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:: [   THE  AUGUST  BI-CYCLE    -   July 2020  ] ::

In view of the ban on public meetings, the Coronavirus has put paid to the normal range of Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society outside and inside gatherings. We have therefore encouraged all our members to take photographs instead of any of their allowable distancing machinery and share them on our website. Many of our Members are of the 'elderly variety' so were hankered deep down thinking of survival rather than escape,  but some have been 'socially cycling' and have sent photos to us.    PHOTOS WELCOME !!

From Sloth to Cycling - a personal journey.

Stephen Laing has been a 'follower' of the SVVS via Chairman Bozi Mohacek for a decade or two, having attended a number of our meetings, including the SVVS Annual Dinner. He never got around to owing a vintage car because he spent most of his earlier life jetting around the world Fist Class in the biggest and best newest aeroplanes, having spent much of his life insuring them. For a number of years he lived in Tokyo Japan even before it became the fad to do so. Mid life crisis later, Stephen was supplying microchips for marking grave plots in natural burial grounds and doing safety checks on unstable headstones in large historic cemeteries like Brookwood. The 'death' side of the business still continues but his company supplies far more 'asset tracking' software in the commercial sector including BMW's equipment inventory at various sites, and clients as diverse as Lidl supermarkets, Oxford University and Great Ormond St Hospital.

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Anyway, he got a bit progressively prosperously rotund and like the Chairman, was not particularly put out by it, However, in the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic he suddenly turned up at Church Farm fully done up in lycra and kitted out with drink bottles and energy pills, all as a proper cyclist. As the SVVS Event Pages were dealing with cycling themes, the Chairman asked Stephen what this was all about? This article was his reply:    "Departed Lyme Cottage 0930 for Horne village, a journey undertaken many times in the past, but not on two wheels and not in full MAMIL gear, closer actually to OAMIL but who’s counting! After 16 miles via Handcross and Copthorne I arrived at Church Farm 11.00 to visit Mr and Mrs SVVS Chairman, our oldest friends by a long way. To understand how this cycling transformation came about, we have to go back a year or so to when my weight was about three stone heavier and exercise comprised little more than the occasional round of golf and countryside walks.

With encouragement from a regular cyclist and member of Horsham Cycling Club who was doing some work for my company, I was persuaded to take some drastic action over my general health, but warned that I would have to take my conversion seriously and see some real benefits, the solution would be not be cheap, include attention to diet, regular training, and re-learning how to ride a machine a far cry from the old Sturmey Archer 3 gear Raleigh of my youth! On the plus side joining a club would mean regular group rides, lots of advice, and stimulating views of the countryside along quiet back lanes in Sussex and Surrey more frequented by horses than vehicles.

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So the journey began, hardly unique to mankind but it did involve quite a major change to my lifestyle. First stop 'Giant' in Shoreham, one of the largest makers of all types of bike, for a hybrid model, something I could take both on the road and down bridleways and on mountain bike gravel surfaces. The'Roam' model at £500 fitted the bill; three front chain rings and nine cogs at the back, 38mm tyres together with a rack at the back for my weekend paper run to Cuckfield. The robust construction came at a weight penalty, but the shop provided a personal ‘bike fit’, adjusting the saddle both vertically and horizontally for maximum power output.

My first ‘outing’ was on the Downs Link, nearly 40 miles along an old railway line, from Guildford to the Sussex coast, and chosen for being mainly flat and accessible via a number of entry points with car parks.  I chose West Grinstead as a starting point as within a few miles and the path south goes under the A272 just west of Cowfold and wanders down towards Henfield.

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After a few trial runs I joined one of the cycling club’s weekend rides in July 2019 and while able to keep up with the Social group speed, quite clearly there were two things missing, a proper drop handle bar road bike and suitable clothing.

