The Classic Motorcycle Rally

Mr. B. Adams, the Winner of the Johannesburg - Durban Race, Who Traversed the Distance of 415 Miles in the Wounderful Time of 11 hrs. 30 mins. 19 seconds. He rode 499cc Rudge.
Bernard Adams on his record-breaking Rudge Multi. Fred Hatton, one of the limit men the previous year, stands in hist shirt sleeves (second right).
The report below is copied verbatim from a small publication by Ken Macleod entitled Through the Dust Barrier, Part One, 1903-1923 - The history of S.A. Motorcycle Sport. (Part Two, the final issue, covered the years 1924-1927).

McKeag (430cc N.U.T.) was one of the 26 riders from the previous year's race who lined up among the 100 entries for the second Deejay on May 30, 1914. Flook made his debut in this event on a 350cc Humber.

There were several changes to the format of the race. The winner received the Schlesinger Vase and R200 and the Texas Oil Company presented gold medals to the finishers.

A traffic policeman stood at the entrance to the main street through Heidelberg to slow competitors down to the speed limit and to spot fine those who did not. The route was well sign-posted outside the town but riders were still advised to practice in case the signs were damaged by vandals. Arrangements were made to have people open and shut all the gates en route and others were at the deviations outside Greylingstad to point out the correct route and stop short cuts. Patrols were stationed en route at likely accident spots. Entries were confined to South African motor cycle club members.

The first rider, Ditchburn (270cc Sun Villiers) left the start at 9.00 a.m. There were seven crashes within the first seven miles. J. H. Petersen broke his hip when part of his bike's frame collapsed. An unnamed rider lost his bike when it was destroyed in a blaze after a crash. He returned to the start, got another machine, and re-joined the race. Mclntosh was knocked unconscious in a fall and Owens injured his shoulder sufficiently badly to force him to continue riding with only one hand.

The traffic policeman at Heidelberg took the numbers of riders who exceeded the speed limit but did not fine them. Reckenberg (350cc N.U.T.) led at Standerton from Randies (270cc Levis) and Walker (350cc Douglas). McKeag was seventh and Flook eleventh.

Both Walker and Guiston retired two miles outside Volksrust where Flook also retired. Usher was flung 30 feet from his bike but remounted and continued.

Reckenberg crashed heavily while leading at Charlestown and badly damaged his bike and Peters lost 45 minutes after falling.

McKeag had pulled up into second place at Newcastle but lost half an hour when his bike flooded at Bell's Spruit. Thompson's bike caught fire at Newcastle while being refuelled but the flames were quickly extinguished and he continued.

Lindsay led Adams and Thompson at Ladysmith but McKeag and Reckenberg both retired.

Lindsay still led at Estcourt but Adams had passed him to lead comfortably at Mooi River. Thompson was up into second place, two minutes behind at Pietermaritzburg.

Stevenson crashed heavily at Mooi River and was taken to hospital while several others also fell foul of the anthills at the town.

Adams' pit stop took two minutes but Thompson was delayed for a little longer and really tried hard on the final section to Durban reducing Adams' lead to three minutes in spite of the latter touching 70 m/h in places. Adams led Thompson home by 2 minutes 53 seconds in a time of 11 hours 21 minutes, 3 hours 25 minutes inside McKeag's old record.

Wege finished third, his bike having broken a saddle, a jammed magneto and metres of cloth stuck between the rear forks and the suspension. Witherspoon lost any chance of third place when he went over a bank at Inchanga while trying to pass Wege. Prillevantz fell heavily five miles from the finish and was brought in by ambulance.


1. B. Adams (Rand, 500cc Rudge) 11 hours 21 minutes average speed 36,88 m/h;
2. H. J. Thompson (Rand, 500cc Rudge);
3. D. Wege (West Rand, 557cc James).

