Motor Cycle Diary 1951

I helped my Dad clear out his old shed recently. I came across a collection of 1940s and 1950s pocket diaries. There were only two that were still readable, the more interesting of which was the 1951 'Motor Cycle' diary. I had similar pocket diaries in the seventies, but by then they were printed under the 'Motor Cycle News' banner.

I was surprised at the variety of information it provided, it started with the usual 'diary' type stuff - owner's info, cash accounts, calendar and address/phone list - then moved into specialised areas - Touring Tips, Mileage Charts, Running Expenses, Maintenance Log and so on. I find some of the items covered to be amusing, not because the information is wrong, but because the use of English has changed so much since it was printed. Having said that, the item about Licensing and Registration is interesting because the cost of road tax has increased so much.

Taxation Rates

 Under 150cc150 - 250Over 250Sidecar3-wheeler

* After obtaining rebate (where applicable). All licences end with the quarter of the year.

There are some Running In Notes that are still as valid as they ever were, but they refer to 'ordinary touring oil', which leaves me totally in the dark. The section entitled Camera Hints makes no reference to colour photography, indeed the cameras it refers to are of the 'folding type, roll film' variety. Traffic Signals were only of the hand variety. Touring Tips and Camping Notes are amusing when they list the recommended equipment to take with you, and the fact that they fail to mention getting land owners' permission before setting up your 'cottage type' tent.


MAKE out a list of forget-me-nots before you start off. Then you will avoid that "wonder-if-I've-got-everything" feeling. Take your driving licence (it hasn't expired. has it?) and your certificate of insurance. Also, what about your ration book, identity card and Post Office book? Among incidentals, a darning and mending outfit often comes in useful.

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If you are looking for accommodation for the night, remember that among those likely to assist are the local innkeeper, local policeman (or at the police station) or a garage man.

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Camping is probably the best answer to the accommodation problem. The cost of the necessary kit can be saved over and over again on week-end runs and holidays. (See Camping Notes.)

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Take one-inch or half-inch-to-the-mile maps on your holiday. Using them pays handsome rewards in leading you into often little-known and beautiful country. Besides, there's adventure in getting off the main roads.

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In Britain the thermometer often pops up and down quite blithely even in the summer. Moral: Take plenty of warm clothing - pullovers, for instance. You can always leave something off.

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It is good fun planning your holiday ahead and having a rough itinerary. But don't turn your holiday into a business, with so many miles to be covered a day, and so forth. The essence of a holiday is relaxation.

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Is it necessary to say that you should give the model the "once-over" before you start off ? A squeak or rattle in the machine can be very annoying when covering holiday mileages - so cure it before you start. And get the packing problem solved beforehand.

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A few picnic thoughts:- Rolls are easier to carry than bread. Other picnic eats include cream cheese, lettuce, beetroot, biscuits, "firm" fruits. When carrying tea in a vacuum flask, take the milk and sugar separately. Better still, carry a pressure-stove for a brew-up.

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As regards shopping, remember early-closing days vary in different parts. Always have in hand some bread, one of the most annoying foodstuffs to be without!


CAMPING and - 'roughing-it' are not synonymous terms. The art of camping lies in making oneself comfortable in both rain or shine. If one is a novice, it is a good plan to go camping with a thoroughly experienced camper before buying one's equipment. This saves time, temper and the pocket!

It is well worth-while to join the Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland (38, Grosvenor Gardens. London, S. W. 1). The membership fee is £1 a year. This Club looks after campers' interests, gives advice, and has an excellent social side. A very good site list is issued to members.

Wind - not rain - is the great enemy of the camper. So the first essential in seeking a site is to gain shelter from the prevailing breeze. The shelter afforded by a thick hedge, woodlands, or a hill, should be sought. An ideal site faces southwards, has porous soil, and is well protected. A soft carpet of turf adds to the pleasure. If one can pitch one's tent in a field untenanted except by, say, sheep, so much the better. Cows occasionally trip over a guyline, but are otherwise comparatively inoffensive; but horses or ponies, no.

Buy the best quality sleeping bag you can afford. Even two good sleeping bags will not be found to be excessive on a cold night. And you must lie on a blanket sufficiently heavy to insulate you from the ground ; this, of course, in addition to a waterproof groundsheet. Another "must" is a good quality tent, able to stand up to boisterous wind with equanimity and capable of withstanding draughts. A rotproofed, medium-heavyweight fabric is a good choice as regards material. As for design, the cottage type is probably the moat practical, taking everything into consideration.

Before going away make out a list of forget-me-nots. Have you got shaving tackle; washing kit, towel, comb, soap, knife, fork, spoon, plates, cups, matches or lighter, tin-opener, condensed milk, salt and pepper, washing-up cloth? And do remember to take or wear plenty of warm clothes - better be a pessimist than an optimist in this respect!

There are some adverts for motorcycles - all British ones of course, the Japanese didn't start exporting until the sixties. Also an exhaustive list of Isle of Man TT results from 1923 to 1950, including a map of the island and a description of the course.

One interesting section is Famous Hills, which lists - you guessed it - steep and difficult hills all over the country. This includes my personal favourite - Hard Knott Pass - which it describes as "Eskdale to Little Langdale. Seven difficult corners. Rises 1,000 feet. Max. Gradient 1 in 3½. Length 2½ miles". (I'm sure there were more than seven corners last time I was there, but perhaps I'm including the 'Wry Nose Pass' section - which the list fails to mention.)

All in all, a very useful diary to have, nothing available these days has such a varied range of information, (and who needs another map of the London Underground anyway?)

Phil Drackley - Phil the Spill