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This is where serious expenditure comes into play, bib shorts, tops, specialist shoes, helmet, gloves, wet weather gear, and the bike itself. It really has to be carbon fibre for lightness. So I went to specialist bike shop RJ Cycles in Tenterten and bought another Giant, this time a 'Defy Pro 1', well into four figures but one I could lift it with two fingers, hydraulic disc brakes, 28 mm tubeless tyres, and a 11-34 cassette which was a dream to change gear with. The ride difference was huge, even though I had to change the razor blade profile saddle for something more comfortable. By difference I mean much harder and faster, tyres being at 100psi!

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As 2019 progressed I started regular weekend rides from Horsham with much advice from cycling companions. The initiation ceremony for most riders new to the sport are zero speed crashes, ie falling off when stationary but before unclipping one’s cleats from the pedals. After two of those and much embarrassment, it’s been OK since. Rides generally are around the Horsham district, but I’ve managed to scale Box Hill once but not Ditchling Beacon yet.
Rides to Shoreham airport (40 miles round trip)  Steyning, Hurstpierpoint, and Partridge Green, all feature regularly and it’s good to ride most of the time on back roads that are sometimes little more than farm tracks.

I’ve managed two 50 mile trips and one of them at 14.5 average mph, but the really sporting guys in the club are doing 18-20 mph, not surprising since they’re half my age, half my weight and twice my power! My next target is 100, probably around The New Forest as a little flatter. Whatever tweaks you do to the bike they’re minor compared with the benefits of weight loss. Three stone lost in five months, but a few excess ‘lock down pounds’ now have to be removed. Maintenance is important on what is a highly engineered machine but washing, degreasing, oiling, and tyre inflation takes care of most of the regular activity


In summary, like most things, you get out what you put in and cycling is certainly capable of providing an interest of every level from a short shopping run all the way to the ‘Tour de France’ professionals. The only advice I would give is set some goals, however simple, and do start a lot younger than me. The benefits are new sights, new sounds, new friends, and above all a longer life. It sometimes means even getting dirty!    
Stephen Laing

Cycling the Mini-Motor way

On a lazier more laid-back theme, on previous pages the Chairman/Webmaster  Bozi Mohacek  has looked at the French VelosoleX and the Velo-Vap (berlow left) motorised bicycles much favored by the eight million French users who had the benefit of an enlightened government who took away most of the obstacles to the public's use of the machines: minimum age 14, basic insurance, no driving licence, no driving test, no road tax and no registration number, no helmet and no safety clothing. It all started in June 1940 when France was overrun by Germany which resulted in a general fuel crisis to which the Solex Company's answer was to accelerate developing an economical micro capacity engine to run on a bicycle. The rest is history. So what did the Brits have at the same time? Lots of rules and regulations, and the Mini-Motor.

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In Italy, engineer Vincenti Piatti was equally suffering from post-war lack of fuel to drive many of the machinery he needed for 1946 daily life so designed a small 50cc engine that could be used to power portable lathes, which led to development of the engine for other stationary implements and subsequently led to the development of an engine that could be attached to a standard bicycle. This he called the 'Mini Mottore'. He also went on to develop a folding scooter using the Mini Motor for driving the rear wheel, and later went on to develop the Piatti scooter in 1954 in competition with Vespa etc.  

He obviously had contacts in the United Kingdom because in 1949 The Mini-Motor began to be manufactured under licence in Croydon by " The Mini Motor (GB) Ltd.", in Trojan Way, and became known as the 'Trojan Mini-Motor' (above right).  This was a totally self-contained clip-on engine fitted to any standard bicycle frame behind the saddle and above the rear wheel, - and was often referred to as an "outboard motor for the bicycle".  Indeed, the Mini Motor was also made as an outboard engine for boats and was also an add on to the push type domestic lawn mower to provide power assistance.

