From the Bookshelf - Auto-Cycle, Motorcycle, Cyclecar, etc-ar!

This year, the Club’s Motoring calendar will feature more events for the bikers. There’s a proud tradition to uphold here as, during the early days of motordom, the dividing line between which could be classed as a motor car and a motor cycle was small. In the original 1000 Miles Trial in 1900, for example, the entrants included two quadricycles, two motor tricycles, and another with trailer. And just six years after the Club’s inauguration in 1897 it had set up the Auto Cycle Union (/Club), to ‘look after the needs of motor cyclists and to foster the improvement of their machines’.

The Club Library still retains and occasionally adds some fine items to the motorcycling field. We possess extensive runs of the weekly periodicals: The Motorcycle (1903-83) and Motor Cycling (1909-61), the former absorbing the latter in 1967. We also have an unbroken run of The Classic Motorcycle that we continue to take and bind into large volumes today. In sum, we have a complete chronological record of the whole motorcycle movement in periodical form since the founding of the ACU in 1903.

Closely allied to the motorcycle was the cyclecar and light car movements – or French term: ‘voiturette’, a notable example being the ‘Bédélia’ – mainly adopted by motorists of straightened financial means. Spawning the Cyclecar Club/Junior Car Club, the cyclecar regularly employed a motorcycle’s single-cylinder air-cooled means of propulsion and the latter incorporated two ‘light’ classes, up to 750cc and 1100cc (as decreed internationally by the Fédération Internationale des Clubs Moto Cycliste in 1912). And at the 1912 Motor Cycle Show, there were nearly 40 makes of cyclecar on show and more than 100 makes were available for sale in Great Britain the following year (ref. Light Car, Dec.56). Although in fragile condition, the Club Library possesses a full set of The Cyclecar, with its variant titles from inception in 1912 to demise in 1956 as the marketing of manufacturers’ more powerful four-cylinder models eventually took their toll.

[In view of the subject matter being discussed this month, especially which revels in a multiplicity of terms, I think it’s worth mentioning a small point about searching library catalogues – whether the Club’s or the British Library’s for that matter – that is all too easily ignored or forgotten. Terms such as ‘motor cycling’, ‘motor-cycling’, ‘motorcycling’: for reasons such as publisher preferences over a period of time and the sophistication of a particular catalogue, it’s all too easy to miss relevant items. So I’d advise taking a moment to summon all known variations of (compound) terms!]

I think that give some idea of the importance the Club attaches to this particular branch of motoring; we’ll take a look at some of the Library’s motorcycling books later in the year.

Club Library’s periodical holdings of motorcycle and allied genres

- The Motorcycle, 1903 – 1983
-_ Motorcycling_, 1909 – 1961
- The Classic Motorcycle, 1981 – Present
-_ The Cyclecar_, Nov. 1912 – May 1913
-_ The Light Car & Cyclecar_, May 1913 – Nov. 1933
- The Light Car, Nov. 1933 – Dec. 1956

Latest News

In the Rotunda: Land Rover Series One, Chassis No.860001, 1948

Read more

RAC Foundation: Continued uncertainty for the automotive industry

Read more

Review: The Motoring Open Evening 2018

Read more

RAC Foundation: Where to next for road safety?

Read more