Frank Applebee
Page updated 07-Aug-2012

The two Applebees were both well known characters in the early days of motorcycle sport. Frank W 'Pa' Applebee, even in those early days, was regarded a 'senior' figure (hence the soubriquet) having started his career on bicycles. He competed in the very first Isle of Man TT in 1907, along with his son, also Frank (F A). In that historic event, 'Pa' finished 8th on his Rex, though Frank Jnr. DNF.

Applebee, Kuhn & Clark - Start 1920 Junior TT.
The Levis team at the start of the 1920 Junior race. Frank 'Pa' Applebee (13), Gus Kuhn (14) and the
winner of the 250 class R O Ronald Clark (25).

Both of them were to regularly return to the Island and in 1920 the Times reported on the Junior TT: "Special interest was centred in the performance of F W Applebee on a Baby Levis. This veteran of road racing is 58 years of age." Gus Kuhn, who was also in the Levis team, at the age of 21 may have been amongst the youngest riders. Cyril Williams, the winner on his AJS, 'paddled' the machine home by feet power for the last four miles, and was still ten minutes ahead of 2nd and 3rd place men. However, the Times went on to report that "The Nisbet motor-cycling trophy has been awarded to Mr F W Applebee, a Londoner, 58 years old. The award is offered to the rider in either of the Tourist Trophy races who gives the best display of pluck and endurance. Mr Applebee refused to be beaten by ignition trouble in the Junior race and made many adjustments, riding magnificently in order to finish the course." He finished 9th overall (3rd in the 250 class).

Back in 1905 'Pa' was competing on his Rex in the Brighton Motor Week and finished second in the handicap for Auto-cycles, with a 10 sec start. Then in September 1906, the annual races of the Auto-Cycle Club were held at Canning Town Track, before about 1,500 spectators. 'Pa' on his 3¼ Rex was second in the Five Miles Tourist Handicap, now with a 45s handicap.

The second annual motor-cycle race meeting of the Essex Motor Club took place in July 1907. Some 4,000 spectators witnessed the various events. There was a Tourist Trophy match of five miles for a gold medal between Mr F W Applebee, representing England, and Mr Martin Geiger of Germany. The machines they rode were the same ones they used in the Tourist Trophy race in the Isle of Man the previous month. Mr Applebee had some difficulty in getting off, but from start to finish the German drew ahead, winning easily by a lap and a half (half a mile).

In the following month both Applebees competed in the Auto-Cycle Club's Six Day Trial. 'Pa' was on his 3½hp Rex and Frank Jnr on a 6hp Rex. Both retired.

At the 1908 Easter meeting, motorcycling was a new departure for the Brooklands track, and judging by the interest displayed by the crowd, an exceedingly popular one. 'Pa' was entered on a 5hp Rex. In July he won a Gold Medal in the ACU Land's End to John O'Groats Trial.

The first motorcycle competition of 1909 took place on 21st January when the ACU's quarterly trial was held over the 125 miles course: from Uxbridge to Banbury, then back by a different route. During most of the early part of the journey the roads were frozen hard, although in shady places the surface was greasy. As the trial proceeded the roads became more greasy and there were several cases of side-slipping. A timed test was held at Dashwood Hill, about 17 miles from the start, and F W Applebee on his 3½hp Rex made a non-stop run.

Thanks to Rodney Hammett from Sydney, Australia who is the grandson of Frank Jnr. He supplied some additional information for this article as well as this lovely picture from 1895 of Frank 'Pa' Applebee with some of his cycling trophies.

In October, back at the ACU annual meet at Canning Town Track, 'Pa' was 3rd on his Rex in Five Miles Touring Machine handicap race.

Forty-nine riders lined up for the five-lap Senior TT in 1912, and it was FA Applebee's howling two-stroke Scott which led the way, a year after Oliver Godfrey won in 1911. FA and Oliver were to set up a motor cycle dealership called Godfreys. Both served in the RFC during WW1, but unfortunately Oliver was killed in 1919. FA had a very successful business in Godfreys with a number of showrooms and garages, including the head office in Great Portland Street, London.

On August 23rd 1920 the Six Days Motor-Cycle Trial started at Darlington. It was reported that "Hundreds of spectators lined the bank to witness the ascents. Not more than 20% of the competitors made clean ascents. F W Applebee, who lays claim to three score years, after nearly charging the bank, slipped sideways to the road centre, recovered cleverly, and dashed for the summit, which he reached without further adventure." 'Pa' had to retire on the last day at Brooklands owing to gear-box trouble. Frank Jnr on an ABC finished in his class (500cc Solo).

Four years later, in the 1924 London to Edinburgh Trial, 'Pa' on a Levis and Gus, on his Calthorpe, both won Gold medals.