A total of 38 out of the 100 starters finished the event.
Motoring in South Africa July 1st 1914

Rand-Durban Race

By our Transvaal Correspondent

In the great Rand-Durban race 96 out of an entry of 107 came to the starting-point, four competitors having withdrawn and the others being accounted for by entries of two machines. The main characteristics of this year's race were the wonderful times put up by competitors and the perfect organisation of the event. Undoubtedly the road has been greatly improved since last year, but it is still very bad over long stretches. Again, gates en route were kept open, and thus frequent delays were avoided. Apart from these favouring conditions, the improvements effected in motor cycles, more especially in speed gears, undoubtedly had a great influence on the record figures which were set up. Another factor is the tremendous improvements which have been effected in tyres, and punctures and bursts were remarkably few in number. The writer inspected all the machines in the control garage at Durban on the day after the race, and was particularly struck with the wonderfully good condition of the tyres of most machines.

The race has certainly demonstrated the suitability of the 499 c.c. machine for a contest of this kind. Whilst the handicap was worked out on the basis of c.c. alone, the handicappers seem to have decided on a sliding scale which, as the results have shown, was fair. The advantage, however, lay with the 499 c.c. machine, as the results clearly prove. The winner, Mr. B. Adams, on a Rudge-Multi, was able to maintain an average speed of 36.09 miles per hour, and made the journey in n hours 30 mins. 19 secs. The second man, Mr. J. Thompson, averaged 35.9 miles per hour and took 11 hours 33 mins. 6 secs. His slightly lower average is due to one or two minor mishaps. The third man, Mr. D. Wege, on a James of 557 c.c., averaged 35.07 miles per hour. He conceded 15 minutes' start to the winning Rudge, but occupied 18 mins. 47 secs, longer (actual riding time) on the journey. Thus, had the start been on level terms the 499 machine would have beaten the 557 by 19 mins. 47 secs. The first lightweight machine to reach Durban was a Douglas, 350 c.c., ridden by Mr. Mason of Pietermaritzburg, who took seventh place. He received a time allowance of 58 minutes from the Rudge, and maintained an average speed of 30.07 miles per hour. His journey occupied 13 hrs. 47 mins. 37 secs., being 2 hrs. 17 mins. 18 secs. In excess of the Rudge.

Coming now to the very high-powered machines, we have Mr. J. Dove of Durban, who rode a Harley-Davidson, a newcomer to this country, of 564 c.c.

He gave the 499 machines 21 minutes' start, but was quite unable to make up the leeway. He secured ninth place in the race in 12 hrs. 40 mins. 19 secs., his actual riding- time exceeding the winner's by an hour and ten minutes. Mr. Dove's statement that he experienced no trouble of any kind, never opened his tool kit, or made any adjustment or repair during the race seems to be conclusive proof that the higher-powered engines are at a disadvantage in a competition of this kind. Mr. Dove's average is 32.76 miles per hour.

Two other examples. The cases of Messrs. I. J, Pretorius and C. Zimmermann, both mounted on Zeniths of 770 c.c., conceding 1 hr. 19 mins. to the 499 c.c. machines. Mr. Pretorius arrived thirteenth, after a journey of 12 hrs. 21 mins. 36 secs, actual riding time. His average works out at 33-56 miles per hour, and he took 51 minutes longer than the 499 c.c. Rudge. Mr. Zimmermann's average is 32.09 miles per hour, and he exceeded the winner's actual riding time by 1 hr. 26 mins. The giant Henderson, cubic capacity 1,206, was of course on scratch, and occupied 14 hrs. 27 mins. 40 secs. on the journey. This is 2 hrs. 57 mins. 21 secs. longer than the winner.

No higher-powered machine made up on the handicap allowance of the 499 c.c., and indeed the actual riding time was in every case considerably more. Mr. Wege came nearest, but his 557 c.c. engine lost nearly 20 mins. Were these cases isolated ones it might be conceded that high engine capacity was of value in a race of this kind, but in no instance did a higher powered machine beat the actual riding times of the winner and second man. From this is would almost appear that in future competitions the 499 c.c. machines will have to concede starts to those of higher power!