Most of you will know of the Trojan Utility Car if only because our past President had one. Trojan made impossibly engineered cars from 1914 to WW2. They also made vans on the same chassis, including the Brook Bond motorised tea caddy vans. During the seven years of agreement with Leyland to make these in their Kingston factory, 11,000 cars and 6700 vans had been made. During the war Trojan made bomb racks, parachute units and aircraft components. Most people probably also know that post WW2 Trojan made the famous Brook Bond delivery vans and a range of other commercial vehicles on the same chassis. They also made under licence the Heinkel bubble car (below left) and sold them between 1960-1966 as the Trojan 200. In 1962 they started making the Elva Courier sports car (below right) and later McLaren-Elva racing car.

In 1959 Trojan was taken over by the Lambretta Concessionaires, having been making the Trojan Trobike (below left), a miniature portable scooter based on the wartime Welbike designed to be used by the Special Operations Executive (SOE). About 4,000 Welbikes were made during the war. After the war this was further developed and sold by the Corgi Motorcycle Co. as the Corgi 98cc. The Trobike was made in smaller quantity, perhaps only 600 or so. Please Click on the thumbnail photos to see bigger picture

Lambretta Concessionaires were part of the American group owned by the Clinton Engine Corporation. Via their range of lawnmowers and chainsaws, Trojan began involvement in the craze sweeping teenage America – karting (or go-karting). In 1959 Trojan were manufacturing the TroKart (above right) powered by a 2.5 hp 95 cc Clinton engine; 10,000 engines were eventually made in the UK for use in karting.

As mentioned previously, The Mini-Motor began to be manufactured under licence in United Kingdom in 1949 by Trojan in Trojan Way in Croydon. It has been described by an owner of one of the earlier models saying: "The beauty of the Mini-Motor lies in its simplicity. The small two-stroke cylinder is hung beneath the petrol tank, with one end of the crankshaft driving the magneto and the other end having a serrated drive roller which presses down on the rear tyre. There is no clutch but a handlebar lever operates a cable mechanism which raises or lowers the engine onto the tyre. A small carburetor regulates the petrol flow via a handlebar control." The MK 1 Mini-Motor appeared in UK in 1949, while the production of the Italian machine continued. The two machines looked very similar. A separate version was being built in France which had a different type of petrol tank. In addition there were at least 12 other competitors offering similar products. 

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There were eventually five variations of the Mini-Motor during the production run between 1949 and 1957, but the basic principle remained the same. The 'chassis' of the unit was the petrol tank which was hinged off a bar clamped to the seat pillar. The rear of the tank was attached via a lowering mechanism to a sturdy hoop fitted over the rear wheel and secured to the bike via the rear wheel spindle nuts. The mechanism would raise and lower the whole unit pressing the driving friction roller onto the tyre. The roller went through a number of evolutions including straight and curved surface, and a grit covered roller with better grip but which wore the tyre. The roller was also important in starting the engine as this could slip while the bike was being pedaled off to start the engine. A decompressor was fitted to help with this problem. The handlebar controls were a combined throttle/decompression lever, and transmission engagement lever.  Mounting to the cycle frame and tank variations also followed. The two-stroke engine was 49.9cc and was capable of propelling the bicycle along at up to 30mph, which is quite fast enough for a pushbike! Petrol consumption was about 150mpg  (some claims said 35mph at 300mpg?) and the cost was £21. Apparently about a 100,000 were made. Normal standard colour was blue and some black.


The standard Mini-Motor was 50cc but for applications requiring more power a 75cc engine was built and used on delivery tricycles, grocer's bikes and two-seater tandems.Please Click on the thumbnail photos to see bigger picture

Sturmey-Archer name was also credited with the 49cc two-stroke engine fitted to early Raleigh mopeds, although this was actually a reworking of Vincenti Piatti's "Trojan Mini-Motor" and built by BSA's motorcycle operation. Our friend Vincenti Piatti, who invented the Mini-Motor, went on to have another venture in scooters that started in Belgium by D'Ieteren in 1954,  and separately in Britain in 1956 by Cyclemaster where they built over 14,000 British Piattis.   Cyclemaster ??   Did they not build bolt-on engines for bicycles?!

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