A CENTURY ago motor cycle riders came to Ilkley from all over the country to take part in the first ever Open Reliability Trial into the Yorkshire Dales.

The 150 mile test of stamina and skill put competitors through their paces with gruelling stretches up impossibly steep and twisting hills. And the trial brought national prestige to the Ilkley Motor Cycle and Light Car Club, which had been formed just a decade earlier.

Every member of the club was asked to contribute, “if only half a crown” and an artist was commissioned to design the ‘Ilkley Trophy’ valued at 50 guineas. Two other trophies were donated by businesses, and the three are still competed for annually.

Much of the history of the event has been compiled from newspaper reports by Ilkley and District Motor Club historian Janet Kitching.

She said:”One of the most sporting courses, which could be found in the whole of the north of England had been mapped out by the club’s president, Norman Longfield as the clerk of course and the club’s secretary, H W Sellers was secretary. The manner in which they had been able to avoid main roads and particularly roads which were likely to be thronged with traffic, was only equalled by the genius with which they had succeeded in introducing some of the severest and ‘tricky’ hills in the whole of West Yorkshire.”

She added: “Ilkley was alive with motor cycles from an early hour, many of the competitors having arrived overnight. The start at The Crescent Hotel was thronged with machines, amongst which were an auto-glider and a couple of runabouts which attracted a lot of attention as well as solo machines and side-cars.”

A total of 120 entries were received, with 116 setting off from the start and 89 completing the course.

The difficult terrain caused a number of incidents - with spectators often having to pitch in to clear the roads. Throughout the route boy scouts were placed in pairs, one to direct competitors and the other to attend to emergencies. One of the most difficult stretches was Park Rash, north of Kettlewell.

Janet said: “The surface of Park Rash, the hairpin bends and the gradient were familiar to those who knew the road but not so for those unacquainted with the hill. Rider after rider came along, charged up the hill and then found their wheel spinning helplessly. Fortunately, there were many spectators on the embankment for their services were required to keep the course clear.

“Riders found themselves amongst the stones as machines tried to climb the wall.”

The overall winner of the Ilkley Trophy was Harry Langman of Bradford. The Scott Trophy for the Best Amateur rider went to W Westwood of Kendal and the Palmer Trophy for the Best Trade Performance went to Geoffrey Hill of Harrogate.

The Free Press and Gazette reported: “As a result of weeks of patient and enthusiastic work which came to a head on Saturday, the Club have gained a prestige amongst the motor cyclists of England, second to no amateur Club in the country. They did not make the mistake of under-estimating the difficulties of the task before them. On the contrary they not only realised they had a reputation to maintain but, led by their enthusiastic President and Secretary, they saw the possibility of adding enormously to that reputation. In every department which was in the hands of the Club there was that sense of thoroughness which comes with a realisation and acceptance of responsibility. Altogether, apart from the fine success of its own riders, the Ilkley Club has every reason to feel proud of its achievement in organisation.”