The committee of the Rand M.C.C. may well be proud of the success which has crowded its efforts in promoting what probably is the greatest motor cycling race ever held in the world. The T.T. race in the Isle of Man is looked upon as the classic event-the blue riband of motor cycling-but it is in an entirely different class. To make a number of circuits over a well-known course on turnpike roads, carefully prepared and watered, is as child's play when compared with the race over 415 miles which separates Johannesburg from Durban. In parts the road is abominable-a sandy, often boulder-strewn, and sometimes grassy track through the lonely veld. Dust rises in clouds. Many of the streams are unbridged, and the rider has to take his chance of getting his machine through unaffected. Thus at Bell Spruit, near Ladysmith, A. W. McKeag, last year's winner, came to a stop which put him out of the race. Owing to the roughness of the road many machines came to grief, and buckled wheels, broken forks, and irreparably damaged saddles prevented many good riders from completing the journey. The bad condition of the road was also the cause of several accidents. J. Hodgson, the intrepid West Rand rider, was thrown from his machine at a railway level (?) crossing where the rails projected inches above the surface. Otto Prillevitz, the plucky rider from the Cape Peninsula, had a bad fall when riding' in third position, only one and a quarter miles from the finishing line. F. H. Koenig, of Rudge fame, fell near Ladysmith, owing to deep sand, knocked out some front teeth. He went on though despite his mishap. Owens of Kimberley ; Mclntosh, Reckenburg, Peterson, and Parker of the Rand, Morgan of the West Rand; Hartmann of Volksrust; Witherspoon of Durban; Stevenson of Ladysmith, and dozens of others have reason to remember the awful condition of the road in parts. Of the 96 starters only 37 reached Durban, a telling story of the difficulties which had to be faced. For, remember, the majority were riders in the front ranks of their respective clubs, and every man without exception was out to win. There are bad corners and nasty stretches on the T. T. course, but not to be compared with similar obstacles on the road to Durban, The South African rider can hold his own against all comers.

A couple of days after the conclusion of the race allegations were made that competitors' machines had been tampered with. Needless to say these statements came from competitors who had failed in the test; but the strange part of the story is that the complaints, with a single exception, came from Pietermaritzburg riders. The daily press seized upon the tales with avidity, and they were certainly given a great deal more prominence than they deserved. In any case, the committee of the promoting club declined to even investigate the matter. The evidence adduced was of the flimsiest character, and in every instance the causes can clearly be traced to carelessness or accidental circumstances. It may be that the personal element entered in one or two cases, and that a competitor's machine was tampered with by his enemy. But this was previous to the start of the race, and probably occurred, if at all, at the houses or hotels where the Pietermaritzburg men stayed. It was a competitor's business to arrive at the starting-line with his machine in racing trim. Previous to sending him off, his machine was examined by responsible officials in his presence and a list taken of the spares which he carried. The first control where the club assumed responsibility for the machines was at Standerton, but all complaints arc of mishaps which took place long before that town was reached.

One man complains that a piece of canvas was put in his petrol tank, although the official reason for his retirement was a broken valve ! Another complains that his high-tension wire had been cut, but forgets to mention that he discovered this fact before the race (the day before !) and procured another. Probably it was accidentally broken. Still another complains that after ten miles' running" his engine would not work properly, but that he did not think it had been tampered with. But for all that, his statement to this effect appeared under sensational headlines, as did the emphatic statement of another man that he was positive that nothing had been touched on his machine! One competitor found that a spare tube, which he had carried on his handlebar for 102 miles to the first control, was defective, and he came to the conclusion that some malicious person had pricked it with a pin. Another said that he found a bit of wire dangling from his sparking plug, causing a short circuit whenever it touched his cylinder. The only other competitor with a like complaint and not hailing from Pietermaritzburg was a Johannesburg man who retired with a broken piston somewhere near Balfour. He says that he found steel filings and scrapings in his oil. The oil, he states, was placed in his tank by the agent of an oil firm who were supplying their customers gratis. This concludes the list, and in the circumstances the committee decided to ignore the suggestions of foul play.

