By: Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth ISBN: 9781861266743 Hardcover: 288 pages Dimensions: 28 cm x 22 cm Publisher:Crowood Press, England (Printed and Bound)
850 B&W Photographs
May 2004 List Price: £35.00 or $59.95 US
I guess I’m the resident British Bike nut, although just about all of us here at webBikeWorld cut our teeth on a British bike of one form or another back in the ’50’s and ’60’s, so anything from the Motherland is near and dear to our hearts.
I’m not sure if motorcycle riders born from the ’70’s on realize just how critical, how important and how influential the British motorcycle industry was to the sport of motorcycling throughout the world; how big and how long-lived that industry was — and how quickly and sadly it faded.
In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that every single motorcyclist everywhere in the world owes a huge debt to the British motorcycle industry. I doubt very much if we’d be where we are today without that ground-breaking history.
Also, I’d like to give a big thank-you to Crowood Press for publishing, printing and binding this book in England. The huge publishing conglomerates have surely given up on publishing esoteric tomes such as The British Motorcycle Directory, and to make matters worse, they seem to print nearly everything in a least-cost country with profit the only motive. But it just wouldn’t seem right to publish a book such as this anywhere other than Old Blighty.
I have no connection whatsoever with Crowood other than as a fan of their work, and I can highly recommend checking out their website to see a variety of books that probably can’t be found anywhere else; works ranging from “The Handbook of Stage Lighting” to “Russian Piston Aero Engines” and much more, and most at bargain prices.
Roy Bacon is one of the world’s best known motorcycle historians and a prolific writer, and he has partnered with Ken Hallworth on The British Motorcycle Directory. Hallworth was the Secretary of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club and the founder of the widely read Old Bike Mart magazine.
The British Motorcycle Directory could probably be thought of as “the encyclopedia of British motorcycle manufacturers”, but a book of that name has already been published. The British Motorcycle Directory includes 850 (I’ll take their word for it!) photographs and it covers — get this — over 1,100 British motorcycle manufacturers from 1888 onwards.
The British motorcycle industry was “full steam ahead” back in the first half of the 20th Century, and the book has entries for them all, from “A&A Autocarrier” to “Zephyr” and everything in between. Some of the lesser-known or shorter-lived marques yield only a brief paragraph, but the more popular brands get their due.
This is not really a “sit down and read” book; it’s more like a good resident of a coffee table that can be perused at will and it will surely stoke the imagination — and, for me, the desire to locate, purchase and restore one of those very rare bikes.
Just to make it clear, the book is formatted like an encyclopedia, from A to Z, so don’t expect to find a huge amount of information on each marque; instead, there are brief entries and the book’s value comes more from its breadth rather than its depth.
Two nits I will pick is that: 1) I think it is a serious oversight to not have an index of any type in a book of this nature; and 2) It would have been nice to have some color photographs, at least of the bikes made after the 1960’s.
Not having an index is the more serious of the two, but nevertheless, the A to Z format at least makes up for it.
So if you’re a British bike fan, you may certainly want to have a copy of The British Motorcycle Directory on your bookshelf (if not your coffee table), for its historical significance and certainly for the fun of it. The book can be found at discount and — who knows — maybe you’ll remember enough about an obscure marque to win back the price with a bar bet some day!