PONDER OVER THIS
Perhaps this is as good a place as any within this museum website to make a confession to you, fellow enthusiasts. I suppose it may not surprise you. The fact is, if I were to pay my first visit right now to a local meeting of VINTAGE BICYCLES ANONYMOUS, I would have to stand up at this point and declare to the congregation : ‘I am a vintage bike addict.’
I’ve known this for many years. You know the story: it starts with a few old postcards, and in no time at all you’re mainlining with old cars and motorcycles. After thirty years, I did eventually have a measure of success giving up cars, by substituting cyclemotors. And, more recently, I tried to cure my cyclemotor addiction by collecting vintage bicycles instead …however, you can see the result of that on this website 🙂
There is no cure, only management.
As fellow enthusiasts of early transportation, I hope you can appreciate from seeing this early version of a cycle-attachment engine the fascination with cyclemotor and auxiliary engines? Whether mounted inside the wheel, via belt-drive or friction drive, the principles of every subsequent cycle-attachment are more-or-less the same as the Motosacoche.
Visualize, in centuries to come, when petrol engines are obsolete and highly prized. Might the cyclemotor hobby have become, by then, a religion?
Would historian Andrew Pattle (creator of the ‘Moped Archive’ as well as a V-CC marque enthusiast) be revered in the same way as Herodotus?
Would the excellent cyclemotor books ‘The Stinkwheel Saga’ (Parts 1 and 2) be found in the top drawer of every motel bedside-table?
Might a Motosacoche engine such as this become our ark of the covenant?
APRIL 2012: We are currently restoring the Motosacoches pictured above and below for customers, and also building another from scratch. I’ll update this page when they are done.
JULY 2012: The above one is now running, with only final bits and pieces left to do. Here’s a video of it running that I put on youtube:
The brothers Dufaux devised the Motosacoche (‘motor-satchel’) as a self-contained power unit capable of being installed on any bicycle. A reinforced leather casing designed to fit inside an average cycle frame carried their own designed and manufactured engine, fuel system and exhaust. Transmission was via a jockey-wheel tensioned leather belt to a rim screwed to the rear wheel spokes. It was simple, elegant, well engineered and decades ahead of the competition. Advertising (as above) noted a ‘detachable motor unit having the form of a frame-fitted SATCHEL permitting the transformation of an ordinary road Bicycle into a MOTORISED BICYCLE. A Perfect engine for Tourists, Officers, Notaries and even for Ladies.’
In the ‘Correspondence’ page of Power & Pedal magazine, September 1955 edition, a Mr R B Moffatt of Whitley Bay wrote of his experiences using a Motosacoche a good many years previously. Amongst his comments were: it had magneto ignition, which gave a lot of trouble, also air shields round the engine, pressed to a funnel shape for cooling. They were easily removed and were more often off than on. The drive was by twisted leather belt with a wire hook for the join. To tighten the belt one just gave it an extra twist or two.
The Motosacoche was originally of 241cc capacity, later increased to 290cc. [From The Stinkwheel Saga*]
The first engines were manufactured from 1900 onwards, and enabled many fledging motorcycle-manufacturers to motorize their bicycles.
In 1910 Royal Enfield used Motosacoche 344 cc 2.75 hp engines in a successful V-twin model. They are reputed to have supplied Triumph, Ariel, Matchless and Brough Superior with engines at times too, first through H & A Dufaux England Ltd, and then, by 1912, Motosacoche Ltd (GB), with Osborne Louis De Lissa. Motosacoche had factories in Switzerland, France and Italy, and supplied MAG engines to continental manufacturers including Clement, Condor, Imperia, Neander and Monet Goyon.
Osborne Louis de Lissa was managing director of Motosacoche Ltd. This is his story, originally written for the Association of Pioneer Motor Cyclists. It provides a unique and wonderful insight into those pioneer days:
I went to the company H & A Dufaux England Ltd approximately in 1908 from Rover Co as a traveller. I had never done any selling previously, but I found I was able to interest the agents. When I went to the company at 65 Holborn Viaduct all the capital had been used up. Though the machine, the Motosacoche 1¼hp, was creating much interest only a few were being sold. I started off from no.65 with a long leather lined overcoat and a case on a carrier. I felt like a round of beef on a tom tit! (I couldn’t understand why I was tugged downwards on left side frequently – it was the corner of my long motor coat being caught by the pulley.)