It seems a pity that unproved and probably unprovable allegations of such a serious nature should have been made, and a still greater pity that they received so much publicity. The fair name of every competitor other than those with grievances has been besmirched, for it is noticeable that in most of the complaints the committee is distinctly absolved from either complicity or responsibility. Why such a dead set as is alleged was made against the Pietermaritzburg competitors is difficult to understand. If foul means were to be employed to prevent men from winning, one would have thought that some of the favourites would have been the objects of these dastardly attentions; or, at least, that all efforts would not have been concentrated on the men from Pietermaritzburg.

With the exception of these complaints, the competition from start to finish was an unbounded success, and it is small wonder that the committee feels the accusation keenly, although disregarding it utterly. In every respect the organisation was perfect, and was the subject of favourable comment from the whole of the Natal and Transvaal press, as well as from participators in the event, whether as competitors or officials. It was a huge undertaking, and the promoters have come out of It with flying colours.

Adams made the fastest time (2 hrs. 19 mins. 3 secs.) between Johannesburg and Standerton; Pretorius (4 hrs. 35 mins. 12 secs.), between Standerton and Ladysmith; and Thompson (4 hrs. 22 mins. 38 secs.), between Ladysmith and Durban. This year the average miles per hour has been calculated on 415 as the total mileage from Johannesburg to Durban, which is more nearly correct than 420 miles, taken as the basis of calculation last year. In 1914 (should read 1913) A. W. McKeag's (winner) total running time was 14 hrs. 46 mins., or an average of 28.44 m.p.h., and the average fell to 19.95 m.p.h. in the returns for twentieth place. Thompson, this year's runner-up, took 15 hrs. 27 min. for the total distance in 1914, which placed him third. Last month he knocked 3 hrs. 53 mins. 54 secs, off this time, doing nearly 7 m.p.h. better than on his previous attempt.

Motoring in South Africa July 1st 1914



My experiences in the Rand-Durban race were, let me say at once, even more exciting - and fuller of thrills than 1 had anticipated. I arrived in Johannesburg on Saturday morning, and soon had my 3 h.p. Enfield unpacked and on the road. But I found, no doubt on account of the higher altitude, that it was very sluggish. It was soon running more to my satisfaction, however, and to gather as much information as I could about the condition of the roads I called on Mr. Victor Hart. Mr. Hart was very kind, and gave me much valuable information that subsequently saved me a lot of worry.

I started my trial run from Johannesburg on the Tuesday. The road is quite good for some miles, but is eventually only a cart track across the veld, speed for any distance being nearly impossible on account of the numerous holes and cross-sluits. This is typical of the whole route to the Natal border, on the Transvaal side of which Paardekop is the only hill of any importance. At Volksrust I was fortunate enough to meet three Rand riders - Messrs. De Lange, Walter, and Pearman - and as my first day had been very lonely I was glad of their company. De Lange was not continuing from here, however; but Walter, Pearman, and myself left together in the morning. The roads to Ladysmith were bad, with numerous long and heavy gradients. The night was spent at Ladysmith, and an early start was made for Durban. After crossing the Tugela Bridge at Colenso we made our first mistake by crossing the railway line instead of keeping to the right, and went for several miles over rocks, dongas, and veld before getting back to the right road at Chieveley Station. Estcourt was reached without further incident. My machine was sluggish in starting. I injected some petrol through the valve, caps, and forgot to close one. After doing about 10 miles in this way, the machine" failed on Highlands - a rather long and very heavy hill. I renewed my plugs, cleaned out the carburettor, and then had another try to start - no easy matter on a 1 in 5 gradient - and had got about 10 yards farther when the engine again stopped. After several more unsuccessful attempts I was thoroughly disgusted and tired out, and was wishing the machine elsewhere, when on glancing at it from the roadside, where I was sitting, I noticed the front valve cap open. What I said to myself motor cyclists can guess. After closing the cap I had no difficulty in getting away. All the .luck seemed to be coming my way, however; for when, about 10 miles from Howick, we stopped on the summit of a hill to compare notes of petrol, consumed, to my disgust I found my tank quite dry. The release tap in the bottom of the tank had fallen out, and over a gallon of petrol had gone to waste. I tried several things, and then managed to get the top of my Gil can to fit. After transferring some petrol from the Rudge tank, we reached Howick safely. From here a good run was made into Maritzburg. We started off again about 8.30 on Friday morning, and Durban was reached about 11.30 after a trip full of experiences which proved invaluable.

