The Cycle Industry/Chapter 19

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A book dealing with the cycle industry must necessarily include some reference to the petrol propelled type of cycle which is now so common a feature of our roads. The two industries are also so closely allied that one hardly knows where one begins and the other leaves off.

Practically from the earliest time, when inventors turned their attention to mechanical propulsion on the road, it was the bicycle rather than the carriage on four

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Fig. 26
The magneto is in the flywheel

wheels that they sought to provide with an engine. Thus it was that the earliest experiment with petrol propelled vehicles was an internal combustion engine fitted to a bicycle by Messrs. Daimler and Otto, in Germany, in 1886. Little was heard of this early trial because the Otto-Daimler engine was afterwards utilized and exploited for use on motor cars. In 1895 a weird motor bicycle appeared in Paris, made by two engineers named Wolfmuller and Geisenhof. This was the first machine offered for public use, and it was brought to Humber's, Coventry, in 1896. It was too crude to gain the attention of the Coventry makers and little more was heard of motor cycles until 1897, when a Paris firm dealing in gramophones introduced the Werner front driven bicycle which, owing to ingenuity and fair reliability for those days, rapidly made a market. The Werner was exploited in this country by a Coventry firm called the Motor Manufacturing Co., who occupied part of the building now used by the Daimler Co.

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Fig. 27

The Werner inspired Coventry cycle mechanics to try their hands at a motor bicycle, but several early models known to the writer never saw more than the four walls of the shop in which they were built, because their tests never got to the road stage.

Two Coventry engineers, named Perks and Birch, were among the first to produce a practical British motor cycle. They were employed by Singer & Co., and their engine was carried inside the wheel of the machine, first in the rear wheel and afterwards, for tricycles, in the front wheel. It was probably the first motor bicycle provided with magneto ignition, but it was of what is termed the low tension type. The modern magneto machine produces a spark in a different manner and it is of a different nature electrically. As this book is not a technical treatise on motor cycle construction, the reader who wishes to know the details of various forms of magneto ignition should obtain Mr. A. P. Young's book, The Elements of Electro-Technics (Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd.). The Singer bicycle was beautifully made and most ingeniously constructed, but owing to the lack of elasticity in the transmission (it was geared direct to the wheel by toothed gearing) the vibration of the engine was very apparent to the rider.

Between the advent of the Singer and the introduction of the Werner a good deal had been heard over here of another Parisian production, the De Dion Bouton tricycle. These machines had been privately imported by a few enthusiasts in 1898–99, but at the Stanley Show in November, of 1899, the Ariel Cycle Co., of Birmingham, exhibited a motor tricycle and a quadricycle (a tandem passenger machine with four equal sized wheels). Their machine was made under licence from the owners of the De Dion Bouton patents, as were the Eadie and Enfield tricycles and quadricycles which had French made engines and accessories. At the same exhibition a small belt-driven motor bicycle, called the Minerva, and hailing from Antwerp, made its appearance in this country.

The British motor cycle industry can be said to have started with the Stanley Show of 1899, because very little was known about motor cycles in this country until that time. In the following two years or so there was hardly a cycle maker who did not list a motor bicycle with a Minerva engine. Belgian and French makers, however, were not to have everything their own way, for in 1903, a London maker, named J. A. Prestwich, put on the British market a light engine of 28 lbs. which very soon leapt to the front, and was the precursor of the popular J.A.P. engines of to-day. Heavier types of engine were fitted to Excelsiors, and gradually the trade increased. Between 1905 and 1907 the demand for motor cycles showed signs of a slump;

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Fig. 28

cycle makers, one after the other, gave up making motor bicycles, but the Bat, Triumph, Quadrant, Rex, J.A.P., and many others, stuck to their guns and despite the vagaries of battery ignition, unsuitable tyres, and other troubles, they were eventually rewarded for their faith in the machine. The arrival of the high tension magneto solved the trouble of accumulator batteries, and firms who were fortunate or sufficiently long sighted to obtain delivery of these machines from Germany, hardly ever looked back. Engines increased in size and power, two and four-cyclinder engines were introduced, the latter from Belguim, and very soon practically every youthful and ambitious pedal cyclist was yearning for a motor.

London clubs instituted trials and hill climbing competitions on a big scale, and the advertisement obtained from these largely aided the sale of motor cycles. For a very long time the daily press was extremely cynical respecting motor cycles and, in some cases, they had cause to be. However, Rome was not

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Fig. 29
The engine has V type cylinders

built in a day, and if some of the incompetent critics on the daily papers had tempered the wind to the shorn lamb a little, the industry would not have been so long climbing the rungs of the ladder of success.

Up to about 1909–10 nearly every motor cycle was fitted with a four-stroke engine, as they are called to differentiate them from the two-stroke type. Briefly, the four-stroke engine has a power impulse, or explosion, every other revolution or every fourth stroke of the piston (down and up being counted as two strokes), whereas the two-stroke has an impulse every revolution or every two strokes of the piston.

In 1909–10, Alfred A. Scott, a Bradford engineer, brought out a two-cylinder, two-stroke bicycle, and it immediately gained prominence. The design of engine and bicycle was clever, and as the modern patterns have won the Tourist Trophy race in the Isle of Man on more than one occasion, it will be recognized that Mr. Scott is more than usually learned in motor cycle construction.

