Britain’s Olympia Motorcycle Show

Around the London Show with our special correspondent…

By Francis Jones

From the December 1933 Issue of Motorcyclist Magazine.

The Motor Cycle Show is back at Olympia. Last year, what with the industrial depression and all, the manufacturers decided to let this annual fixture stand over for the first time since Great War days, but on November 25th the exhibition opened once again. Again, too, it has had the “Best Yet” verdict from every practical judge.

The British Show is the most important of its kind in the world. It would be curious if it were not. Conditions in Britain have favored motorcycle development and just after the war British manufacturers got ahead far more quickly with the job of turning out better motors than did their rivals in other European countries. Olympia became, as a natural consequence, the chief international market place. That position it still holds and to this year’s Show buyers have come from all over the globe.

Good motorcycles are being made I many other countries. We in Britain recognize that. Competition is keen. Great progress has been made in Germany and in Italy, and to a lesser extent in France. But Olympia keeps its lead-even if a German machine does hold the speed record and Italian riders did win the International Six Days’ Trophy.

On the business side then, Olympia is an occasion of standing. It counts in our national commerce.

It is also an event in London life. Olympia itself, the building, is the finest exhibition hall that we have-and considered as a spectacle alone the Show beats the Paris Salon and the other continental fixtures, and does so pretty easily. The Minister of Transport himself was to open the Show, and among the visitors was expected to be H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester. Prince Henry, as he is still sometimes called, is the third son of H.M. The King, and, like his brothers, has run a motorcycle of his own.

Our Show, then, is a big affair all round. I have tried in the foregoing, to indicate how big. It is the magnitude of it all that strikes the average American first, or so they have told me.

Motorcycling in Britain is going strong, despite the depression. The annual traffic census just completed by our Automobile Association shows a 12% increase in riding, and enthusiasm for racing and the sporting side generally has never been greater. Any curtailment there has been caused simply by the prevailing financial conditions. Even in spite of these, the number of motorcycle clubs affiliated to the Auto-Cycle Union, our national governing body, has reached a record figure during the depression period.

There are about thirty different makes of motorcycles on view at Olympia, and in addition of course there are a few makers in a small way of business who are not exhibiting. The variety of models must prove astonishing to the visitor from the States. Most of the leading makers offer an extensive range; the Triumph company, for instance, markets no fewer than eighteen different types.

This is due to three main causes. One is that the British taxation system is based on a scale of engine capacities, which naturally tends to multiply types. Another is that the sports model is tending more and more to become a specialized product, different from the general-purpose or “utility” model. Chiefly however, the reason is that the European motorcyclist is fastidious-faddy if you like -and demands a mount that is absolutely exactly to his taste. Something merely like it will not do; it has to be correct to the nearest millimeter.

The types offered by the British makers are classified by capacity, cubic centimeters being quoted instead of cubic inches. They begin with the 150 c.c. model, which has a cubic-inch capacity of 9.15. These little machines have gained enormous popularity of recent years. Two-stroke engines were almost exclusively favored for them until two or three years ago, but there are now several machines in this class with overhead valve four-strokes. Reckoning the dollar as being worth 4s. British money, or $5 to the £, prices for this type at Olympia run between $100 and $150.

By Francis Jones
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