My first stop was Colchester. I would stop at a hotel on edge of town, clean my machine, take off overalls and ride up to the most important looking shop or garage, ask for the manager and when my name was requested I replied “Mr Motosacoche”. It went OK and in three months riding around the coast and barging inland to any town of 10,000 or over, I had sold more than the company had in three years. In two years, to the best of my recollection, I had all the capital back and worked sales to 900 per annum. At the Olympia shows I had a “Sachoche” on top of our sign hung with a wire from the roof with the sign “Still on Top”. (I altered the name to Motosacoche Limited and was made Managing Director.) The first machine was l¼hp, increased to 1½hp then to 2½hp.
With the trials we always got away with a gold medal, thanks to J S Holroyd, who was a tip-top pedaller. He put up a wonderful show in a Scottish Trial, I think it was in 1910, the only man and machine to go from Braemar and Grantown, all others failed and were sent another route, and for which we were also awarded a “special” gold medal. The Douglas family, who were rivals, got away with the gold medal and advertised that winning medals was a habit the Douglas had acquired – Ha! Ha! thought I, this is where I come in, and I advertised “Winning Gold Medals is a habit the Motosacoche has always had”.
We were worried over the belt hook – belt ends would pull through. Every year I would ride all over England, Scotland and Wales looking up agents and fixing others. Once in Devon where one wants a ladder to climb some of the hills, my belt gave me trouble and on the journey I thought out a way to overcome it. I reached Tiverton and after all had gone “bysey” I asked Boots to make up the fire and bring me a jug of coffee. I had bought a piece of steel wire before arriving at the pub and I fashioned out another hook with the aid of the fire, pliers and hammer. This hook I hooked in the belt folds (it was a round, twisted, chrome leather folded belt) with my new hook which at one end was a loop or ring into which the joining link was hooked-so it gave a double purchase – I patented it. Terrys of Redditch made them and we sold thousands. The machine shops in Belgium and other continental towns had seen them on Motosacoche machines in their towns and as many shops used these round twisted belts, my system was a godsend to them – the Specification 8109 of 1909.
Then the motor cycle papers urged two speed gears – another trouble. I went to the works in Geneva and urged them to make such. They said the rider was the second speed and the machine was so small and gear box too heavy, so I set to work and made an expanding pulley with ball race at inner diameter for “free engine”. A pedal opened and shut the flanges and at the same time pulled up and put down the jockey pulley – it gave from 5:1 to 9:1 and worked well. Then I became anxious as to exhaust valves when we made more powerful engines, for it will be remembered by old timers how the 3½hp thumpers broke them. It was then thought that the spring was responsible so I devised a scheme with the spring on top and the valve air-cooled. It worked OK as will be seen in the reprint from “Motor Cvcling” (somewhat ‘worn’). I had to satisfy the Geneva works it was OK. I was the first motorist to reach the top of the glacier De Rhone. (The machine with mushroom or standard valves which I stipulated must be used, a competitor failed early through overheat. Specification No 17201, 1911.)
I was being worried about 1911 with competition – Humber, Douglas and many others getting interested with lightweights and I felt our light would be blown out. They made everything, we, only the engine, so I started the works thinking. I assured them that if they could make me a 1,000cc twin and as good as they made the little 1¼ I would sell them in thousands. After a year’s thought and taking my advice, they got to work. I gave the first to Harry and Charlie Collier and assured them that if they built a bicycle around it, they could be charmed. They bought many thousands. I started the Enfield Company inthe motor cycle world, they bought 3,000 small 2½hp twins. I had formed another company, the MAG Engine Co Ltd, to deal with these engines and sold approximately 20,000, if my memory serves me right.
I once received a letter from Oxford, reading somewhat as follows: “When next you are in Oxford I’d like you to call as I’m interested in your Motosacoche – W Morris, Long Wall, Oxford (I think that was the address). I called and saw him and he took the agency. He had a small shop and a boy to help. He is now Lord Nuffield and has given away approximately £23.000,000. A truly wonderful and good man. I feel I was the first to introduce him to petrol engines.
