Hairy Hands Mystery - Matchless and Martinsyde Bikes Image

Hairy Hands Mystery - Matchless and Martinsyde Bikes

Martinsyde 1921 680 CC V-twin bikes with sidecar. Was Dr Helby riding one of these bikes when the fatal crash occurred? Dr E.J.Helby was the Medical Officer at Dartmoor Prison in June 1921. Martinsyde-1921
He was an experienced motorcyclist and was riding his combination in the Postbridge and Two Bridges area along the B3212, with two young girls in the sidecar. Inexplicably, Dr Helby lost control and died in the ensuing crash. The children survived. Two possible examples of bikes and sidecars from that year are shown below.

More Reports of the Hairy Hands

Since the start of the 20th century. There had been continual reports from car drivers and motorcyclists along the B3212. Those involved said that they had felt as if something else had tried to take control of the steering wheel or handlebars and that this had caused them to crash. Not long after Dr Helby’s fatal crash, a coach driver reported the same sinister problem: he reported that something else seemed to have been wrestling with the steering wheel. No-one was killed in the crash, there were still several serious injuries. August 1921, an army captain/motorcyclist crashed due to what he described as a pair of hands that had tried to take control of his handlebars.
Early Matchless combination: was Dr Helby using one of these in 1921?

National Publicity

That was enough to excite the tabloids, and the story achieved national publicity. Author and journalist, Rufus Endle, who wrote a book about Dartmoor Prison, had a similar experience of the hairy hands' phenomenon. Patricia and I have explored the area in depth. We have had no first-hand evidence of the hairy hands phenomenon.

The Martinsyde Bikes Company

H.P.Martin and George Handasyde became business partners in 1908 and made their first monoplane in the same year. Their S.1 biplane model became a great success in 1914. The company was called Martin- Handasyde after 1915 and began manufacturing motorcycles in 1919. Their famous 680 cc V-twin, as illustrated, was designed by Howard Newman and had an extraordinary exhaust-over-inlet design. It had Brampton forks and a diamond-shaped frame. There was a hand- change, three-speed gearbox.

Martinsyde Victories and Achievements

The Martinsyde engine was powerful and flexible and did great work off-road. It was largely responsible for winning the Brooklands Team Award in 1922. It served well in the Scottish Six-Days Trial. The 740 cc sports version of the V-twin came out in 1922 and was known as the “Quick Six” with a top speed of 80 mph. A disastrous fire destroyed the factory that same year and the company went bankrupt after producing a total of over 2,000 motorbikes.

Matchless Bikes History

Henry Herbert Collier and his sons Charlie and Harry started making motorcycles as far back as 1899 and used the trade name Matchless. Charlie won the TT singles race in 1907 and again in 1912. They then made their own engines. In 1919 they started making V-twins for use with sidecars. In 1930 they launched the 400 cc V-twin side-valve model known as the “Silver Arrow”. This was followed in 1931 by the 600 cc “Silver Hawk”. In 1935 Matchless, who had acquired AJS, brought out the Matchless/AJS hairpin valve springs. The best dealership in which to look for examples of Martinsyde and Matchless bikes today is Webuyanybike: it’s the ideal place for the best bikes at the keenest prices.

BMF Foundation

This Month’s Charity: The BMF Foundation (Charity No. 1097835) is the charity of the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF), and provides funding for research and sponsorship for work that will improve the lives of everyday motorcyclists.


29 Oct 2012

For any blog enquiries, please emailmarketing@webuyanybike.comView all posts by Helmut

Related articles

Harley-Davidson.. What are they all about?! Image
Motorbike History

24 Mar 2016

Harley-Davidson.. What are they all about?!

We Buy Any Bike research Harley-Davidson. How have they done such an incredible job of becoming an iconic American motorcycle manufacturer?

London Motorcycle Culture – Mod or Rocker?! Image
Motorbike History

18 May 2016

London Motorcycle Culture – Mod or Rocker?!

We Buy Any Bike research the London motorcycle culture. Sell your motorbike in London, to us, a well known and trusted bike trader.

Royal Enfield: The Creation Image

24 Mar 2017

Royal Enfield: The Creation

Are you selling your Royal Enfield Motorcycle? We Buy Any Bike would like to buy it! We Buy Any Bike are the number 1 motorcycle buyer in the UK. We make it easy to sell a bike online. Character Right
Get an instant online quote and cash for your bike
Recent comments
Archives - Character Right

Don't know your reg?Click here