June 21st 1930
On The Wall Of Thrills At New Brighton
(by Sam M Naishtad)
Few motor cycling stunts, even dirt track racing, has aroused more interest than the exploits of those American daredevils who are on the Promenade, New Brighton, at the moment, under the title of the “Wizards if the Wall.” It has been called the thrill of the ager. But of what age, for it is not so recent an innovation as many people think.
Actually it began nearly twenty years, ago, when someone who saw the possibilities of the sport set to work to develop it. In 1909 an American saucer track racer, named Sam Anderson, accidentally covered several laps of the perpendicular safety fence on the rim of the little track, whilst cutting in on a rival. Sam had no intention of doing it; he just couldn’t help himself, and when he came out of hospital he tried it again as an experiment. So, in time, by way of very steep angle “dromes” the perpendicular wall evolved to its present form with its accompanying thrills and dangers.
There are many facts about wall-riding which few people who have seen it, realise, and in a chat with the riders and manager of the “Wizards” I learnt something of the danger and the secrets of the game.
In the first place it takes about 12 to 18 months to learn to ride the wall. The potential rider is first given a thorough training on the pillion of one of the machines until he has overcome the giddiness and blindness which temporarily assails him. As a matter of fact, this is never really eliminated, for riders of many years’ experience are often afflicted with a passing fit of giddiness and blindness.
The pupil also have to learn how to overcome the terrific pressure of centrifugal force, which, in the early stages forces him down over the handlebars, and has been known to press a man down on to the front wheel. No one would realise the truth or possibility of this unless, as I have, they have experienced it. But it’s true.
In time, the pupil takes a machine by himself on to the steep angled starting track, and so by stages to actually riding the wall itself. And then he can try out a few tricks, such as standing on footrests, sitting on the handlebars, sitting cross-legged on the machine, and other diverting stunts.
Out of one hundred potential riders very few, about two or three survive the initial stages, physical or technical reasons account for most of them, although the physical qualifications are the most important, for without the ability to stand the strain, no one could hope to become an accomplished wall-rider.
The risks of the game are enormous. A seized motor, a broken wheel spindle, or a chain coming off; all have done so, to the riders. Tyre bursts are the most common events, and nearly every rider on the wall to-day. I was told, has at some time or other, crashed through this form of failure. The pressure on the tyres is so great that they are apt to expand and fly off the rims!
In the event of an ordinary cut out, through oiled plugs, choked jets or magneto failure, it is usually possible to coast down. As a matter of fact, Suicide Curley Cody, one of the Wizards, uses his back brake to slow down when coming off the wall!
Incidentally, contrary to the advertisements, the highest maximum speed attainable on the wall, according to the riders, is round about 60 or 65, and above that, is suicidal. The lowest speed at which a machine will hold the wall is thirty-five, although when a pillion passenger is taken a higher speed is needed to take off on to the wall.
The machines are stripped Indian Scouts, standard except for the rigid forks and springless saddles. Curiously enough, the riders can only use their own machines, so sensitive are they to the touch and feel of their mounts.
Visitors to the Wall will see a robust maiden, of 15 years of age. The aspirant is “Dare-devil Winnie Scatter,” who is acclaimed as the youngest girl in the world who accomplished the feat of riding the vertical wall. Yes, Winnie is certainly a Wizard on the Wall. She and Curley have looked so long into the eyes of death that they have started him out of countenance.