I arrived in Johannesburg again on Sunday night, having travelled by train, and decided to go over to Pretoria for my final "tune up" as I had previously met an excellent mechanic there. Bad luck still dogged me, for before I left Johannesburg on Tuesday morning my machine was in flames. The trouble was caused through a flooding carburettor, petrol leaking on to an open exhaust box; and In starting I had a misfire. But with assistance I was able to extinguish the flames before much -damage was done. My troubles were only starting, however, for before I got half-way to Pretoria my front cylinder had seized tight, and I had to push the machine four miles before I could get to a telephone to call assistance, which arrived in the person of Mr. Bowditch, a Triumph rider from Pretoria. We reached the Capital at seven o'clock, the 36 miles having taken me nine hours to complete. It was Friday before my machine was again ready for the road, but I was very pleased with the tuning it had got. I got back to Johannesburg on Friday evening, to make final preparations for the race, which proved to be a bit more than "rather strenuous."

The morning of the great race arrived at last, the weather being perfect. Rains had fallen earlier in the week, but this had improved the condition of the Transvaal roads. I arrived at the starting-post at nine o'clock, in time to see the first man away. There was an enormous crowd of spectators and motors of all descriptions. The judge was soon on the spot, and set his seal on the frame of my machine with a hammer and steel punch. My list of spares was handed in, and everything was in order for a start. I was rather impressed with the looks of some of the machines, which were stripped of everything it was possible to take off without weakening them; and also with the riders, who were out for business, with their leather jackets and safety helmets. Promptly at n minutes past ten two other 3 h.p. Enfields and my own were given the word. The nearest rider in front had 28 minutes start, and McKeag - last year's winner - was two minutes behind. My machine fired well from the start, and soon began to get away from the other two Enfields. I nearly came to grief early in the race by taking a dip in the road a few hundred yards from the start at too great a pace. Afterwards I heard that some riders had come down at this spot. J. P. Coyle (Bradbury) had a very nasty smash here, bursting a tyre and losing some spokes. He came on to Standerton later, not very much the worse. I soon began to pass stranded riders, the most noticeable of whom was R. C. Owens (No. 12), a Douglas rider from the Diamond Fields who had the misfortune to break his collar-bone through striking a bad rut and coming off. He was very sporting, and signalled the danger to me, which gave me an opportunity to pull up and no doubt saved me from coming off. After this I met several competitors, some being towed either by car or cycles and others sitting on the roadside looking very disgusted at being out of the running so early. There is absolutely no pleasure in passing a competitor stranded; but the joy of overhauling a man, and then passing with 'both machines nearly "all out," must be experienced to be really appreciated.

My starting number at Johannesburg was 23, and I had managed to run into sixth position about 15 miles from Standerton. Five miles farther on my machine suddenly stopped, when I found to my disgust the front cylinder had seized. My top gear being only 5-1, and the speed being well over 56 m.p.h. the revs, of engine must have been enormous. Fortunately I had taken the precaution to put a small tin of paraffin in my pocket, which now came in very useful, and after some considerable delay I was once more on the road; but not before I had been passed by two competitors. This brought me back to eighth position, my official time being 2 hrs. 47 mins. to Standerton. I was quite satisfied with this, considering the stop. Late arrivals at Standerton reported some very bad smashes on the road. Twenty-three failed to finish on the first day. Owens arrived during the afternoon, having ridden about 90 miles with broken forks and his arm in a sling. It was quite a plucky effort, but he had to retire. I did not feel the strain of the first day's ride at all, but was none the less pleased when I was shown my bed.

