Over 90 years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claimed to be involved in the introduction of a device which has an “enormous future…”
In the 11th November 1913 issue of ‘Cycling’ magazine, he states that they will soon be in use by the “hundred thousand” and will “give a boom to the cycle trade”, nor will it interfere with the motor cycle trade for “the young fellow who loves power and speed will still prefer the motor cycle and the Autowheel will be a kindergarten device”.
He then goes onto suggest that dad (paterfamilias) can put it on his bike for business, mum (mater) can put it on hers for a spin on Saturday, and one of the boys can fit it on his for the summer holiday.
“In a year or so they will be everywhere, they are cheap, effective and meet a popular want!”
This is an interesting variation on our triporteur theme – a motorized wheel you could buy to add to your bicycle and turn it into an instant 3-wheeler!
My 1914 Wall Autocycle (pictured below) was unused and unregistered until 1963, when it was registered onto a period Royal Enfield Ladies Frame. It was owned by a motorcycle garage I used to visit as a teenager. It has a pioneer certificate and has been on several London-Brighton runs.
I’ve owned quite a few of these autowheels over the last 25 years. I can still picture them leaning against piles of spares back in the magic old days of Beaulieu autojumble; they were buyable for £50-£100 when I started to collect them, slowly rising in value through the 80’s.
These days they remain by far the cheapest option if you wish to enter the prestigious London-Brighton Pioneer Run. What other pre-1914 motorcycle can you buy for under £2000 to officially ride those hallowed 60 miles?
The old photos above have been knocking around the internet for many years. I’m no longer sure to whom to express gratitude or acknowledge copyright.
However, I’ve not seen the ad below on the internet before. It is a poor photocopy I was given when I bought a Wall Autowheel 20 years ago. I hope other Wall Auto-wheel enthusiasts will enjoy it (all pictures and information on this site may be reproduced freely, though a mention of its source would be very much appreciated).
It mentions the BSA Roadster Bicycle – “specially designed to suit the auto-wheel.”
And the ad for the Standard Model has royal endorsements: “HRH Prince George of Battenberg and HRH Prince Henry of Prussia ride and recommend Wall Auto-wheels.”
By the way, for those of you who forgot your school history lessons, HRH Prince George of Battenberg who zipped around on a Wall Autowheel in his twenties (born 1892) was none other than George Mountbatten (he relinquished the above title in 1917). His sister was Princess Alice, (mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) and brother was Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.