One hundred and 122 years and not out!
“Britain’s Oldest Sporting Club for Cars and Motorcycles” that is the proud claim on our publicity material. Since 19th of November 1901, without a break save for two world wars and the covid pandemic, we have been running popular, well supported long-distance trials, catering for vehicles with standard road tyres.
It all began when in response to appeals in the press from an embryo motorcycling fraternity, a far seeing man named T. underwood called a meeting at Frascati’s restaurant, in London, during october 1901. Thirty enthusiastic motorcycles turned up, and it was unanimously agreed to form a club.
Since its conception, it was exclusively motorcyclists. It was predictably christened The Motor Cycling Club; there were no others. At the time, between 1898 and 1903 there were at least 55 makes of motorcycles on the road , such was the following for this new form of transport.
At first the club confined itself to social gatherings for discussion about various bikes, and to a few wholly sociable club runs.
Ambitiously the Club Captain E.A. Arnott demonstrated that given the patience, a run from Land’s End to John O’ Groats was possible - if you had a spare 65 hours and 45 minutes to spare. His bike was a French built Werner.
In April of 1902, at the Crystal Palace, the MCC ran its first race and hill-climb meeting - thought to be the first ever British race meeting for Motorcycles.
Two years later, in 1904 came the Motor Cycle London to Edinburgh ride, the first of our big three events.
Traditionally, the run was held at Whitsun and of around the 70 bikes entered, 46 started and 34 completed the 400 miles; of the tri-cars that started, only 2 finished.
There is no record of anyone attempting the ride back, which at this stage was optional. The ride back came into play in 1906 when it officially was called the London to Edinburgh and Back Ride, with a time limit of 48 hours for the double journey.
1921 London to Edinburgh programme.
Roger Tushingham on his 640cc Scott Motorcycle in the 2006 Lands End Trial. Photo Credit: Dave Cook Photography.
With the rapid development of cars and bikes during World War I, reliability had come to be expected: there was no purpose in putting it to the test over long there-and-back distances.
The challenge was therefore transferred to the rider or driver and their capability.
This saw the end to the return journeys and introduced some tough and testing observed sections - hills such as Beggars Roost, which was first used by the MCC for the Land’s End Trial in 1922.
Beggars will once again appear in the Land’s End Trial in 2024 which will be the 100th time the trial has been run.
The three trials settled down to a common format which involved assaults on many formidable, steep, muddy and rocky hills. During the 20’s and 30’s these hills became household words among motorcycling and motorsport - Blue Hills Mine, Hustyn, Darracott, Doverhay, Simms, Stretes, Tillerton and Fingle Bridge.
Fingle first used in 1933 will appear in our upcoming Exeter Trial (Jan 2024), another golden nugget in our history and you have the chance once again to follow in the tyre tracks of those who enjoyed our sport 90 years ago.
Check out this article from the MG Magazine from September 1933 about Fingle Bridge:
Credit: Wheelspin - Andrew Brown.
Dave Anscombe the 2006 Exeter Trial – pictured below.
I quote “….. for the last few years, I have attempted to maintain the tradition using my 1937 Morgan three-wheeler. As can be seen, this is not kind to old machinery and we have never come close to winning an award but it has given me (and seemingly a significant number of spectators) a great deal of pleasure.”
Dave Anscombe at the 2006 Exeter Trial.