A copy of testimonials will show one from T S V Phillips, Lieut. He was to become an admiral, and went down with the Prince of Wales in the war with Japan. Also one from his pal, whom he brought to introduce to me, George Battenberg. He said he had no money so I told him to take any machine he fancied! His sister later on came and paid for it – Ena, who became Queen of Spain. I didn’t get much money but I did see life!
The old timers will well remember LPA, which indicated light pedal assistance. One spat blood at the top of a corker of a hill.
The rider is J Stuart White.
At one quarterly trial, from Chequers at Uxbridge to Banbury and back, when we left Banbury my front tyre punctured on the rise out of the town. I had to think quickly. if I repaired it I would lose marks, so I decided to ride on the rim and what anxious moments I had when a bend in the road was coming towards me. I bad to coax the cover on the side of the rim to keep it off the road. It shook my sock suspenders down and stopping in some teeth loosened. All riders avoided me as if I had some contagious disease. At Rectory Hill, Amersham, we had to be timed up the precipice. Here was trouble for me. Ebby told me to get ready. I lifted the back wheel off the road, kicked the pedal and started the engine. When she was turning fast, I let down the jocky pulley and put down the wheel; when I got the order to go I pedalled hard, the bike was all over the road and when I got it about 5mph I pulled up the jockey. Well I pedalled all I knew, got over the brow of the hill and saw an observer along the road. It was the one and only Muriel Hind. I hadn’t a kick left and I fell up against her but I kept moving slowly. “Poor old boy” she said and off I went. About a mile on Billy Cooper came up alongside and we had a ding dong go, he on his Bradhury 99 (remember?) and I left him, I think he was scared of the clatter I kicked up and the wobbles. At Uxbridge as I passed the Chequers I got a cheer but didn’t stop – discretion better. Rushed home to Turnham Green, done, whacked, all my hones rattled for 50 miles or so. Next morning I took off the cover, only valve was left, but cover (beaded edge) unhurt. I sent old Drew-Conybeare St B’ham a testimonial, maker of Druid forks, and he used it in his advertisements for many months.
I won a petrol consumption trial in the Tring district – 242 to the gallon. Dr A M Low measured in the petrol if my memory serves me correctly. Well, I had passed many who had come to rest and was still safe and wondered if any more were in the running when I began to notice drops of oil on the road. I then saw round a bend a competitor who was in trouble. At that time I heard ominous sounds coming from my carburettor so I leaned machine so petrol outlet was at lowest position and trusted to providence! Suddenly the rider in front conked and stopped. I was soon up to him – H K Oily and his wonderful Dreadnought. My pup engine ran on its reputation for about 50 yards and threw in the sponge.
Holroyd, Le Vack and I entered a race at Brooklands. To our astonishment we were on the mark with Stanley on Singer, Pullin on Rudge, Horsman on Triumph and some others. I tackled Ebby on the matter before the word “Go” and he replied “Well you are In the trade, and you ought to have something good and fast”. We did – we only saw our competitors at the start and when we came in they were having tea.
We were known as makers of the Motosacoche Motosasquash Motosausage – the name means motor in a case, ie: French translation. The case in mind is the one which was fitted in the frame in early cycles. The later riders will not have seen them.
When I was trvelling at night on business and went to the reception office, the lady, if it was a first class hotel, would look at me and regret there were no vacant rooms that night and I’d finish at a second or third rate puh. I found the reason – I bad a Captain Kettle beard and insects attracted by the acetylene lamp missed it and got in my moustache and beard and when I went in a warmed hotel they walked out, so the lady must have thought “Gracious, the man’s alive!” We had an agent in Cambridge who also had a hairdressing shop in another part of town. I got into his chair and had the lot cleaned off and, when I reached London and home, my wife didn’t know me.
When England left the gold standard it made it impossible to trade with Switzerland. The business was wound up, all creditors paid in full and directors received a financial gift. I had a very happy 20 or so years with the concern and with my admirable friends in Geneva, their productions were par excellence as is all Swiss work.
* My ‘Motosacoche History’ is reproduced from The Stinkwheel Saga, which is a superb and comprehensive introduction to cyclemotoring.
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