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Not What I Call Trouble

Back to Two Wheels Again - Sundry Adventures with an Elderly Autocycle

by "R S S"

It was 7:00am on a Sunday and I sang as I shaved.  Outside, a thin drizzle misted down from the grey skies.  It was certainly not the right weather for motor cycling.  Nevertheless, I continued to carol merrily at my reflection in the shaving mirror for, in spite of the miserable weather, I was happy.

I had been without a machine for three long years: in fact, ever since the day when the exhaust valve of my 1933 500cc OHV Levis had kissed the piston with such fervour that it penetrated as far as the gudgcon pin.  I had now purchased another machine.

I can imagine the big-twin brigade laughing.  I can hear their condescending comments when I mention that it is of 98cc capacity and an autocycle at that.  So what?  Let 'em laugh.  I don't have to pedal all the time, do I?

Although the skies were much lighter, it was still raining when my brother arrived on his BSA.  I noticed with some interest that he was wearing my old NFS Don R's outfit, complete with leather helmet.  As we began our 60-mile journey I crouched down behind his somewhat bulky figure well out of the rain, trying to catch his wind-torn commentary on the weather, the state of the roads and fools who buy autocycles in cities 60 miles from home.  The exhaust of the BSA reverberated from the steep, wooded banks alongside the road, which ran as straight over the hills as when the Romans left it.  We passed through grey, Cotswold villages, crossed the muddy Avon at Stratford, and soon found ourselves riding through the suburbs of Birmingham.

We asked our way of a passing pedestrian.

"Just follow the tram lines", he told us.  We groaned.

"Isn't there some other way?" my brother asked.

There was, but from the man's description it involved a detour of about 250 miles.  We decided to press on, and soon arrived at our destination.  The previous owner of the autocycle was out, but I flourished the receipt he had given me (for £4 10s) under his wife's nose. We went round to the back of the house and dragged the Cyc-Auto out of the garage.

I pedalled.  My brother pushed.  We both sweated freely.  The engine fired.  I rode up and down the street a few times and at last decided to attempt the ride home.

Almost before I was aware of it I was back among the tram lines, which attracted the narrow tyres of the Cyc-Auto like a magnet.  I kept well clear and crossed them only at angles approaching 90°.  A little later, when I was pedalling furiously to assist the tiny engine up one of the steeper, cobbled hills of the city, something went pouf and a roar reminiscent of Duke at 120+ assailed the ears of all and sundry, whereupon the machine accelerated smoothly to the summit.  I pushed the exhaust pipe back into its hole in the expansion chamber, mentally resolving to clean out the exhaust system at the earliest opportunity.

The next ten miles passed unevenifully.  I then pulled up for a cigarette.  As I slowed down against compression there was a jerk and everything went free.  I coasted to a standstill with the idea "broken chain" at the back of my mind.

I was wrong.  When I investigated I found that the worm shaft which transmitted the urge to the rear chain had fallen out.  Luckily, everything was there except for two small bolts.

Twenty miles farther on I received a shock that caused me to leap high into the air, a manoeuvre which provided much amusement for bystanders and a heart attack for the driver of a big saloon that was about to overtake.  I kicked savagely at the high-tension cable, which had freed itself from the plug and blown back on to my ankle.

At last, I arrived home: exhausted, but still happy.  The last few miles were covered flat out in order to get home before lighting-up time.

I have had the Cyc-Auto for several months now and, apart from the handlebar snapping off on a tricky bend, I've had no trouble at all. Not what I'd call trouble, anyway.

First published in The Motor Cycle, 11 February 1954

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