Two-stroke engines had existed before, notably on the Lepape or Bechrone motor cycle, and were largely used in the United States and Canada for boat propulsion in smooth inland waters, but the Scott was different from these. As it possessed two cylinders and the impulse strokes in each occurred alternately at each revolution, the power strokes took place twice during one revolution of the crank shaft, the turning effort being, therefore, equal to that of a four-cylinder, four-stroke engine.

At this period in the history of the motor cycle practically every cycle maker had one or more motor bicycle models to offer, and many who had discontinued their manufacture re-started. In addition, many purely motor cycle concerns were launched to make nothing but petrol engine propelled machines. The success of the Scott caused a number of makers to turn their attention to the two-stroke engine, which was found to be particularly suitable for small light machines, and the little two-strokes were produced in large quantities at lower prices than had obtained previously. The motor cycle now began to settle down to three classes of machine. 1. A small two-stroke lightweight for solo riding, with an engine of 2 H.P., to sell at about £30 to £40. 2. A medium weight four-stroke, single or twin cylinder machine for serious touring, with an engine up to 3½ H.P., selling at £50 to £60. 3. A heavier single or twin cylinder model from 5 to 8 H.P., for side-car touring, and costing from £75 to £100 complete. (These prices have since been approximately doubled.)

Up to now the motor bicycle only has been dealt with, but quite early in the history of the industry the question of carrying a passenger in a fore-carriage or side-car was seriously attracting the attention of makers and riders alike. The trailer and the quadricycle were the

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Fig. 30
The engine is of the horizontally opposed cylinder type

first forms of passenger attachment. They were both superseded, first by the fore-carriage attachment and later by the side-car. Various claims have been made as to the origin of the side-car, but I believe the first practical design was protected by a small London firm of cycle makers and sold to the Cycle Components, Ltd., Birmingham. The idea was ridiculed as un-mechanical, but it remains to-day the most economical form of passenger motoring and without it not more than one-quarter to one-third of the motor bicycles manufactured would be sold. The manufacture of side-cars in quantities was first undertaken by Mills & Fulford, Coventry, followed by W. Montgomery, of Bury St. Edmunds. These two firms were for several years the largest makers of this attachment, which was usually bought separately, and was seldom fitted to the motor bicycle until the latter was delivered to the customer. The chief advantage claimed for it, at first, was that it could be attached to and removed from the bicycle, so converting the latter from a solo machine to a passenger vehicle and vice versa at will. Its chief advantages were, however, that it allowed rider and passenger to converse more easily than the fore-car attachment, and above all there were two wheel tracks instead of three, as with a fore-car. Unmechanical it may be, but it fills the bill and is preferred to-day by many experienced motorists to any small car that is obtainable at prices within about 50 per cent. over its cost. In other words, owing to its speed, simplicity, economy, and reliability, a side-car combination at £200 is often a better purchase than a little motor car at £300.

The drawback is that, however well protected the passenger may be, the cyclist has to face bad weather and get wet as in the case of solo riding. The early forms of side-car had wicker and cane chairs, very open and draughty, the passenger sat bolt upright, and there was little comfort in the best of them. To-day a side-car body is made of metal or wood, has a side door, springs in the upholstery, windscreen, hood, etc., just like a miniature car, and the wheel is sometimes sprung on car lines. The passenger is therefore quite as comfortable as if in a motor car and quite as well protected from the wind and rain.

Many firms specialize in the manufacture of side-cars, which are seldom made by cycle or motor cycle companies, and although the frames and wheels are a branch of the cycle industry, it is a trade quite separate from cycle making.

For many years the motor cycle laboured under a disadvantage, in so much that it possessed no change speed gear or clutch. To start the engine the whole machine had to be pushed along at a smart trot until the engine began to work, when the rider had to make a “running mount” and put one foot on the left pedal

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Fig. 31

of the crank axle and swing the other leg over the back wheel. This required some agility to perform with success.

Gradually, the trade brought out change speed gears and clutches. The latter enabled the engine to be started with the bicycle at rest, the change speed gear enabled steep hills to be climbed without hard pedalling or dismounting and running alongside. The change speed gears are dealt with separately in Chapter VIII.

The latest models of motor cycle have all the attributes of a well-designed motor car chassis, and some are best described as a car chassis on two wheels. The outstanding difference between a motor car and a motor cycle is that the latter is practically always fitted with an air cooled engine, i.e. an engine which radiates the heat generated by the explosions of gas in the cylinder directly from the cylinder to the atmosphere, instead of through the medium of water. Between the cylinders of most car engines and the atmosphere there is a jacket of water conducting the heat to a radiator, through which the water passes from top to bottom by natural circulation. There are instances of water-cooled bicycle engines and air-cooled car engines, but the cycle engine is normally air-cooled.

The motor bicycle represents the latest and most improved form of cycle extant, and the evolution of the cycle industry from its first introduction to this country, in 1868, to the present day has meant employment for thousands of workers and fortunes for many employers.

Whether the cyclist elects to provide the motive force by his own efforts or prefers to call in the aid of the internal combustion engine is a question of personal choice. The pedal bicycle, as it is termed, provides exercise with recreation, and the motor is therefore scorned by some athletic enthusiasts. The dependability and speed of the motor cycle are, however, now an established fact, and the advantages of the mechanical propulsion cannot be overlooked where time is a factor. On the other hand, the pedal bicycle is a restful and noiseless form of locomotion for those who do not care for the hurry and bustle of a motor cycle ride, and cycling, when undertaken in accordance with ones powers, is probably the most health giving form of recreation for the mind and body.