CHOOSING A SPORTS MOUNT AT OLYMPIA.
By A MOTOR CYCLING CORRESPONDENT.
THE majority of motor cyclists, speedmen in particular, have their own ideas as to what constitute the cardinal virtues of sporting machines, for which reason it is somewhat difficult to offer any real advice upon such a subject as “The Selection of a Sports Mount at Olympia.” At this period of the year, however, the topic is one which demands a certain amount of close attention, and therefore, for the benefit of many readers who may be more or less in the novice class, I will endeavour to enumerate the principal factors which should govern the selection of such a machine.
The Value of the Motor Cycle Show.
Though to many hundreds of the visitors to Olympia the Show is regarded as something of a gigantic annual rendezvous for trade and amateur interests alike, others journey from near and far with the earnest intention of picking out from the wide variety of makes displayed, a mount which will carry them to the top of their club honours list, besides giving them the pleasures of the great pastime of motor cycling all the year round.
On the other hand, there are riders who attend the Show religiously year after year to carefully scrutinize every new model and make, note the improvements in the old models, then go straight back to Yorkshire, Somerset, or wherever they hail from, to forget the Exhibition entirely, and then when the spring comes again go to their local agent to buy the latest model of their last year’s machine.
Whatever they gain by sticking irrevocably to one make of machine, they certainly miss the experience of something new, which, after all, is one of the satisfactions to be gained by changes. To some extent I should class enthusiasts of these descriptions as a relic of our so-called good old English conservatism, the spirit which abhors changes and tends to limit the experience of its possessor.
Time after time I have endeavoured to reason with the rider who is wedded to one make of machine that there may be others just as good, or even better, than the one he holds so rigidly in his affection, but generally with but little success. At the same time one should weigh carefully the pros and cons of various types of mount before blindly placing an order for the sake of a favoured name.
The Show gives all enthusiasts an opportunity of examining the different makes at one time, of gleaning valuable information on such matters as technical excellence, road and track performance, service and the like. Indeed, the person who goes to the Show with the fixed determination to buy a machine of the make he has previously owned gains but little benefit from a visit to Olympia. An open mind is a valuable asset with which to visit the Show, and in many ways is preferable to a fixed idea which will effectively smother any appeals for a hitherto untried model.
Types of Mount for Different Duties.
It is, of course, an established fact that certain machines are more suitable for one kind of duty than others, a point which is of the greatest importance to the prospective purchaser. Let us take, for example, the case of a, rider who is in business in London, but whose home is in Devonshire. What type of machine will best suit the needs of such an individual ? He may learn with interest of a certain two-stroke which crossed and recrossed a continent, or gained distinction by making a long journey across the trackless desert; such performances, however spectacular, fail to make a great impression, for as he has only about eight hours to spare out of his week-end for road work, he will probably turn his eyes in the direction of a big twin to take him from town to the West and back in the time at his disposal.
Perhaps I may be somewhat prejudiced in favour of the big twin for such work, but one cannot do better than to fall back on personal experience; for at one time I used to journey regularly between Lincoln and the south, and of several mounts, including a fast twoseater car, I always preferred to make the run on a 7/9 twin, which had 28 inch wheels and big tyres combined with rigid back forks. On this type of machine the run of some 160 odd miles was always accomplished with a minimum of fatigue and a maximum of average speed. In the car during the winter one was a victim of cold, and on smaller capacity motor cycles the incessant reviving
of the engine produced a mental fatigue, which, with the physical discomfort, generally resulted in a state of collapse at the end of the journey. As far as actual speed is concerned, those of the car and the smaller motor cycles were not so high as
that of the big twin, so taking it all round, my personal selection of a mount for regular long distance work would be a big twin.
But as readers will realise from a study of their own personal requirements, the type of mount I have just been discussing does not provide everything they may need. There is the very important question of housing to be considered, which is a far more important factor in influencing selection than one is apt to imagine. The extraordinary performances put up by machines of the 350 c.c. class make one wonder if big models are necessary at all, for the small bikes appear to promise all that one might need. Even though the mechanical parts are reduced to such microscopic dimensions, reliability and speed never seem to suffer, and for the suburban dweller, where garages are an expensive item and side entrances small, the little machine makes an undoubted appeal. From these two extreme views it will be seen that the prospective purchaser gains but little help from any Show literature in making his final selection. In the Show somewhere there is a machine to meet all his requirements, but first of all he should determine very
definitely what those requirements are so that the whole proposition may be cut and dried before the turnstiles are reached. It is the business of the attendants on the various stands to sell their products irrespective of whether they actually meet your needs or not, and even though these gentlemen may be quite willing to help in every conceivable way they cannot be fully conversant with the personal requirements of every enquirer.
The Would-be Competition Rider.
Let us now assume the prospective purchaser to have his eye upon laurels to be gained in open com
petitions, hill climbs and freak riding, such as the events organised by the Camberley and other clubs. To such a one the Show opens out as a huge problem, and he may possibly find himself greatly perplexed before deciding on his final choice. When reviewing performances of the closing season he is mindful of the gyrations executed by Sparks on his Scott, of Budd charging madly up hills and down precipices on his A.J.S. Again, he will remember Heath overcoming all obstacles whilst seated in state on his Henderson. The feats of various riders will flash through his memory and every type of machine appears in a minor or major degree to have succeeded in such strenuous trials as have been held during the past season. Shall he choose a powerful machine ? Well, then how about the little Francis-Barnetts which have climbed incredible impasses, apparently with power in hand ?
