From the Archive: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Motorcyclists have been taking up the challenge of riding in the snow for well over 100 years, as this selection of photos from Mortons’ extensive archive proves.

Nowadays, when the world becomes a crisp, white wonderland, most motorcycles remain tucked up in their sheds and garages – but when bikes were our one and only form of transport, wehad no option but to don our winter gear and ride off to work.

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The festive season would have been a far from happy time when this Christmas scene, with a motorcycle combination in the foreground, was taken in snowbound Cheshire on December 23, 1915.
This photo was taken not in the middle of winter, but at Easter time in the early 1920s. In proper pen and ink handwriting, the words on the back read: “Competitors who scaled Beggars Roost at Easter will be surprised to hear that, within two miles of the top of the hill, they might have encountered lanes like this had the route not been altered. It is typical of many by-lanes in Somerset and Devon at Easter time, nearly two weeks after the snowfall.”
Anyone who’s visited the Wicklow Mountains, in the Irish Republic, will have passed along roads like this. The picture is undated, but the fading pencilled note on the back goes: “This is a road to a village in Co Wicklow which was cut off for over a month from Dublin, 18 miles away, last week. Efforts to reach the village made front page news for over a week.”
Winter in Lakeland! In this photo, received by The Motor Cycle on February 25, 1928, a Morgan three-wheeler pauses amid some truly stunning scenery.
“Not a reliability trial but the Scarborough-Malton main road on December 2, four days after the snowfall. Bad going for belt-driven machines,” wrote the photographer, N L Lowson, on the back of this picture that was received by The Motor Cycle on Christmas Eve, 1925. No long Yuletide holidays in those days, then!
Mr T Parker of Burton, Carnforth, Lancs, wrote on the back of this undated picture: “A pause to admire the beauty which snow often brings to an otherwise ordinary curve on the road close to the Trough of Bowland in Lancashire.
This lunchtime scene was taken during a heavy snow shower in London’s Fleet Street on January 5, 1938.

Frostbite and chilblains were common, and taking an odd tumble or two was all part of the experience. The mags were full of ‘winter riding tips’ with posed pictures of staff showing how it should be done – even though (and I speak from experience) they had no more idea than anyone else!

Sadly, the description on this interesting photo of two small three-wheel machines and their undaunted drivers was torn off many years ago, and the only words left are ‘…trict’ and ‘the snow…’ However, they look quite similar to the Argson invalid carriage seen in this month’s ‘Unearthed’ (page 47).
Between snow showers, two motorcyclists ride to the top of the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District in 1960.
Remember last month’s cover picture of The Motor Cycle’s Bob Currie setting off in the snow on a Royal Enfield Bullet test machine in 1962? Here he is a bit further along the road!
This timeless wintry scene was pictured along the Altrincham to Mobberley road at Hale, Cheshire, at the end of December, 1956.
Much of the A66 trunk road between Scotch Corner and Penrith is dualled today, but back in 1955, when it was a narrow, winding, hilly crawl all the way, its winters were notorious. In December 1955, a BMW rider pulls in beside a wall of ploughed snow.

For most, tackling the sleet, snow and ice was a grim necessity – but ever since the days of belt-drive flat-tankers there have been those with a more adventurous streak who deliberately seek the most difficult conditions they can find.

Ken Craven’s BSA Thunderbolt/Monaco outfit is pushed back onto the road during the 1968 Elephant Rally in Germany.
At least there’s a bit of grip in this kind of snow! The photo of a couple posing beside their outfit along a lane near Sarratt, Hertfordshire, was taken in February 1955.

We hope you enjoy this selection of pictures, some of which go right back to the turn of the 20th century.

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How winter riding gear has changed – and you don’t see many berets these days! The Motor Cycle’s late-lamented editor, Harry Louis, lets a Matchless trials bike get the better of him on a bleak, snowy hillside.

Read more News and Features in the November 2019 issue of Old Bike Mart – on sale now!

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