A JUVENILE RIDER
Sir.—In Mr. S. F. Edge’s book, “My Motoring Reminiscences” he relates a comical incident which occurred in the Summer of 1900, when I drove his 6-h.p. racing De Dion tricycle from No. 14 Regent Street, London, to Godstone in order that he might use it there in a hill-climbing contest organised by the long-since defunct English Motor Club. He describes the absurd spec
tacle of myself—then fourteen years of age —being knocked about on this huge machine as though I were a cork in a rough sea. By a series of innuendoes and insinuations, both expressed and unexpressed, Grahame-White, in his recently published book, casts doubt on the accuracy of the whole story. He states that such a feat attributed to a youth of 14 “requires very deep conception” (whatever that is supposed to mean), and that to pedal a 6 h.p. engine against its compression taxed the ability of Mr. Edge’s physique to the utmost, whilst the skill and strength to control it even on the open road is very accurately described by Mr. Edge when he says, “If a photograph of the juvenile rider making
his way across Piccadilly Circus in *July, 1900, had appeared in Mr Edge’s book, in place of that showing Mr. St. John Nixon mounted on zi-h.p. tricycle crossing the same spot 33 years later.
Shorn of all veneer, the whole story is pure romance either on my, or on Mr. Edge’s part, and I therefore venture to claim the hospitality of your columns to refute this suggestion and to give a few
further details which will, I trust, convince your readers that everything Mr. Edge stated is strictly accurate and in accordance with facts. Firstly, I would point out that Piccadilly Circus does not lie between No. 14 Regent Street, where I started, and Waterloo Place ; to the best of my recollection, I never drove this machine across Piccadilly
Circus in my life, and certainly not on the day in question, as I was bound for Godstone, not the north. Secondly, it was only possible for me to start the machine, with its fixed engine and absence of clutch and gear-box, on a down ward grade as I did not possess the necessary physical strength to pedal it even on the flat. During my exciting journey to Godstone, I was held up by traffic on a few occasions, and when this took place I had to appeal to pedestrians to give me a push, in order to start the machine, while I pedalled for dear life. Nevertheless, it was never necessary to start the engine against its compression as Mr. Edge had had an exhaust valve lifter fitted in place of the then common compression tap,
and this was actually the first occasion on which I had driven a motor tricycle so equipped. By the Summer of 1900, Mr. Edge had largely lost interest in motor tricycles, and he was by no means punctilious about them ; I had the run of his small fleet of machines which included a Clement, which I drove for some thousands of miles, an Ariel, Phoebus Aster and this racing De
Dion tricycle, and it was shortly after this run to Godstone that I bought the machine from him and used it until one of the engine-brackets broke, and I sold it, in a weak and foolish moment. I regret I have no photographic record of the episode ; I can only refer GrahameWhite to Mr. Edge, the then owner of the machine. There is clearly not much hope for a person who seriously asserts that a De Dion motor tricycle had to be pedalled against the compression of its engine even though an exhaust valve lifter was fitted. I am, Yours, etc.,
G. ST. JOHN NIXON. Summerdown Cottage, Firtree Road,
Epsom Downs, Surrey.
Vintage Postbag, April 1992
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