The first man, Reckenberg (N.U.T.), got away next morning at 7.30. The air being very cold, some difficulty was experienced in getting machines to fire. My time for starting was 8.16. After a few minutes delay I got away well; but I was soon in difficulties, as my engine began to run very hot and I could not do much speed. By this time the 3 h.p. machines began to overhaul the lightweights, and I soon lost my position. To make matters worse a bad sideslip brought me down heavily, fortunately with no more damage than a broken footboard. A very noticeable thing on the road was the way in which groups of farmers and natives collected near a deep rut or other bad parts to watch the antics of the riders in their endeavours to balance and steady their machines. One instance will go to .illustrate the utter lack of sporting instinct in some of them. Just over the summit of Paardekop, where I was closely followed by two other competitors, I noticed three men perched on some rocks near the road. Previous experience had made me suspicious, so I put on my brakes, and was just in time, as the rains had washed a deep rut across the road, which was not noticeable until only a few yards away. Fortunately I escaped with nothing worse than a severe jar. The man following me did not fare so well as his machine was broken and he himself rather badly damaged much to the amusement of the trio. It was well there were not many of this class of spectator on the road. A timely word of warning would have saved a lot of trouble.

I was very pleased when I got to Volksrust control, where tanks were replenished. The people here were very hospitable. Refreshments were lavishly bestowed, and in my case very lavishly partaken of. Unfortunately my machine refused to move from here. The front cylinder had again overheated, and much valuable time was lost in waiting for it to cool. By this time my position in the running had altered considerably, and I recognised that unless I was to be left, I would have to do some riding. My machine seemed to take a new lease of life, and made very light of the stiff hills, of which there were now quite a number. The recent rains had left most of the drifts full, and the majority of the belt-driven machines were slipping badly. This was my opportunity to get back my lost position, and I made the most of it. There were quite a 'number of people on the banks of the drifts, and at one rather deep one I came off against the side with the machine on top of. me. My position - to the spectators - was no doubt amusing, and one lady promptly took a snapshot. I felt too tired to move, but the sound of a motor firing close at hand put new life into me. The Lady smith hills were soon in sight. The road was in excellent condition, although the surface was rather loose. On taking a corner not far from the control I had - up to now - my worst fall. The machine side-skidded and I came down heavily. Fortunately I managed to get to. the control before I collapsed. After being attended .to by the doctor I felt much better, but it was very" doubtful whether I would be able to continue in the morning. Both McKeag and Reckenberg (N.U.T.s) were compelled to give up here, the latter's machine having come off second-best against some rocks.

I woke in the morning feeling very stiff and sore, and decided not to continue. But after seeing the first men away I could not resist the call; so when my turn came I was not long in getting away. Lindsay (Douglas), of Pretoria, was riding very well at this stage, and left Ladysmith with a lead of 16 minutes, which he increased later. The pace and hills, however, began to tell on the lightweight, and Adams overtook the leader on the hill after Mooi River. Lindsay was forced to retire at Maritzburg, due to mechanical trouble. Owing to my injuries I was unable to take any risks, but still managed Jo keep my position and arrived at Maritzburg safely. This was the last control before Durban, and after filling with oil and petrol I was cheered on the last lap by a very enthusiastic crowd.

I managed to keep going well until I got to the foot of Inchanga, when I found I could not hold the road and went off into the veld at a good speed and finished on a bank of rocks, which did not improve my condition. From here onward the road was very winding and loose in parts. About four miles from the Durban control I was just congratulating myself, when, on rounding a corner at well over fifty, I was brought down by an/ Indian with a basket of fruit at each end of a long pole. The shock was very severe, and coming after my previous fall left me in a very dazed condition. I don't remember anything after this; but it appears I resumed riding, to be eventually brought down by another Indian about 1 miles from the control. The fall must have been rather bad, as my machine was completely wrecked. I woke some time later in the Addington Hospital, where I was well looked after for  some days. So ended my first attempt to win the Schlesinger Vase; and, except for a few falls, I enjoyed the trip.

An excellent idea can be gained of the strenuous nature of this race when it is noted that 96 competitors started and only 36 finished - 60 having fallen by the way. I am quite satisfied with the way my 3 h.p. Enfield pulled and shall certainly keep to that power if I have an opportunity of entering again.