Words: MICHAEL BARRACLOUGH Photography: MORTONS MEDIA ARCHIVE
Snow and ice are often the bane of competitive winter motorcycling events.
In February of 1932, however, the snow and ice were not enough to deter the entrants to the Colmore Cup Trial from braving the frozen course which, mercifully, was not quite as grim as it first appeared.
Both the officials and competitors were anxious in the days running up to the trial, as the weather had taken a very bleak turn. A thick blanket of snow had fallen over the course, which was a tasking enough route through the Cotswolds anyway.
The snow duly melted but no respite was to be had, as frost soon set in and an almost hyperborean chill descended, resulting in black ice and a cold, cutting wind.
On their return from a trip round the course, the route markers were besieged by the officials who wanted to know if there were any sections of the course that the weather had rendered impassable.
The surprising response was ‘no’, and it was even reckoned that the entire entry might be able to get through without losing a single mark. Of the 105 riders who had signed up for the trial, 101 left the start point at the Unicorn Hotel. Eight miles of cold, hard roads paved the way to the first obstacle, Lark Stoke Hill.
The hill looked extremely formidable, and a large bonfire had been lit near the top so that the observers could better see the machines attempting the climb.
If they were expecting to see the riders struggle with the bitter weather and the steep incline, they were in for a surprise. Last year’s winner, New Imperial-mounted Sammy Jones, danced up the hill without so much as a downward glance, as did fellow New Imperial rider R A J Bowden.
F E Thacker (Ariel) decided that the rutted earth was not worth the bother and made his ascent on a thin line of grass to the side of it. Tyrell Smith (Rudge) also made a clean climb. The officials decided to salt the ground at the next obstacle – which was to be a brake test – to melt the snow and ensure the riders actually stopped when they applied their brakes. Sammy Jones was unlucky – he overshot by four feet and five inches.
R A J Bowden made the best of the brake test, overshooting by a mere five inches. Following a ‘stop and restart test’ on Ford Hill, the riders reached West Down Hill, which The Motor Cycle reported: “can always be sure of catching a few.”
Jack Williams (Rudge) was up the hill so fast that it never had time to catch him, and Marjorie Cottle (BSA) made a quick and controlled climb, giving West Down Hill no reason to trip her up.
Jack White (Ariel) was unfortunate to fall, as was Edyth Foley (Coventry Eagle). At the trial’s end the winners were clear and, though the trial was far easier than expected, there were several failures.
Nevertheless, the Colmore Cup (for best overall performance) went to Len Heath (Ariel), the Cranmore Trophy for the best solo performance went to L G Holdsworth (Norton) and the Calthorpe Cup for best 175cc to 250cc performance was awarded to Marjorie Cottle.
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