by Rick K. for webBikeWorld
Book Reviews Index
Here's another fascinating read from our friends at
It's the story of a veritable 20th Century Renaissance
man of the sort that no longer exists, from the days when "ships were
wood and men were iron".
Sidecar racing is one of the most exciting sports on the
planet, and for some strange reason, it has also remained one of the
Stan Dibben may be most famous for his exploits in the
"chair", as the sidecar is called, but his was a very full life indeed,
with more adventure packed in to his multiple careers than any
half-dozen "normal" lives.
So although this is a story about his sidecar racing
exploits, it's also a very interesting look back to a time when, with a
little bit of luck and a lot of guts, the whole wide world was an open
book and destiny was something you made for yourself.
Dibben was a young 14 when the war started, and it was
still going when he rather inadvertently joined the Royal Navy. He
was working as an electrician's apprentice -- a "reserved occupation"
that would have kept him out of the fight -- but he volunteered for what
must have seemed a romantic stint in the Royal Air Force. He was
quickly rejected, but since he volunteered, he was now fair game for a
In the meantime, his motorbike career was launched by a
visiting soldier-motorcyclist who gave him rides and then taught him to
pilot his 250 cc OK-Supreme motorbike.
Next was a brief stop in Canada, a career as a trumpet
player and then a return to England and a chance trip to the Isle of Man
TT races forged his next move into the motorcycle industry.
A job with BSA building a racing bikes; then as a test
rider putting on an incredible 400 miles per day (back in the days of
two-lane roads) and a request to lay in a sidecar to check the
suspension started his famous career as a sidecar rider.
The book includes some great photographs from Dibben's
collection, including many photos of racing across Europe in the
post-war years. Sidecar racing is one of the most incredible
motorsports to witness, but anyone who enjoys hanging untethered off the
chair is beyond brave. Curbs flashing by inches from your skull at
100+ MPH is not my idea of fun!
Connections brought Dibben a job with Donald Campbell
and the Bluebird land speed record racer. There are some great
color photos of that project included in the book.
From there it was on to yet another career, this time
promoting and distributing a new product in the UK: NGK spark plugs.
And he wasn't done yet -- after that, he designed, of all things, a new
type of supermarket shopping basket wheel mechanism; got his ride in an
airplane; rode the sidecar again in 2007 -- at age 82! -- and his
current goal is to do the 50m breaststroke in 60 seconds.
Pretty amazing stuff in this easy-to-read, 128 page
book. Dibben had many opportunities and some luck and created a
swashbuckling life of the sort that just doesn't seem to happen in our
homogenized 21st Century economy. His refreshing and optimistic
outlook on life is definitely something to consider.
Thanks to Panther Publishing for bringing us this story;
without them the world would probably have forgotten Stan Dibben and his
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