add to the cost of the machine. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the brain which produced the Ner-a-Car would not be baffled by any difficulty, and before long we may expect to see a design in which an F.W.B. is incorporated.
Two internally expanding brakes operate on the rear wheel and are adequate for all ordinary purposes. For touring, the pedal operated brake need not be used at all, the conveniently situated hand lever operating one set of shoes, which can be applied hard without risk of locking the wheel. The other brake actuated by the foot is thus kept for emergency purposes and can be applied hard without causing skidding, even on a wet surface.
My opinions as to the desirability of a front brake arose when descending the rougher gradients with inclines comparable with that of Alms Hill and strewn with young rocks. On such routes a front brake would have been very welcome, for the greatest care was necessary, and back wheel lock could only be prevented by using the second gear. As it happened, with careful management, there was only one occasion when the machine tried to go astray, the tendency being checked by violent acceleration on a down grade of 1 in 3. Fortunately, the road was clear, but one could not always steady the machine by accelerating as on this particular course, little streams with stone banks have the habit of crossing at the foot of small hills.
The only real criticism I have to offer of the Ner-a-Car concerns its lack of silence, not that I paid much attention to the whine of the second speed, this being rightly attributed to the newness of the gears, but the disposition of the engine, without any tank to act as a deadener for the sound seems to amplify every noise to about three stages of L.F. It takes quite a tune to become accustomed to the sound of the engine, but at speeds above 40 miles an hour it merges into the general hum and is carried astern by the rush of air. It would, of course, be possible to damp down some of the sound by enclosing the valve gear, but this would be a pity, as the rider would be deprived of the pleasure of watching the valves whilst travelling along uninteresting roads. I expect most Net-a-Car riders have discovered the need for fitting an anti-shock terminal to the sparking plug, for having occasion to move the flap of my coat on several occasions, I can testify as to the strength of the magneto current. The prospects of receiving shocks from the plug terminal when one’s clothes are thoroughly wet are not at all comforting to people with sensitive susceptibilities. I must, however, pay my respects to that plug before continuing. It was an H.S.3 and never misfired once during the whole journey, in spite of a little oil being used with the petrol with the object of lubricating the valve guides.
Starting from Cold.
Owing to the location of the petrol tank beneath the saddle, the carburettor has to be arranged on a level
with the base of the cylinder and in consequence the induction pipe as well as the hot air intake pipe is rather long. This may have something to do with a slight difficulty when starting from cold, but as soon as one becomes acquainted with the setting of the B. and B. carburettor there is no trouble in getting the engine to start on the second or third kick every time.
One suggested modification would be the fitting of rubbing streaks to the sides of the footboards, or, alternatively, they should be made to fold up, for they certainly scrape when a sharp turn is taken. Not that they are of weak construction, but something to take the inevitable wear would appeal to competition riders.
The Speed of the ” Ner-a-Car.”
With regard to the matter of maximum speed, which naturally interests our readers, I regret that it is impossible for me to give any definite figures, for when I had this machine it was fitted with a speedometer which failed to behave itself properly (I believe another pressman fell foul of that same instrument). Throughout the whole journey it lied in the most unashamed fashion, and finally packed up at the top of Porlock Hill by getting its gear wheel adrift. Happily the machine was going slowly at the time, or this article might never have been written, for the drive became well and truly entangled with the spokes thus terminating its unuseful career. I should mention that this instrument had not been fitted at the Ner-a-Car works, so readers will not assume that this defect will be found in connection with the standard fitting. I have to report the matter, however, in order to explain why accurate speed records are not given.
Over the Six Days’ International Route.
Having relieved myself of the duties of recording preliminary impressions, let me now invite you to occupy a place on the carrier in order to observe how
the sturdy little engine makes play with some of the tit-bits served up by the A.C.U. for the amusement of the six days’ competitors.
Having noted the departure of some 70 riders from Southampton we decide to follow on ourselves and for the first few miles keep alongside the heavy weights, but soon tiring of the slow pace accelerate until we are in the wake of No. 47, but owing to the narrowness of the lanes and the dust which forms an impenetrable cloud we stay behind to watch the ascent of Broughton, a hill only calling for a touch of second gear on the Ner-aCar.
Our next observations are made with the leaders, and following No. 5 up what appears to be a ticklish climb find him disappearing in a haze of smoke. Spectators appear dimly on both sides of the route and dropping into first gear we take a turn to the left, only to find we have picked out the worst part of the surface and the steepest gradient. This climb is finished over vile ground, which does not prevent us from changing up into second and plenty of revs, to spare. At the top we discover that the hill was Middle Down, which unseated at least three riders within the few minutes of our observation.
From that point onwards our confidence in the machine is unbounded, the stability and ease of control on the difficult hill assuring us that nothing short of a volcanic eruption will be able to make us part company.
At Salisbury we make the acquaintance of a hobnail, the delay in fitting a new tube making it necessary for us to cut across country to Hindon, where we pick up with No. 37 and soon go to the front in order to witness a few ascents of Kings Settle. Here the second gear suffices to give us a clean ascent and we carry on to Bruton, where the short rise out of the main street reduces us to first gear for a little way, the remainder being done on second.
Notes on Gear Ratios.
These examples of what the Ner-a-Car can do in the way of hill climbing seem to call for a few remarks on the gear ratios. The top gear is 5+ to 1 and whilst for main road work this could well be higher, it might spoil the all round efficiency of the machine. Between top and second there is a big drop, the latter being 8.96 to 1 and the first gear-14.6 to 1—enables the Ner-a-Car rider to tackle any gradient with the greatest confidence. The latter ratio may seem rather on the low side, but then many of the competitors on solo machines of similar engine capacity were using bottom gears of 18.5 to 1. In my opinion, the Ner-a-Car could have climbed any of the hills on the six days’ course with a bottom gear of 12 to 1.
Leading the Field up Draycott.
The next hill to be climbed is at Draycott, a new discovery on the part of the A.C.U. On this occasion we are preceding the first competitor and the ascent is made under greater difficulty than he experiences, for the spectators are straggling over the sides of the route, driving us over the vilest part of the vile surface. Notwithstanding this fact and the extraordinary length