I remember how one of my friends finding himself in a similar predicament and the factor finally deciding him was the four-speed gear box provided in a popular make. Soon after purchasing his machine he began annexing various prizes, though hitherto he has had but little experience in competition work. The gear box was quite standard, but the four speeds soon proved their value, the emergency bottom gear enabling him to extricate the machine out of the worst positions a stunt course could provide, and although only having a 12 to 1 ratio, it proved more than sufficient on any hill. To explain things, he told me that Alms Hill could be taken on second gear and acceleration was possible up to and after the redoubtable Cannons—so well known to aspirants to hill climbing honours. So much for the four speed gear box as a factor in selecting a machine for stunt riding; which, incidentally, appears to be becoming more and more popular amongst motor cycle sportsmen.
Mechanical Details for Stunt Riding.
Apart from the question of the number of speeds provided in the gear box, there are a number of mechanical details calling for attention when selecting a mount for a special class of riding. If we review the number of avoidable crashes which have taken place in stunt events, it will be observed that the position of the silencer has been responsible for many lost marks. For rough going events it is desirable to avoid designs in which the silencer or any other protuberance exists in front of the crankcase. Neither should the exhaust pipe be carried too low down in front. The design and construction of the front forks call for the closest scrutiny as well as the lay-out of the steering head, which is called upon to resist enormous stresses when the machine is ridden over rough country. The incorporation of shock absorbers with the forks is an advantage so well known as not to be overlooked by the discriminating sports rider. A further constructional detail is that of the handlebar fixing, and I prefer to see a good stout lug at this point, even if it should mitigate against adjustable handlebars. Where speed is not the greatest factor, a certain amount of
latitude can be permitted with regard to ease of steering, for in some instances a fork rake which is perfect for high speeds will not give the best results for continual pot-hole work.
Provided one sticks to proved makes, the choice of engine is largely a matter of choice, for it depends upon the rider as to the results obtained, whatever power the engine may develop or whatever the design happens to be. One cannot go far wrong in using one or other of the proprietary engines which have been adopted by motor cycle manufacturers all the world over. The great point to observe in getting the maximum efficiency from a machine is the judicious selection of gear ratios in relation to the capacity of the engine. I have seen small machines driven up the famous Wild and Woolly with a bottom gear as high as 10 to 1, but such a performance is not possible unless the rider possesses exceptional skill. For small engine capacities 12 to 1 should be the highest bottom gear ratio. Overgearing the engine with a high top gear is a fatal mistake where sports riding is concerned, and, as a matter of fact, one should use a top gear slightly lower than the average top gear for sidecar work. Where close gear ratios are offered as an alternative by the makers this will invariably be taken advantage of by the riderwho intends to try his luck at stunt events.
Tyres and Wheel Spin.
No matter how great the reserve of power available at the rim of the back wheel, the bugbear of wheel spin robs many a rider of success when all appears to be going well. The tractive effort of the rear wheel is practically determined by the pattern of the tyre tread, and readers are recommended to study the various types of tread now on the market. My own experience is that the new Dunlop three square tread is excellent in giving a good grip on surfaces where wheel spin has marred clean climbs with other patterns. Balloon tyres certainly enable a rider to take all kinds of surfaces in a stride and render chances of wheel slip very remote, but, on the other hand, they have the disadvantage of making a machine very heavy to push out of deep mud or sand.
Choice of Riding Position.
The question of riding position, again, is a matter of individual taste, though many riders adapt themselves to certain positions without either realising the exact style they adopt or the influence of the different styles upon successes in competition work. The arguments for and against ‘pull or push” bars again come up for t t
discussion, and it may be stated that American exponents advise pulling on the bars for everything except for sheer speed, where wind resistance becomes too great a factor to be neglected; when they find they must get down to it.”
For competition work, the great thing is to get the weight as low as possible and to adopt a riding position that gives not only complete control of the machine, but one which also inspires confidence. With confidence it is nearly impossible to skid, greasy surfaces become happy playgrounds and soft sand even assumes a less terrifying aspect. Personally, I am coming to the opinion that skidding, except on some extraordinary surfaces, is largely a matter of nerves or the condition of fitness on the part of the rider.
Reliability and Service.
Before taking up a serious programme of competition work, the matter of reliability of one’s mount has to be considered, for the continual tinkering to keep a machine up to competition pitch involves a very considerable item of expense. It is well known that certain machines are quite as fast as other makes, but at the same time they may not be capable of standing up to the hard racket of repeated trials without much mechanical attention. Machines of the latter class are known to agents and expert riders, who should be consulted about their suitability for stunt work and hill climbs before the purchase is actually completed.
Even with the most reliable types of mount breakages are liable to occur during trials and competitions by reason of the severe nature of the routes, and, therefore, it becomes a matter of vital importance that a competitor should be able to get a replacement part at a moment’s notice. Some manufacturers are very good in respect of after sales service, whilst with others there often are unaccountable delays in obtaining spare parts. I remember a case not long ago where on obtaining delivery of a new piston ring for a 350 c.c. engine, it was necessary to grind several thousandths off to make it fit into the groove, which makes one wonder if the word Standardisation was recognised in the factory at all ! Many riders will be on the look out for machines on which they will take part in winter trials, such as the M.C.C. London-Exeter-London run and to such the matter of weather protection is an important matter. The motor cycling sportsman is usually hardened to the elements, and is often more concerned in keeping the mud from his magneto than from himself, but many makers do not appear to realise this and maintain the practice of locating the magneto in front of the engine in a most exposed position. This and other similar details will undoubtedly occupy the attention of the sporting rider at the Show, and if all his requirements are clearly held in mind the selection of a suitable mount for next season’s programme will be less difficult than it to be at first